The backbone of Indonesia’s economy are small- to medium-sized businesses, which account for 60% of its gross domestic product. Many still rely on manual bookkeeping, but the impact of COVID-19 has driven small businesses to digitize more of their operations. BukuKas, one of several startups helping SMEs go online, announced today it has raised a $ 10 million Series A led by Sequoia Capital India.
BukuKas launched in December 2019 as a digital bookkeeping app, but is growing its range of services with the goal of creating an “end-to-end software stack” for small businesses. Eventually, it wants to launch a SME-focused digital bank.
The funding, which brings BukuKas’ total raised so far to $ 22 million, included participation from returning investors Saison Capital, January Capital, Founderbank Capital, Cambium Grove, Endeavor Catalyst and Amrish Rau.
As of November 2020, BukuKas had a registered user base of 3.5 million small merchants and retailers, and had crossed 1.8 million monthly active users. During that month, the platform also recorded $ 17.4 billion worth of transactions on an annualized basis, a figure corresponding to more than 1.5% of Indonesia’s $ 1.04 trillion GDP.
BukuKas was founded by chief executive officer Krishnan Menon and chief operating officer Lorenzo Peracchione, who met eight years ago while working at Lazada Indonesia.
Menon’s previous startup was Fabelio, an Indonesian online home furnishings store. Every two months, he would visit smaller small cities in Indonesia, like Jepara and Cirebon, to source furniture.
“One of the things that stood out was how different the Jakarta bubble is from the rest of Indonesia, all the way from the penetration of software to financial services,” he told TechCrunch. While talking to merchants and suppliers, Menon realized that “no one is building products with them as the center of the universe,” despite the fact that there are 56 million small businesses.
Peracchione said he and Mebon had been brainstorming startup ideas for a while. “When he told me about the idea of solving cash flow visibility to SMEs, it immediately struck me,” Peracchione said. “My dad used to be a SME owner himself and during my childhood I experience first hand the struggles and ups and downs connected to running a small business.”
The two decided to start with digital bookkeeping after speaking to 1,052 merchants because helping them keep track of their business performance would generate data that would in turn enable access to more financial services.
“Our vision expanded into providing an end-to-end software stack to digitize SMEs and help them across a wide range of activities as a prequel to building an SME-focused digital bank down the line,” Menon said.
In addition to digital ledger features, BukuKas also sends payment reminders to buyers through WhatsApp and automatically generates invoices, includes an an inventory management module and analyzes expenses to help businesses understand what is impacting their profit. The company plans to add digital payments this month. During the rest of 2021, it will also introduce more features to help businesses sell online, including tools for online store fronts, a promotions engine and social sharing.
“With COVID-19, SMEs are rushing to get digitized, but they lack the right mobile-first tools to sell online as well as to manage their business,” said Menon.
The app focuses on smaller Indonesian cities and towns, since about 73% of the merchants who use BukuKas are located outside of tier 1 cities like Jakarta. Its users represent wide range of sectors, including retailers, food vendors, grocery markets, mobile and phone credit providers, social commerce sellers, wholesalers and service providers. BukuKas acquired digital ledger app Catatan Keuangan Harian, which has 300,000 monthly active users, in September 2020 to expand its market share in Indonesia.
With its large number of SMEs, Indonesia is seen as a desirable market for companies helping the drive toward digitization. For example, India’s Khatabook, which was valued between $ 275 million to $ 300 million after its last round of funding in May 2020, recently launched BukuUang in Indonesia. Other startups in the same space include Y Combinator-backed BukuWarung, Moka and Jurnal, all of which offer tools to help SMEs bring more of their operations online.
Menon said BukuKas’ advantage is its team’s experience building businesses in Indonesia over the past seven years. For example, it launched a “Know Your Profits” module based on user feedback. It also offers a self-guided onboarding process, a simple user interface and an offline mode for users in areas with poor network connections.
“In general, individual features can be copied but we believe our ‘integrated end-to-end software stack approach,’ coupled with our obsessive focus on simplicity, deep understanding of our users and a superior level of service will be key in differentiating BukuKas from competing offerings,” he added.
BukuKas’ Series A will be used on user acquisition, its engineering and product teams in Jakarta and Bangalore and to introduce new services for merchants. The company may eventually expand into other Southeast Asia markets, but “in the short term consolidating and further expanding our leadership in the SME space in Indonesia is our top priority,” said Menon.
Jumbotail, an online wholesale marketplace for grocery and food items, said on Friday it has raised an additional $ 14.2 million as the Bangalore-based startup chases the opportunity to digitize neighborhood stores in the world’s second-largest internet market.
The five-year-old startup said the new tranche of its Series B financing round was led by VII Ventures, with participation from Nutresa, Veronorte, Jumbofund, Klinkert Investment Trust, Peter Crosby Trust, Nexus Venture Partners and Discovery Ventures.
The startup told TechCrunch that the new tranche concludes its Series B round, which it kickstarted in 2019 with a tranche of $ 12.7 million. It ended up raising about $ 44 million in the Series B round (including Friday’s tranche), and to date has amassed about $ 54 million in equity investment, the startup told the publication.
Jumbotail said it serves more than 30,000 neighborhood stores (popularly known in India as kiranas) in the country. In addition to its business-to-business marketplace, the startup also provides working capital to neighborhood stores through partnerships with financial institutions.
The startup, which has built its own supply chain network to enable last-mile delivery, also supplies these stores with point-of-sale devices so they can easily get access to a much wider selection of catalog and have the new inventory shipped to them within two days. It also integrates these stores with hyperlocal delivery startups such as Dunzo and Swiggy to help mom and pop shops further expand their customer base.
Ashish Jhina, co-founder of Jumbotail, said he believes the startup has reached an inflection point in its growth and is now ready for its next chapter, which includes hiring top talent and expanding to more regions in the country, especially in several cities in South India.
“We are seeing tremendous interest from investors across the globe who are drawn to our highly scalable and operationally profitable business model, built on the industry’s best technology and customer NPS,” said Jhina, who previously served in the Indian army and then worked at e-commerce firms eBay and Flipkart.
At a recent virtual conference, Jhina said that the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted New Delhi to order a nationwide lockdown and put restrictions on e-commerce firms, has illustrated just how crucial neighborhood stores are in people’s lives. And for all the ills that the virus has wrought, it did help accelerate the adoption of technology among these stores.
A number of food brands whose products neighborhood stores sell today are not standardized, which poses a question about their quality. To fill this gap, Jumbotail runs its own private label portfolio and Jhina said the startup will deploy part of the fresh fund to broaden this catalog. Having a private label also allows Jumbotail to ensure that its retail partners can get the supply of items throughout the year — and of course, it also helps the startup, which has been operationally profitable for nearly three quarters, improve its margin.
There are more than 30 million neighborhood stores in India located across the thousands of cities and towns in the country. These small businesses have been around for decades and survived — and even thrived — despite e-commerce giants pouring billions of dollars in India to change how people shop. In recent years, scores of startups — and giants — in India have begun to explore ways to work with these neighborhood stores.
One of them is India’s largest retail chain Reliance Retail, which serves more than 3.5 million customers each week through its nearly 10,000 physical stores in more than 6,500 cities and towns in the country. In late 2019, it entered the e-commerce space with JioMart through a joint venture with sister subsidiary telecom giant Jio Platforms. By mid last year, JioMart had expanded to over 200 Indian cities and towns — though currently its reach within those cities and customer service leave a lot to be desired.
Reliance Retail also maintains a partnership with Facebook for WhatsApp integration. Facebook, which invested $ 5.7 billion in Jio Platforms last year, has said that it will explore various ways to work with Reliance to digitize the nation’s mom and pop stores, as well as other small and medium-sized businesses.
For JioMart, Reliance Retail is working with neighborhood shops, giving them a digital point-of-sale machine to make it easier for them to accept money electronically. It is also allowing these shops to buy their inventory from Reliance Retail, and then use their physical presence as delivery points. At present, the platform is largely focused on grocery delivery. In a recent report to clients, Goldman Sachs analysts estimated that Reliance could become the largest player in online grocery within three years.