CEO Hadi Wenas on How to go big and scale fast in Indonesia eCommerce market

Wenas in office

This post is appeared first on e27!

Wenas is surely one of my most favorite interviewees recently as he is very smart and likeable (in the context of hundreds of entrepreneurs I’ve met in Asia). Interestingly we have some common points so I feel naturally familiar with him. We have tech background, worked as a software developer for several years then switched to online business, and several years ago I have also worked as a similar position like Wenas’ for one of the largest local retail chains in Southeast Asia. Just one small thing different that he is much more intelligent than me, though I don’t envy with him at this point but the fact that he is more… handsome than me :) Now let’s get to the point!

Wenas' career collection

Wenas’ career collection

MatahariMall recently became familiar with tech guys in Southeast Asia as it announced a jaw-dropping $500M to promote it’s online presence. There are debates about the authencity of this huge amount. But actually the people is more important than money, so let’s chat with the new CEO Hadi Wenas to know more about’s story. A master graduate of Computer Science from Stanford, after working at Oracle as a software developer for several years, he moved to do businesses consulting with Mc Kinsey, then became a co-founder/MD at Zalora, aCommerce Indonesia’s CEO before joining Wenas always has top brands with him.

Your Twitter brief: “Some find me like-a-ble, most find me like-a-bull”. So when and how would you like-a-bull? What are some keywords or one sentence would describe your life and working personality?

Hahaha, this is the best question I have had so far :)

A bull sees straight line between where he stands and the goal, he will charge ahead full speed and knock down everything stands in the way.

Wenas bullying his newbie member on Halloween

Wenas bullying his newbie team member on Halloween :)

So that’s what my mentors and friends said about me, most of the time.

One sentence that would describe my working personality is “Always go ALL OUT!” do your best in everything, BIG and small things. It’s better to ask for an apology later then to wait for permission. I always remind our faMMilia ( employees) to be BOLD and not to be afraid of making decisions.

Sure, we can go all out and fail, we can be wrong, but it is better to do something and fail, than not to do anything.

You have worked with top global and local firms before.  One of your clients who is Head of Strategy of a MNC company recommended you on LinkedIn “Working with Hadi is fast pace as he gets things done. As my client he knew how to get optimal results in limited time, while not compromising on quality. He successfully replicated the study in several other countries, showing his skills run across borders and cultures“. So could you share your way to approach, set up a new biz and get things done quickly and effectively, especially in the online world?

In setting up new business and get things done quickly, here are my approaches:

Hadi Wenas LinkedIn & Facebook profile photo

Hadi Wenas LinkedIn & Facebook profile photo

1) Direct

I never hesitate to point out mistakes. This approach makes people around me very uncomfortable at times, but at the same time, it saves my team and I a lot of valuable time.

2) Black and White

I always push myself to be objective, focusing on deliverables, not on history, experience, seniority, etc.

I also like to implement “rewards and punishments” system. It makes sense to me to appropriately reward those who deliver and punish those who do not.

3) Detail oriented and Hands-on

Wenas is sharing about a partnership with a startup in Singapore alllowing’s online customers to pickup their ordered products at MatahariMall’s offline spots. Photo: Minh Bui

I never stop asking question until I feel comfortable with any particular thing. By asking detailed questions, I learned about so many valuable things throughout my career. Simultaneously, my questions also helped people around me to be more critical towards their ideas and work.

On ideas, I also often get people from different teams outside the domain expert, to get fresh perspectives and new out of the box solutions together.

4) Take risk, make decision, and move on

What I usually do is to calculate risks, gather only necessary facts, make decision, and move on the next problem. Obviously, I am not immune to bad decision-making, but it is much more important to me that I make those decisions and learn from them.


Again, do our best, BIG things small things!

What are the key things in the first year running you have to focus? Could you share a typical day running What would eat the most of your time?

MatahariMall team on Halloween

Halloween day – “BOLD, Fast, and fun” is the carved culture of MatahariMall

There are many things that we are focusing on at MatahariMall, the top three would be:

build strong solid team capable of making decisions and problem solving independently, win the trust of sellers to sell as many as products at best price through our platform, and most importantly, deliver excellent customer experience.

I usually spend 12-14 hours every day, mostly spent time problem solving with different teams to find solutions for various escalated challenges. My days are all laid out in the electronic calendar and I make it visible to all direct reports and PR team. My working rhythm includes: sending “Priorities of the week” email to Heads every Sunday night or Monday morning, sending “We did it again” email to all faMMilia whenever we achieve milestones, leading weekly cross-function meetings or daily war meetings at certain period of time, joining different weekly specific function meetings every now and then, finalizing details of big initiatives, following up social media inquiries. I silent my phone and ignore almost all random calls because they are such distraction to my working rhythm.

How is your team now? Total members and some key backgrounds? What is your definition of a strong team?'s team’s team. Yiping Goh (left most woman), Founder AllDealsAsia also joining from Singapore

We have a little over 500 faMMilia in total, some are working at our HoMMe (’s headquarters) and some others are at our Fulfillment Center in Halim. 99% of them are local talents (Indonesian), but we also have American, Dutch, Indian, Singaporean, and Iranian. Some have startup background, some have corporate background, some fresh graduates, and most of them have “hungry to win” attitude.

Strong team is if a team who breath and live the culture (for us: BOLD, Fast, and fun), make decisions and get things done independently, to achieve results and get closer to the agreed vision.

Matahari.comcom is a marketplace, why not focus only in selling Matahari’s offline product B2C? In Indonesia, there are lots of strong marketplaces, such as Kaskus, Tokopedia, Bukalapak, or classified site like OLX. So how would different from them?

If we only sell Matahari’s offline product then our name will be :) We are, we have a clear vision to be the largest eMall in Indonesia, we are committed to build the most powerful ecosystem that brings together buyers and sellers to do business anytime anywhere. Multiple marketplaces can coexist in online just like in offline. In offline, there are Malls, Trade centers, Markets, etc.; different concept is appealing to different target customer segment. In online, some focus on selling used items, some focus on selling new items, some focus on selling well known brand items; all will coexist especially because total online retail is still too small (less than 1%) compared to total retail and it is estimated to grow more than 15x in the next 5 years (until 2020).

MatahariMall possess a large offline networks, how big is it and how would you leverage it to grow online biz, e.g. online to offline and offline to online? 

The group has more than 500 high quality offline footprints (all owned and managed directly not franchised to 3rd parties), from: department stores, hypermarts, hospitals, schools, properties, malls, bookstores, convenience stores, coffee shops, cinemas, and many more.

Online-to-Offline: Customers now have option to pay-and-pickup in those offline footprints.

Offline-to-Online: Customers at offline stores who couldn’t find specific color, size, style can now shop online at the stores rather than leaving stores with no purchase.

What your view one mobile commerce in Indonesia and how would prepare for the m-commerce wave?

Mobile commerce will play a major role in the future development of eCommerce in Indonesia. More and more people in Indonesia are accessing the Internet through mobile devices. We will launch our mobile application very soon.

From your perspective, what would be changing in the way Indonesian shoppings in the next 10 years? 

eCommerce, mobile, and O2O are the future in Indonesia. While other countries are going sequential on those 3, Indonesia is going to accelerate embracing them all at once.

Picture these:

In the metro cities, Indonesians go to malls on weekend. On the way to the mall, some are browsing on their mobile on items, making purchases, and getting them ready for pickup at stores minutes later. Very convenient.

Some others are checking out physical items in the mall, turning to their mobile to compare price, check deals, read reviews before buying them at the store and having them delivered to home / office at scheduled date. Very convenient.

In non-metro cities, Indonesians are queuing for the latest fashion virtually, getting friends’ inputs on how good it will look on them, purchasing them online, and have them delivered to home. Very convenient.

Your life seems colorful, what are your hobbies in life? And what your life motto and what is driving you forward each morning?

Outside work, on weekends, I love watching happy ending movies, playing Zelda, eating ramen, reading tech and business updates, going to a reflexology center, assembling Gundam kit at home, etc.

I always “go ALL OUT” small things BIG things, living live with no regrets.

Hadi Wenas and his wife

Hadi Wenas and his wife

God leads me to exciting opportunities, one after another, now He entrusted me to lead and I feel the faMMilia also trust me to lead them. Every morning, I want to make sure we make progress one step at a time to get us closer to our goal.

Every night, I have a lovely wife who welcome me home. Life is Great, no complaints.

So now after working for both online and offline businesses, what do you really see about eCommerce? 

In my opinion, eCommerce is not a business of technology, eCommerce is still a commerce, just like a store or mall, a business selling products or services, at a virtual world/online. The key of success is the same, just like traditional commerce/ trading business offline:

1) What products will be sold?

2) What is the advantage of our products, compared with other players?

3) What is the advantage of company, compared with other players? Be it from assets, network, etc.

Matahari4) Who is the target segment?

5) Who will be in charge of each section: Merchandising, Marketing, Operations, and Technology?

Know all those five well and you will face minimum difficulties in making your eCommerce grow.

Thanks for a great sharing! Maybe I should chat with him next one year to see what would he have done with adventure.

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Minh Bui is a seasoned eCommerce veteran from both Southeast Asian startups and corporates in online commerce and offline retail chain as well. He's also an avid Asia explorer and love to enjoy local foods and learn cultural differences in Asia.

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