Bede is a Managing Director and founder of Vela Asia, a logistics and e-commerce support services company. He was previously a Managing Director and co-founder of Indonesian e-commerce company, Lazada.co.id, where he built the operational capabilities (warehousing, fulfilment and Customer Service) for Indonesia’s largest online B2C company Bede worked for the Boston Consulting Group in Jakarta and Melbourne and holds a bachelors degree from Harvard. Let’s see what he thinks about doing business in Indonesia.
You’re an Australian, then your education in Bachelor and Master degree is both about history. And
you even researched Indonesia Independence movement for your thesis. So what are the roles of these factors in helping you to do business in Indonesia?
I have been fascinated by Indonesia for many years and I view it as an extremely important country for Australia’s future in the region. Outside of Vela, I have spent a lot of time trying to support the relationship – such as founding the bilateral conference, www.causindy.org, and my master research.
I think it is always important, in any new country, to have an empathy and interest for the culture and history of the place. I have tried to do that in Indonesia and I think it has really helped in building local relationships. We have been very lucky – people in Jakarta are very receptive when you tell them you studied Indonesian history.
After Lazada, why didn’t you and your partners start a B2C eCommerce company similar to Lazada but an eCommerce service firm VelaAsia? Usually eCommerce B2C company can grow with a larger scale
Of course it’s true, part of what we do is about the financial aspect. But you also need to enjoy what you are doing. The eCommerce services model really appealed to us. It has meant we have learned a number of new skills on top of what we learned elsewhere. I think it’s always important that you are learning new things, so it has turned out to be a good choice.
VelaAsia offers a broad range of eCommerce services from website development, marketing, payment, warehousing & fulfillment to strategy… So what is the core service and bring the most of clients?
I think the core service really depends on the client. Some clients really need the analytical capability that we offer to help execute their marketing more precisely. Others need warehousing assistance. That’s the value that we bring – helping to serve clients with the most challenging issues they face.
Indonesia is famous with traffic jams in Jakarta and the conglomerate has more than 17.000 islands. How do they affect to the delivering process and how can VelaAsia help eCommerce firms to solve this problem?
The traffic jams are a really significant problem. In fact, today I spent five hours commuting to and from a warehouse in the city’s east. Unfortunately, packages have to sit in traffic jams too, and the reality is that it will be hard to overcome this fundamental problem. The government and industry really need to work together to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure.
That being said, there are ways to ensure shoppers still have a good online shopping experience. Vela has developed proprietary technology to give retailers and brands real-time package tracking information, so at least the customer can see if a package is held up. We also do motorcycle deliveries, which allow us to reduce the impact of major traffic jams to some extent.
Note: I’ve been to Jakarta several times, if in Singapore I could have six, seven meetings a day then in Jakarta three would already be the perfect number. A “standard estimation” is 90-120 mins for a 10km distance.
Indonesia has six officially recognized religions and 300+ ethnic groups, so what are their impact on the Indonesian customers’ online buying behaviors?
Note: I don’t have answer from Bede for this question. What’s your ideas?
Bank transfer is still the most popular online payment in Indonesia, right? How about the other ways? From you view, what will be the next big thing in online payment?
From an outsider’s perspective (i.e. as someone not directly working in the payments space), it seems like there are a couple of ways to look at this.
On the one hand, there is still a massive percentage of the population who is considered “unbankable” in Indonesia, which would suggest that unusual payment methods like ATM bank transfers and COD will remain a part of the ecosystem for the next several years.
On the other hand, both investors and entrepreneurs have recognized the opportunity in the payments space and there are a wide variety of companies competing to win in this space. So it is hard to imagine that we will live out the next five years without seeing a major development in the payments area.
Any interesting case study you might want to share?
My co-founder, Susie Sugden, is running a market-leading project for the Indonesian consumer finance company, Columbia. Vela worked with Columbia to develop a program, “Shoot Your Dream” which allows customers to take a photo of any product they desire, submit it via an application, and receive a confirmation for an instalment program (i.e. consumer credit) within 1 – 2 days. The services that Vela is providing have enabled our client to launch a sophisticated new product into the market (the first of its kind), to reach a wider demographic across the archipelago, and predominantly via mobile. We think that this is the future of Indonesian eCommerce and we are really pleased to be working with Columbia together on this product.
Do you have any advice for the new entrepreneurs who want to tackle Indonesia online market?
They should jump in, it’s a great ride. eCommerce is expanding very quickly here and there are lots of new, interesting ideas coming into the market. I think the main thing to remember is that it takes tenacity, hard work and luck to succeed. You need to manage prudently and cultivate a strong team around you. And make sure you have a good time while you’re at it!
What do you enjoy when you have free time?
As you know, I am very interested in Indonesian history and I like to spend time on weekends traveling around Indonesia or reading history. I’m also pretty busy with running www.CAUSINDY.org, so that takes up a fair bit of my free time too!
A last interesting fact about Bede More: he was one of the four guys who shared the Harvard’s dorm room with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg