Inside Jeff Bezos’ first investment in Indonesian e-commerce

Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made his very first expenditure in a Southeast Asian e-commerce commence-up previous thirty day period.

But it can be in not one of the region’s billion-greenback unicorns. It can be in a mom-and-pop shop commence-up that’s been about for considerably less than two yrs.

And its founders? Some of Bezos’ former staff.

“It was incredibly fortunate and a substantial supporter boy moment for me,” Ula CEO Nipun Mehra, 40, advised CNBC Make It.

Small business impressed by Bezos

The standard way of undertaking e-commerce won’t get the job done … So you have to discover other means of undertaking it.

Nipun Mehra

co-founder and CEO, Ula

Although Mehra has never met the billionaire founder, he worked less than him as a computer software engineer at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters just before joining e-commerce big Flipkart in his indigenous India.

Like Bezos, Mehra yearned to be an entrepreneur. But it wasn’t until eventually years later on, though working as an investor at Sequoia India, that he saw an chance to adapt the traditional e-commerce design for a new market: small food kiosks in Indonesia. 

Nipun Mehra, co-founder and CEO of Indonesian e-commerce market Ula.


“The standard Amazon, Flipkart — or here in Southeast Asia we have Shopee, Lazada, Tokopedia and so on — has been more on the non-meals aspect. Foods is a very unique way of working issues,” mentioned Mehra.

“Typically in rising economies, their income profile is these kinds of that they have to buy commonly and in small baskets. The second you get into that dynamic, the regular way of executing e-commerce won’t get the job done. You cannot produce a 3-, 4-, five-greenback basket to somebody’s household and do it profitably … so you have to discover other strategies of performing it.”

Adapting e-commerce for Indonesia

Indonesia is residence to tens of millions of road stalls, recognised as warungs, promoting every day essentials this sort of as meals and family objects.


They are an integral section of culture, especially in the smaller towns and provinces outside the capital Jakarta, accounting for practically 3-quarters (72%) of the country’s $47 billion consumer merchandise income.

Yet a lot of still rely on conventional means of replenishing their supplies by shuttering their retailers when they visit wholesalers to inventory up wares. 

They are quite minimal by the physical footprint that they can entry.

Abheek Anand

managing director, Sequoia India

“They are essentially run by 1 or two people, who act like buyers. They very own the business they will need to procure things for them selves to promote,” Abheek Anand, a running director at Sequoia India, a single of Ula’s buyers, advised CNBC Make It.

“For them to tap into offline source chains is in fact very inefficient. They have to go to the nearby current market, expend hours figuring out what to invest in, where by to get it from. By and huge, they are extremely restricted by the actual physical footprint that they can access,” he extra.

Drawing on Amazon skills

Mehra wanted to simplify that approach by producing a business-to-small business system that would enable stallholders to order stock at competitive rates and have it shipped to their store for a modest payment. 

So, he termed on his contacts in the e-commerce place to support him recognize the vision. 

Ula co-founders Riky Tenggara, Derry Sakti and Alan Wong.


His former colleague from Amazon, Alan Wong, Riky Tenggara from Lazada, and Procter & Gamble executive Derry Sakti rounded out the founding group.

“We’ve learned all this things in Amazon, we have uncovered all this things at organization school. How do we provide some of that into this very little smartphone and assist them equally make a lot more revenue as very well as preserve more funds?,” mentioned Mehra.

Powering up in the pandemic

The business enterprise bought off to a steady start. But inside months of launching in January 2020, the pandemic strike, making demand from customers for companies like Ula extra urgent. 

Lockdowns produced it more durable for stallholders to supply goods from wholesalers, even as shopper need for everyday necessities grew. That brought about many mother-and-pop shops to pile onto the platform. 

The require in the marketplace just wholly switched. In lockdown, your to start with priority is to get your foods, is to get matters that you eat.

Nipun Mehra

co-founder and CEO, Ula

Ula onboarded tens of 1000’s of retailers onto its system during the height of the pandemic.


“The most remarkable addition to the organization is Jeff Bezos, who’s invested, which is definitely good validation for the organization. But there are a range of other actually good folks who have joined us along the way,” reported Sequoia India’s Anand.

An bold progress agenda

In October 2021, Ula shut its Series B round, raising $87 million. Mehra said the cash will go in the direction of growing its present market giving, as perfectly as launching a so-termed acquire now, spend later on service to deliver stallholders with small loans.

Inside of the subsequent 18 months, the CEO hopes to quadruple the quantity of merchants Ula works with from 70,000 now to 300,000. He also hopes to help merchants expand into new categories such as attire and engineering, with the final purpose of doubling their money. 

That is what will direct to a new kind of retail. Not something which we have noticed in the U.S. … It will be an Indonesia-certain, special option.

Nipun Mehra

co-founder and CEO, Ula

Simonne Stigall

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