“If you want to start a business then just do it, if you want to start but you're waiting for the right time, then my guess is that you'll never start, because nobody is ever ready. I was never ready but I did it anyway,” says Aria Rajasa, co-founder of GantiBaju and Tees.co.id. He shares his story of starting up twice without all signals turned green.
Aria Rajasa and Bima Satria Tama graduated together from University of Indonesia. They started GantiBaju in 2010 –a website where designers compete in an online competition and if they win, they get cash prizes and royalty for each t-shirt design sold. GantiBaju became quite a hit in Indonesia. With a new concept in the market, and new age designs people could relate to, it was accepted very well by Indonesian population.
One day, Aria and Bima were offered a service of print-on-demand technology to produce t-shirts for GantiBaju. It was Gary Lilardi, who had a sound experience of 4 years in the printing industry, who acquainted them with this technology. They decided to create a new company altogether combining their expertise in fashion and Gary’s expertise in printing. “We thought of creating a bigger vision with what we can do using print-on-demand and we started tees.co.id. We believe that on-demand manufacturing is the future and we ran away with it,” says Aria
Tees.co.id is an online marketplace that helps people to create their online merchandising store and sell their products. Only thing that is needed from them are their designs. The USP is that its free, fast and only thing needed is the designs. They have acquired a print-on-demand technology which can create t-shirt, iPhone case, iPhone skin, art print, canvas printing etc.
As they only produce the items on demand, eliminating all the risks of initial cost, logistics problem, dead stocks etc, it helps the designers in maximizing their creativity to the fullest. Tees.co.id handle everything from production, storage, shipping all the way to customer service and designers do not have to worry about anything but designs. Tees.co.id works on a profit sharing model with the design owners. They have almost 4000 stores amassing over 10,000 designs in less than a year.
They are targeting people in the 20-29 years old bracket. With the demand of personalization increasing day by day, people want to express themselves with what they wear and what they carry. A large collection of designs makes it relatively easy to find the products that customers can relate to. Majority of their customer acquisition and sales is by the promotion of tees.co.id by the design owners themselves. Tees.co.id also works with brands just as LMEN (Consumer Goods), Project Pop (Music Band), Holycow Steak (Restaurant) etc as their official merchandising partner and hence the marketing reach automatically increases.
Started this year, Tees.co.id received its seed funding in around 3 months. “Initial capital was the first hurdle we had to cross. The technology is still pretty new so it's quite expensive. We decided to make a MVP of the tees.co.id marketplace and shop around for investors. Luckily we got our seed funding,” shared Aria. With limited funding they cannot overstock too much and it resulted in a lot of times where they just didn't have anything to sell. Aria says that they have learnt a lot in the past year and can now guess better. Being very honest about it, Aria tells us that they still get it wrong sometimes.
They have numerous competitors but mostly offline with a brick and mortar solution. Tees.co.id is the first to provide a full range of online marketplace and manufacturing solutions in Indonesia. Aria says, “We are expecting the competitors to start showing up in a couple of months to come.” They are planning to expand in more products range and aspire to be the biggest online platform to sell and manufacture custom merchandise in South East Asia.
Aria has started up twice in Indonesian market and he shares some of the challenges that are inherent to starting up in the country. He shares – ‘It's fun! There are a lot of problems in Indonesia and that means more opportunities for us entrepreneurs. The main problem is definitely logistics. We are a nation of islands, it's pretty expensive and takes days to send to the far end of Indonesia. The other challenge is that Indonesians are not used to buying online, but this is changing slowly and more and more people are buying online. Internet penetration is also an issue. We knew that there are 200+ million people in Indonesia but our potential buyer is a lot less than that, estimated only around 55 million people have access to the internet.
I think Indonesia is still in an infant stage of the startup ecosystem. There are not many investors willing to take risks on new business models, which is why most funded startups are the ones that is similar to another business in the US. The government is also an issue. Not only that they don’t help but they hinder even further by complicating the process of making a company, making it difficult to receive foreign funding. It's an everyday struggle for us.’