How BukuKas is evolving to keep merchants in step with Indonesia's digital journey

BI-FAST, the Indonesian equivalent of Unified Payments Interface, will be a catalyst in the Southeast Asian country's fintech ecosystem, said Krishnan Menon, Co-founder, BukuKas at TechSparks 2021.
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BI-FAST, the Indonesian equivalent of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in India, will be a catalyst in the Southeast Asian country's fintech ecosystem, said Krishnan Menon, Founder and CEO of BukuKas, at TechSparks 2021, Asia's largest and most influential startup-tech conference hosted by YourStory.

With the theme 'What's Next: Rethinking the future', TechSparks 2021 provided a platform for the most defining conversations on how disruptive technology innovations can shape our lives post-pandemic.

"I am very excited about the Indonesian UPI which is coming up," Krishnan told Sindhu Kashyap, Associate Editor, YourStory, during a TechSparks 2021 Fireside Chat.

BI-FAST, a real-time retail payment system infrastructure for fast, secure, and low-cost transactions, is in the development stage in Indonesia. Its Open API Payment Standards can stimulate digital transformation of the banking industry, and will facilitate collaboration between banks and fintech ventures.

"Adoption of digital payments and online buying are a norm now in Indonesia," Krishnan said, adding that they were perceived as just an option in the country until 2017.

"Southeast Asia — and Indonesia, in particular — is very nuanced," he noted. In a market where consumer apps have thrived, BukuKas chose to build products for the success of merchants in a rapidly-digitising landscape.

Founded by Krishnan and Lorenzo Peracchione, BukuKas is an app-based book-keeping software for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME). It is now expanding from a book-keeping ledger app to a pseudo banking app, Krishnan told YourStory.

"We are focused on the new version of BukuKas — the product and licensing work — and connecting book-keeping with banking to complete the ecosystem," he added.

In Southeast Asia, only 27 percent of adults have formal bank accounts, and less than 33 percent of SMEs have access to loans, and lines of credit.

What does it mean for an Indian to start up in Southeast Asia? "I have been here (Indonesia) since 2013, and this is my second startup, so it almost feels like home," Krishnan said. "The market is very fast-paced, so you need to be on your toes, and are taught humility within a few months."

As of May 2021, BukuKas has onboarded 6.3 million businesses, and has 3 million monthly active users. According to the company, its annualised book-keeping transaction volume is $25.9 billion.

It launched BukuKasPay in April 2021 for businesses to pay suppliers online, and also accept digital payments via different apps.

Understanding the problem

Krishnan Menon, a BITS Pilani alumnus, spoke about the journey of setting up the business, and touching a large base of SMEs in Southeast Asia. He met Lorenzo at Lazada Indonesia. Founded in 2012, Lazada Group is Southeast Asia’s leading eCommerce platform, and since 2016, Lazada Group became the regional flagship of the Alibaba Group.

"It all starts with understanding the problem, and what it aims to solve," Krishnan recalled, adding that most SMEs in Southeast Asia operated offline. "We had realised that the market and the problem was simply too big to ignore."

"It begins with understanding what the end-consumer and merchant needs, and then building as per their needs and requirements. Needless to say, everyone today has understood the importance of digitisation. And, the second wave of the pandemic had hit Southeast Asia significantly," Krishnan explained.

The same merchants who were reluctant to digitise payments, credit and their book-keeping began to look for an upgrade. "Smaller businesses are understanding the importance of digitisation," he said.

By the end of 2022, BukuKas aims to touch more than 20 million SMEs in the region. The focus is on invoicing, analytics, inventory management, credit and other verticals.

"The market here is about fast results and fast adoption," Krishnan said. "You look at any startup in the region — they have significant growth. But it is important to keep your eye on the goal."

Krishnan's advice for young entrepreneurs: "Keep it real. You build a huge trust currency when you are yourself and you are authentic. Also, hire good people early on. The dividends are high in the future. Also, what we see now is a wave, so startups shouldn't spend all its money."


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For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out the TechSparks 2021 website.

Edited by Kunal Talgeri

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