Ula, a B2B ecommerce marketplace in Indonesia, has raised $87 million or R1.3 billion in a Series B funding round co-led by Prosus Ventures, Tencent and B-Capital. The trio is joined by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Bezos Expeditions, and leading Southeast Asian funds Northstar group, AC Ventures and Citius. Existing investors Lightspeed India, Sequoia Capital India, Quona Capital and Alter Global also participated in the round. The company has also brought in Pandu Sjahrir, a seasoned investor and entrepreneur, as an advisor to Ula.
In the technology-enabled world, the local mom-and-pop store is no longer “just a store”, but rather a gateway to consumption in their neighbourhoods. The typical store has a massive advantage – nearly zero costs (run by family members, owns physical space) and deep relationships with their customers. While e-commerce incurs expensive last-mile delivery costs, and physical retail is constrained by main-street locations, there are millions of traditional stores efficiently serving neighbourhoods. However, low profitability, limited assortment and little working capital leave them unable to fully cater to their customers’ needs and realise their own growth potential
“We launched in 2020, with a single-minded mission to empower small, neighbourhood retailers with technology to increase their income. We take a long-term approach to solve the underlying problems of traditional retailers by investing in technology, supply chain and data-enabled credit offering,” said Nipun Mehra, CEO and Co-Founder at Ula. “Ula’s new investors come with global expertise and share this long-term mindset of the company. We are grateful to them for believing in Ula’s mission and hope to learn from their experience re-imagining retail in other emerging markets” he added.
Sachin Bhanot, Head of Southeast Asia Investments at Prosus Ventures, said, “Ula’s team is laser-focused on revolutionising Indonesia’s retail supply chain and driving financial inclusion through combining modern retail technology with the low-cost, local structure of traditional retail. Taking a customer-first approach, the company has demonstrated robust growth while maintaining best in class metrics. We are excited about the impact they will have and to support them in their mission.”
The latest fundraise, which comes just eight months after its Series A round in January, will be used to invest in growing Ula’s presence across Indonesia and exploring international expansion across SEA, adding new categories, expanding the Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) offering, as well as building new technology and a local supply chain and logistics infrastructure.
Thanks to Ula’s ever-expanding base of retailers, the company is now able to leverage its relationships and market knowledge to offer a Pay-Later option, which alone is expected to be a US$150 billion market in Indonesia. With many store owners being limited by their access to traditional banking services and relying on daily cash flow income, providing the option to pay for their supplies later can prove to be a game-changer.
The latest round of funding comes amidst Indonesia’s worst-ever Covid-19 spike and strengthens Ula’s commitment to supporting underserved, traditional retailers, especially those in Tier 2 to Tier 4 cities where access to resources and logistical infrastructure is much more challenging. During this difficult period, many business owners have successfully used Ula’s technology and solutions to keep their businesses running and its people safe.
“Digital adoption is accelerating across Indonesia, and Ula plays a key role in shaping an ecosystem that supports and empowers underserved segments to be part of this journey. The new funding will allow us to further develop our platform and create digital solutions to enable the growth of small retailers by providing the tools and insights that deliver the most impact to their businesses,” said Alan Wong, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Ula.
In just twenty months since launch and in the midst of Covid, Ula has grown 230x, currently offering over 6,000 products and serving more than 70,000 traditional retail stores on its platform. With teams spread across 3 countries, it is one of the fastest-growing startups of its kind in the region.
Ula’s previous funding includes a US$10.5 million seed round in June 2020 and an additional US$20 million Series A round in January 2021.