Businesses in various sectors are going digital to continue operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, Indonesian start-ups and fintech companies have begun launching programs to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to go digital.
One fintech company that has helped with the digitalization of the retail supply chain is peer-to-peer lender AwanTunai. The company has disbursed Rp 407 billion (US$27.8 million) in loans to wholesalers and retailers, including warung (kiosks) from 2019 to June.
AwanTunai offers point-of-sale (POS) solution as well as AwanTempo, a lending program to help warung increase sales by increasing their stocks.
The Jakarta Post’s Eisya A. Eloksari interviewed AwanTunai’s CEO Dino Setiawan on Aug. 29 to discuss the pandemic’s effects on the retail sector and the digital future of Indonesia’s supply chain.
Question: Can you tell us about AwanTunai’s story and its work surrounding financial inclusion and the digitalization of small businesses?
Answer: Initially, we wanted to digitalize the supply chain for small farmers, but I do not think we were ready because of the lack of digital infrastructure and digital literacy in rural areas compared to cities.
So, we decided to build the technology infrastructure in the retail supply chain sector first. We wanted to collect and analyze data on small businesses, which was practically invisible before, as warung make transactions with cash and did the bookkeeping with paper and pen.
Through digitalization, we can now know data, such as what wholesalers are distributing to small retailers, when it happens and the value of the transactions they make.
We do not aim to be a lender for these small businesses, rather our dream is for AwanTunai to be able to facilitate banks to serve MSMEs by helping create a credit scoring method. We want to show banks that small businesses can repay their loans on time and that our business model is safe for banks to disburse their loans through us.
So, our mission is to help unbanked businesses get funding and build the data infrastructure of the retail supply chain.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected AwanTunai?
On the downside, we have seen our retailer clients experience an average 30 percent decrease in revenue. Their ability to repay loans on time fell to 88 percent during the pandemic from 98 percent last year.
Our clients also saw consumer behavior changes during the pandemic with more people buying staple needs and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), while cigarettes and higher-end FMCG brands were struggling. This resulted in an inventory buildup.
However, we have also noticed that people are still cautious about going to supermarkets, so they buy their needs at warung, which are closer to home. Warung owners have also learned to adjust to customer needs, further boosting sales. Because of this, the on-time payment rate returned to 97 percent in the second quarter this year.
While the amount of loans was down, we have seen app adoption increase as more retailers join the AwanTunai mobile application.
AwanTunai recently received US$20 million in funding, how are you going to disburse this capital?
We want to focus on serving MSMEs, which are selling staple goods and FMCG products.
Initially, we focused on helping digitalize wholesalers that had Rp 5 billion in revenue or higher. From them, we have gotten contacts to small retailers, and then we help them digitalize too. This top-down scheme works well because if we try to digitalize small retailers first, it may take longer, as some of them do not understand how to use mobile apps.
However, we are also seeing the potential to go upstream and target medium or large farming groups. We wanted to expand to other sectors, such as digitalizing food and beverage or garage shops too, but since the pandemic has disrupted both sectors, we decided to focus on the verticals we already have.
Now there are many start-ups and fintech companies that want to digitalize MSMEs, what are your thoughts on this trend?
Sometimes start-ups try to implement business models that work in the United States or India in Indonesia. For example, some start-ups want to digitalize, but also change the supply chain by distributing goods from principle directly to modern or small retailers, skipping wholesalers altogether.
The way I see it, Indonesia’s retail supply chain is already perfect. Wholesalers are still the backbone of the sector because they have warehouses in strategic places, they have efficient logistics and they have buyers within 5 to 10 kilometers of their warehouses.
So, I think start-ups that try to change this model, especially those that also implement unsustainable business models such as burning money and give never-ending discounts will find it quite hard to survive, especially during this pandemic.
What is AwanTunai’s plan for the future?
Our target for the year is to have around 200 more wholesaler partners and around 10,000 more warung clients. We want to disburse around $10 million in loans by the end of the year as well.
For future plans, first, we want to be able to help banks to disburse more accessible financing to millions of warung and small farmers in the country. We are now focusing on FMCG and staple needs, but I hope that our business model can inspire banks to see that financing MSMEs is possible.
We are currently working with OCBC but hopefully, we can reach out to more banks too.
Secondly, we want to expand our business nationwide. AwanTunai is now available in the Greater Jakarta area and East Java and we would like to serve more people in the future.
We were also informed that a similar business model is needed and has the potential to thrive in our neighboring countries such as Myanmar and Bangladesh, so, it will be interesting to cater to these markets as well.