5-month-old Indonesian startup Ula raises $10.5 million for its wholesale e-commerce marketplace

Five-month-old Indonesian startup Ula, which aims to help small retailers solve inefficiencies that they face in supply chain, inventory and working capital, said today it has raised $10.5 million in a new financing round to grow its business in the Southeast Asian market.

The seed round was led by Sequoia India and Lightspeed India. SMDV, Quona Capital, Saison Capital, Alter Global and a clutch of prominent angels, including the whole founding team of Bangalore-headquartered business-to-business marketplace Udaan, participated in the round, Ula said.

The Jakarta-headquartered startup, which was launched in January this year, operates a wholesale e-commerce marketplace to help store owners stock only the inventory they need, and also grants them with working capital.

Ula today operates in Indonesia, where like other Asian markets, traditional retail still accounts for the vast majority of retail sales in the country. These shop owners, several run by families, know how to run their businesses in a cost-efficient manner. But they struggle with accessing working capital and sourcing inventories.

“A grocery store might need to source inventory from up to 50 different sources (wholesalers/ distributors) every week and sometimes order in bulk to get better rates, even when they don’t need such large quantities,” said Derry Sakti, co-founder of Ula.

Ula, which is currently in private beta, uses data science to grant working capital credit to retailers, it said.

Abheek Anand, managing director at Sequoia Capital, said as more small and medium-sized enterprises in Indonesia begin to adopt technology, platforms such as Ula could help them streamline their businesses.

“Ula has a highly experienced team bringing together the right mix of experience in local and global e-commerce, retail and fintech markets and we are excited to be early partners in this journey,” he said.

Without disclosing exact figures, Ula said its business has grown 10 times since launch, with several customers returning to buy significantly more. Stores have purchased more in May amid the global pandemic than they did earlier this year, the startup claimed.

The startup plans to use the fresh capital to expand across Indonesia over the next year and service inventory in more categories, including apparel and electronics.

“For us, the true measure of Ula’s success will be in how much we can improve our customers’ lives and businesses. Our collective vision is to revolutionize SMB trade using technology, helping increase their efficiency and providing them with tools to conduct their business seamlessly and more profitably,” said Riky Tenggara, co-founder of Ula.

Tenggara was part of the early team at e-commerce giant Lazada, while Sakti oversaw consumer goods giant P&G’s operations in Indonesia. Ula’s other co-founders are Nipun Mehra, who helped build businesses and categories at Amazon and Flipkart and was part of the leadership team at the Indian payments firm Pine Labs; and Alan Wong, who helped build distributed systems in supply chain, catalog and search at Amazon.