Co-Author: Roshini Prakash
4 min read
He has been instrumental in expanding market access for small food businesses in Indonesia by 30% in just a year
What led you start Aglonera?
Aglonera is actually my second shot at developing a solution for the agricultural sector. My first company, a platform for farmers to bypass the middleman and access the market directly, failed. It demanded a level of tech know-how that smallholder farmers were not privy to.
Aglonera takes on a different approach. It is an e-commerce platform for Warungs (small food businesses) to purchase a steady supply of agricultural products to sustain their businesses. Owners start their day as early as 3 AM as they have to go all the way to the wholesale market to source their produce. And for the next 18 hours, they are working till they close their shutters at 9pm. Despite their hard work, Warung owners are only able to pocket SGD10-15 per day. Our hope in Aglonera is to increase their profit margins while cutting business operation times.
Why should others and the wider society care about such an issue?
Approximately 90% of the Indonesian workforce is employed by a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and about 70% of such SMEs are Warungs. Although these businesses are profitable, it is very difficult for them to scale up as the owners do not possess the necessary skills, knowledge and resources to do so. As a result, many of these owners demand that their children go to larger cities such as Jakarta or Bekasi to build and run the same food stalls, with the hope that the bigger city would mean higher margins. The harsh reality is that these children will drop out of school, often resulting in them being stuck in an endless poverty cycle.
What are some challenges you have faced in growing Aglonera?
Building Aglonera has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. The stigma around starting my own company at such a young age, unstable streams of income and displeasure from family members and elders in the unconventional path that I have chosen.
That being said, they have begun to change their minds when Aglonera started achieving milestones. Seeing revenue growth translate into income for our employees, witnessing the receipt from government grant funding, and hearing praise from renowned organisations have shown them the value of Aglonera.
How do you plan to scale Aglonera’s operations?
We are currently raising funds to enlarge our commodity offerings, enhance our systems and reach a larger proportion of the market. Currently we are working with over 300 Warungs. We’ll need another USD$150,000 to reach our 2020 target of at least 4000 unique customers, whom we can reach out to in bigger cities across Indonesia. We also want to add more commodities to fulfill the needs of our customers and one of the ways to do so is by collaborating with more smallholder farmers.
I want to build a business that is not only sustainable and profitable, but also meaningful for the Warungs. My hope is for Aglonera to become an aggregator for all stakeholders in the sector, including producers and our core customers. I aspire to grow Aglonera so that it can also support small food businesses by providing microloans or tempering payment schemes. I want to see this ecosystem thrive successful, generating its own revenues to sustain itself financially.
Look through Aglonera’s Deal Page and reach out if you wish to explore how you can collaborate to further their cause!