My Jakarta: David Suwarto, Entrepreneur
Uluyu.com is among the wave of Web startups that have recently surfaced in Indonesia. Websites like Uluyu and dealkeren.com offer daily discount coupons for goods and services ranging from food and entertainment to education and travel.David Suwarto, 26, is the founder of Uluyu. Beginning with a team of three in 2011, the Uluyu crew has managed to make a splash by partnering with companies such as Fujifilm, Warung Talaga, De’Tones, Kopi Luwak, Ajisen Ramen and Ohlala Cafe to offer discounts of up to 90 percent.
Today, Suwarto talks to My Jakarta about the challenges involved in running a Web startup, and lets us know his vision for the future of Indonesia’s Internet sector.
First of all, the obvious question — how is it possible to give customers coupons offering discounts of up to 90 percent?
Merchants have nothing to lose, because they’re just optimizing their excess capacity. Coupons are a way for merchants to perform controlled price discrimination to optimize their excess capacity. If merchants can get a higher overall profit with more people frequenting their store, it’s possible to accept a lower profit margin per customer. So we make a deal with the vendors to put up their discounts on our website so that more people can go to them, and they are able to sell their goods at lower prices.
Uluyu exclusively does on-demand coupons only. Which means that we don’t simply blast coupons to everybody. Our members have to first want and request it from us, and most coupons are limited in quantity. The concept of coupons has been around for more than 120 years, used first by Coca-Cola. Coupons remind their holders about the merchant and the product, and give them a reason to try them out.
How much work does it take to secure a deal with a vendor?
Lots of work. A good salesperson can only secure from two to four deals a week. Like with most daily-deal websites, we approach these vendors one by one.
Who are the main vendors and customers?
As to vendors, we usually approach any retail brands that have become household names, or any brands that our members ask for. Our customers are usually professionals, fashionable people, adventurous people, people who want to try new things, and are usually between 15 and 50 years old.
The Internet isn’t exactly second nature to everyone, especially the senior members of our society. How do you plan to get to them?
We bring the coupons closer to everyone through various ways, that’s why we also provide a more conventional physical approach by providing coupon vending machines, which are already in several malls. They are shaped like our white mascot, the Uluyu bird.
How do you think Jakarta is different from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore when it comes to this kind of business?
Unlike those places, people seem to have little trust in what they can’t see here. So there’s an extra effort here to gain trust. This is amplified by the fact that there are still not many people who can afford or see the need to get Internet service here. They just have other priorities. So Internet service is still a concern. We still need to educate the market to increase their affinity for communications technology.
What do you think of the business potential for new startups in Jakarta?
It will be great with the right product and the right timing. For those with ideas and passion, do it. Think big, start small — don’t hire too many people or you’ll just end up firing them.
What are your hopes for the future of Indonesia’s online market, and for Uluyu?
I hope that every Indonesian will be able to use the Internet, to be able to easily make purchases online as logistic infrastructure improves. I believe we have a lot of smart, hard-working creative people in this country, and with the right infrastructure we can start exporting products and services to the world and help our country prosper.
Lastly, why ‘Uluyu’?
It means ‘dari ulu hati kami ke kamu,” or literally translated, ‘from the bottom of our hearts to yours.’ We think of our coupons as something to help people. We help people save, allow them to try things that they couldn’t otherwise have, while we help merchants get new customers.
David Suwarto was talking to Hartini Lestari.