An honoree of the 2021 Forbes Asia 100 to Watch list, e-commerce platform Evermos has grand ambitions to uplift small businesses and underserved communities alike. To get there, the Indonesian startup raised a total of $77 million.
Born and raised in Yogyakarta, one of Indonesia’s poorest cities in Central Java, Ghufron Mustaqim wanted to help his childhood friends while uplifting the mom-and-pop stores that served them. Connecting the two was the basis for his startup Evermos, a five-year-old social commerce startup that just raised $39 million.
“Through Evermos, we can help people like my friends and neighbors, who want to be productive, and local brands in surrounding areas,” says Mustaqim, cofounder and CEO, in a video interview. “If we do that collectively, it’s what we call gotong royong [mutual assistance] in Indonesia, a joint effort from many stakeholders to help each other. We can propel economic growth forward, creating an Indonesia that is more prosperous.”
Founded in 2018, Evermos began as a platform for users to dropship Shariah-compliant products, or goods prepared in accordance with principles of Islamic law – the startup’s name is derived from “everyday needs for every Moslem,” the Indonesian spelling of “Muslim” – including hijabs and cruelty-free cosmetics. Almost 90% of Indonesia’s population of 273 million is Muslim, giving rise to a domestic market for Shariah-compliant goods and services worth roughly $184 billion in 2020, according to the country’s central bank.
Since then, the startup has expanded to 160,000 monthly transacting agents and 1,600 brand partners, making it one of the largest social commerce platforms in Indonesia and earning it a spot on the Forbes Asia 100 to Watch list in 2021. In particular, Evermos targets micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise virtually all of Indonesia’s business and 60% of its GDP, according to a United Nations report from last October. Based in Bandung in western Java, the company claims its gross merchandise value (GMV) in 2022 increased by 17 times from 2020, but declined to disclose specific figures.
Through the Evermos app, Indonesian residents above the age of 17 can sign up as “resellers” and select products to sell and promote among their friends, family, or other contacts. In a similar fashion to Amazon’s Associates program, users receive a commission of up to 30% from any purchase made through their personalized links. Prospective MSMEs can create an account on the companion Evermos Partner app, where they can list products, manage inventory and track sales from resellers. The startup claims it supports over 80,000 different products, which are vetted for quality and compliance with Shariah law.
In May, Evermos raised $39 million in a Series C funding round led by the World Bank group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IFC Emerging Asia Fund, bringing the startup’s total funding to $77 million. The funding round also saw investment from returning backers such as Xiaomi cofounder and billionaire Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital, Jungle Ventures, UOB Venture Management, and Telkomsel Mitra Inovasi, alongside new participants SWC Global, Endeavor Catalyst, and Uni-President Asset Holdings.
“Scaling up tech-enabled social commerce platforms such as Evermos can spur economic growth and make a huge contribution towards unlocking access to markets, creating jobs, and lifting prosperity for millions of MSMEs and entrepreneurs, many of whom are women and are the backbone of Indonesia’s economy,” said Randall Riopelle, IFC’s acting country manager for Indonesia and East Timor, in a statement about the latest funding.
“Through Evermos, we can help people like my friends and neighbors, who want to be productive, and local brands in surrounding areas.”
Evermos says the fresh capital will go towards expanding its services across the retail value chain for MSMEs, building its network of resellers, developing “AI-powered tools and solutions” and leading upskilling efforts such as digital advertising. It plans to take aim at Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, or less developed but high-growth regions – cities in Indonesia are ranked on a four-tier system, with higher values indicating less-developed areas.
E-commerce plays a pivotal role in Indonesia’s burgeoning digital economy, which hit a GMV of $77 billion in 2020, accounting for almost 40% of Southeast Asia’s GMV that year, according to a report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Co. On the back of rising e-commerce adoption, spurred by Covid-19 lockdowns, Indonesia’s digital economy is set to reach $130 billion by 2025.
“When you look at our size and look at the total market in Asia, we are actually still scratching the surface,” says Arip Tirta, cofounder and president at Evermos. The startup aims to establish an “Evermos community,” or reseller base, within each of Indonesia’s 7,500 subdistricts – so far, it’s built 1,500. Evermos claims that its resellers enable MSMEs to tap into new regions, a difficult task in an archipelagic nation spanning 17,000 small islands over some 3,100 miles. Within the next two to three years, the startup will focus on expanding in Indonesia’s 500 cities, starting from the most-populated island of Java, where 80% of Evermos’ transactions take place, to Sumatra, one of the archipelago’s main islands.
For underserved communities, the appeal of reselling lies in its ability to supplement other income streams. Monthly average earnings in Indonesia stand at $192, according to data provider CEIC. By comparison, active Evermos users pull in $300 to $350 per month and, depending on their level of commitment, can earn over $1,000, according to Tirta. Of the app’s users, around half are stay-at-home moms, and over a quarter have full-time or part-time jobs.
Still, the startup faces steep competition from other social commerce platforms such as Super, a Y Combinator graduate that raised a $70 million Series C funding round led by U.S.-based investor New Enterprise Associates last June. Super’s “hyperlocal” approach to logistics says it can deliver consumer goods to reselling agents within a day. Another rival is GoTo’s Tokopedia, an Indonesian e-commerce giant.
Resellers in Indonesia also encounter unique difficulties in improving their skillsets and “mindsets,” says Mustaqim. “Whether or not our approach is right, history will tell,” the former McKinsey consultant says. “But if we look at the current progress, there are many local brands who love our service…we just need to continue it.”
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