Scaling a Creative Marketplace in Indonesia with Sayed Muhammad, founder of LocalBrand

Sayed, please introduce yourself…

My name is Sayed Muhammad. I am the founder and CEO of Local.co.id, a startup that aims to empower local talent through information and technology within the creative industry.

I graduated from the economics program in University of Indonesia. Since then, I have worked in a wide range of industries including logistics, market research, banking, and securities.

What’s the story behind creating LocalBrand and can you explain what you do?

The year of 2011 is when I noticed that the growth of the Indonesian creative industry is at its peak. There are numerous creative works that show great potential, especially in the local fashion industry.

The problem was the lack of use of online media in promoting these works. In this modern era, consumers are equipped with sufficient access to online content, and they are ready to optimize their shopping experience with the ease that technology has brought them.

But producers are still not here. So there was a gap between consumers and producers in the virtual dimension, and that’s where LocalBrand.co.id comes in. We the work of talented local designers accessible to the market through online media.

What’s great about LocalBrand.co.id is that it creates an individual online store for each and every local brand but integrates them as one huge collection of the best local fashion products consumers can easily access through one gate.

How’s traction working out so far?

Up until now, LocalBrand.co.id has shown an inclining progress. We have more than 200 curated designers showing off their work at our site. And with our group, in the last year growth of our total revenue grew 300%.

What strategies are you using to market LocalBrand?

Two things I’d like to point out about LocalBrand.co.id is that:

1. We do not advertise as other online stores might do because LocalBrand.co.id is we are (still) a bootstrapping startup. Hence, our ad budget is close to zero.

2. We mainly rely on the power of our local community. That is, promoting LocalBrand.co.id through social media and word of mouth. We also conduct a semi-annual event to gather our community.

These events are usually attended by more than 35,000 people, most of which are our loyal customers.

If you were to start over again, what would you do differently, and why?

When I first created LocalBrand.co.id, I had the ambition to conquer all market segments in fashion. But it was impossible to do so, the world of fashion was way more complicated than I could ever imagine.

Customers tend to seek their fashion needs in places associated with their age and style. Thus, LocalBrand.co.id focuses on urban youth who are around 18-25 years old.

How does being based in Indonesia impact the business?

Building a business based in Indonesia has its advantages:

1. A large market is present, or at least a potentially large one. Not the whole market is fully ready for online business yet, but the growth is promising. This leads to more confidence in investments.

2. The number of competitors is limited, especially for a digital startup.

3. The cost to set up a business is relatively lower than other countries: inexpensive permit costs, low wage rate of employees, etc.

But doing business in Indonesia also carries its own weight. Most of our potential consumers, if not all of them, still prefer the conventional way of shopping.

As I have mentioned before, the market potential is tremendous, but it needs 3 to 4 more years for this potential to reach its optimum level.

Until then, to survive is the biggest challenge any digital startup has to face in Indonesia.

How do you see the startup and investment ecosystem developing in Indonesia?

The ecosystem of digital startups and investments is still at an early stage in Indonesia. Startups are still concentrated around big cities, such as Jakarta, Bandung, Jogja, and Bali.

The startup community itself was established in 2010, and foreign investors have entered the market ever since. Most of these investors are from Japan. They have seen the prospect Indonesia can offer.

I genuinely believe that the time passed since 2010 until today has brought a lot of improvements to Indonesian startups.

While in the past, startups may have been a second-choice for incompetent labors not able to enter the professional world, startups are now operated by professionals with strong vision for their company’s future.

I think it’s just about time for startups to reach the level where both the founders and market can adapt to the digital form of business, and on top of that, the confidence of foreign investors to invest in Indonesia grows larger and larger.

It might take 2 or 3 years. That’s when Indonesian startups are really going to shine.

What’s next for you and LocalBrand?

Our next goal is the mission of empowering different creative industries in Indonesia. Therefore, we have recently launched LocalTalent.co.id, an online creative talent management platform.

It’s existence is not only to connect the talents in the Indonesian creative industry to work together, but also to create a positive synergy among these talents that enables them to produce high quality work.

Two years from now, we plan to showcase Indonesian work at a regional level by expanding our business to South-east Asia.

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