Indonesian unicorn bucks trend and slashes staff

While most billion dollar startups are expanding headcount, Bukalapak is cutting its workforce to become leaner.
By: | September 13, 2019

Unicorns in Southeast Asia normally make the headlines for increasing profits and taking on more employees. Lazada, Grab and Go-Jek are three such unicorns based in this region going from strength to strength. There are also a few want-to-be unicorns aggressively taking on more workers such as Shopee.

But Indonesian-based online marketplace Bukalapak is cutting around 10% of its 2,500 employees, bucking a trend among high-flying unicorns.

Bukalapak’s Chief strategy officer Teddy Oetomo said that the company would be placing greater emphasis on profitability, and is targeting break-even or its first profit within five years.

Bukalapak is majority Indonesian-owned but has a number of backers including Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and China’s Ant Financial, the Alibaba subsidiary.

At the same time, Singapore-based venture builder and early-stage venture capital firm Antler has announced that it will set up an office in Indonesia in the first half next year, targeting to nurture at least 20 local startups annually.

A spokesman for Antler said: “We need top people to run Antler to make sure we find the right leader. Our requirements are high. It is very critical to choose a local leader.’’