The 28-year-old Indonesian is turning $ 700 million into a multi-million dollar fishing business

When he was young, Utari Octavianty often felt like he was coming from a weak background.

His hometown is Kampung Bahru, a remote fishing village in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, where many have no access to education.

There was also a common saying, “If you come from a fishing village, you can’t win.”

That’s why Octavianty considered himself “lucky” when his parents sent him to a city high school. But he soon learned that there was a “gap” between him and his schoolmates.

“I was bullied because I came from a coastal town.

That experience ignited and ignited a personal mission: to make sure that one day his people will not be known for their poverty, for their potential.

“At the time, I didn’t know how to do that. I wrote this in my diary.”

Today, these are not just one-page words, but a reality.

We have helped fishermen to increase their income by two or three times before entering Aruna.

Utari Octavianty

Co-founder Aruna

Now 28, Octavianty is a co-founder of Aruna. It is an Indonesian e-commerce fishing company that operates as a supply chain unifier and provides fishermen with access to a global network.

To date, it has raised $ 65 million in Series A funding, according to Aruna, which is the largest Series A funding for Indonesian startups.

Simple beginnings

His entrepreneurial journey began in 2015, with Octavianty in his hometown when he was in his final year of technology degree in Bandung.

“It wasn’t easy to find good seafood. My family serves seafood every day at home, but all of a sudden it was very difficult to find. I thought to myself, how good it would be if we could buy seafood directly from fishermen. [in coastal villages]. ”

He shared his idea with his classmates Farid Naufal Aslam and Indraka Fadhlillah. Together, they created a website to meet consumer demand for seafood and contact fishermen.

Then the 21-year-old decided to enter a competition called “Hackathon Merdeka” to raise capital.

To their surprise, they won.

Utari Octavianty with co-founders Farid Naufal Aslam (right) and Indraka Fadhlillah.

Utari Octavianty


But the biggest surprise was the amount of interest Aruna sparked after the website was launched.

“We have received a customer demand of 1,000 tonnes of seafood … from restaurants and importers outside Indonesia that need a steady supply of seafood.”

The trio got to work quickly: using the two MacBook computers they won in the hackaton to continue building on the website and continue to get started through standalone website design work.

Their first significant set of capital came from another competition, from which they won a cash prize of about $ 700.

There are many investors in Indonesia, but finding an investor who understands our business is not easy.

Utari Octavianty

Co-founder Aruna

Although the amount was “very small”, Octavianty and its founders used it for a pilot program in Balikpapan, a port city in the east Kalimantan. They spent months in a fishing community.

At the end of their stay, they made their first transaction with a local restaurant in Bandung. At that moment they realized that their idea was not something that worked only on paper.

“We can really make this happen,” Octavianty said.

Finding the right investors

Over the years, Aruna spread to more Indonesian fishing villages. As the demand for their seafood grew, so did the company. But one of Octavianty’s challenges was to find the right investors.

“There are a lot of Indonesian investors, but finding an investor who understands our business is not easy,” he said.

“Some investors will be interested because they see the scaling potential of this business. But we were selective … we wanted investors who wanted to invest, not because of the company’s potential, but because of its impact.”

To date, the Aruna fishing startup has exported 44 million pounds of seafood to seven countries last year, most of it to the U.S. and China.

Aruna

The fishing platform exported 44 million pounds of seafood last year to seven countries, most of them to the United States and China, Octavianty said.

But he said his biggest achievement was giving fishermen direct access to the market while giving them fairer and better wages.

“We helped the fishermen increase their incomes by two or three times before they entered Aruna,” he added.

It is also an inspiration to the industry. We see so many fishing companies in Indonesia that are not concerned with sustainability.

Utari Octavianty

Co-founder Aruna

Although Aruna was strict in selecting his investors, it was this approach that made the company more attractive, Octavianty said.

“We are open about the challenges we face as investors, but in return, we hope they will also help us, for example, help us make connections or solve problems.”

A sustainable future

In January, Aruna announced $ 30 million in Series A follow-up funding for Vertex Ventures for Southeast Asia and India. With the new funding in hand, Octavianty wants to expand to more Indonesian fishing villages and is investing in sustainable fishing practices.

To date, Aruna is used by more than 26,000 fishermen in 150 Indonesian fishing communities.

Today, Aruna has more than 26,000 fishermen in its network. It has also provided more than 5,000 jobs in rural areas and employed 1,000 coastal women to process seafood.

Utari Octavianty

“Now that we have opened the market and have more fishermen on board, we need to be very careful with the fish stock, because Indonesia is already overfishing,” said Octavianty, who is also Aruna’s chief sustainability officer.

This is why Aruna urges all fishermen not to pay attention to the quality of the catches, the quantity, and the lack of fishing in the shelters of the sea.

Aruna also advises fishermen not to use fishing gear, such as trawls and bombs, which could damage the natural habitat on the seabed.

“It’s also inspiring the industry. We see so many fishing companies in Indonesia that don’t care about sustainability,” Octavianty added.

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