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Salim Group backs digital startup incubator

Partnership with National University of Singapore to nurture entrepreneurs

Axton Salim, fourth from the right, executive director of Salim Group, attended the launch of BLOCK71 Jakarta with Lim Hng Kiang, center, Singapore's trade and industry minister, and Enggartiasto Lukita, second from right, Indonesia's trade minister. (Photo by BLOCK71 Jakarta)

JAKARTA -- Indonesian conglomerate Salim Group is showing increased interest in disruptive technologies by partnering a startup incubation program with NUS Enterprise, a business arm of the National University of Singapore.

Launched on Friday, BLOCK71 Jakarta is the latest hub in NUS Enterprise's BLOCK71 network following Singapore and San Francisco. Another is slated soon for Suzhou in China.

Axton Salim, Salim Group's executive director, spoke of his conglomerate's interest in startups -- particularly those that fit with its existing businesses, which range from its core food business, Indofood Sukses Makmur, to retail, automotive, telecommunications, infrastructure, and others.

"We are continuously engaging with new businesses and entrepreneurs to identify opportunities that can enhance existing businesses within Salim Group," he said. "We recognize that technology will continue to shape the way we live, work, and play -- and in certain areas create disruption."

In May, Salim Group acquired a small Indonesian bank as part of a grand plan to develop digital businesses -- many of which have yet to be disclosed. Chief Executive Anthoni Salim has said the group plans to invest "trillions of rupiah" in digital payment systems. 

On a smaller scale, Salim said the group has already invested in Popbox, a local startup making automated lockers for parcel delivery. He also expressed interest in 8villages, which develops educational and communication tools for farmers. Both startups are members of BLOCK71 Jakarta. 

Indonesia's Salim Group is partnering the National University of Singapore on the Jakarta hub of BLOCK71, its startup incubator network. (Photo by Erwida Maulia)

Salim said many other opportunities have been identified at BLOCK71 Jakarta, which is already host to 20 Indonesian and Singaporean startups. "As long as they can be part of our value chains, we can invest," he said, noting the significant market access opportunities the conglomerate offers: "Through our affiliations in various industries, startups will have a platform to test their ideas and products for market fit."

NUS Enterprise also offers significant market access. "Singapore startups can gain easier market access within Indonesia, and Indonesian startups can leverage upon NUS Enterprise's entrepreneurial hubs in the US, China and Singapore, to venture into these markets," it said.

Among Singaporean startups joining BLOCK71 Jakarta are Carro, an online marketplace for car buyers and sellers; Viddsee, a digital entertainment network for short movies; and Circles.Life, a digital telecommunications operator.

"We hope BLOCK71 Jakarta will foster a healthy two-way exchange of ideas, innovation and expertise between Singapore and Indonesia," said Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore's minister of trade and industry.

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