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Startups

Indonesia unicorn Bukalapak president leaves for state-owned telecom

Co-founder Rasyid follows classmate and ex-CEO Zaky

Muhamad Fajrin Rasyid, president of Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak, joins state-owned Telekomunikasi Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of Bukalapak)

JAKARTA -- The president and a co-founder of Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak has joined the state-owned Telekomunikasi Indonesia, or Telkom, as its new director for digital business, both companies announced on Friday.

Muhamad Fajrin Rasyid, 33, joined Bukalapak as a co-founder in 2011, just a year after then-chief executive Achmad Zaky founded the online marketplace. Rasyid's career footprint includes the Indonesian office of the Boston Consulting Group and Telkom competitor Indosat Ooredoo.

Rasyid and Zaky were classmates at Indonesia's Bandung Institute of Technology in the 2000s, majoring in informatics engineering. Similarly, they attended Harvard Business School and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business between 2018 and 2019.

Bukalapak is one of five unicorns in Indonesia and a rival of e-commerce unicorn Tokopedia, which is backed by Japan's SoftBank.

Zaky announced he would leave the CEO position at Bukalapak in December, just a few months after the company said it would lay off 10% of its 2,000-strong workforce amid investors' increasing demand for more focus on profitability over growth after WeWork's woes last year.

Rasyid now appears to be following in Zaky's footsteps. The latter has since served as an adviser at Bukalapak, and founded Jakarta-based startup incubator Init 6. Rachmat Kaimuddin, a former banker and BCG consultant, replaced him as Bukalapak's CEO.

Bukalapak had yet to name Rasyid's successor as of Friday, and did not say if Rasyid is leaving the company for good, stating only that he "will hand over his daily functional duties and responsibilities as President of Bukalapak" to its board of directors and management.

Rasyid, meanwhile, said in a statement: "Within 10 years with Bukalapak, we have inspired Indonesian youths to continuously dream big and work hard to make it a reality. Now is the time to make a greater contribution to the advancement of Indonesia and focus on developing Indonesia's telco industry in Telkom. I hope my experience in developing a startup business as it is today, could contribute to the development of Telkom."

Bukalapak says it currently has 92 million users and 6 million online merchant partners. It has emerged among the rare winners amid the coronavirus pandemic, reporting significant increases in sales as Indonesia's partial lockdowns prompted more consumers to shop online.

Meanwhile Telkom, the country's largest telecom, made the announcement about Rasyid's appointment during its shareholders meeting on Friday.

"Telkom wants to transform into a digital telco as soon as possible. That's why we want to recruit a director to our board who has a competence in digital business," Telkom President Ririek Adriansyah told a press conference after the meeting.

Rasyid's appointment to Telkom comes as the state-owned telecom fell under the scrutiny of State Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir. Thohir, who started serving in the cabinet last October, has made Telkom one of his main state-owned enterprises targeted for restructuring. Others include oil and gas giant Pertamina and flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.

Earlier this year, Thohir complained that most of Telkom's revenue has come from its mobile subsidiary Telkomsel, a joint venture with Singapore Telecommunications, and that the parent entity itself has barely done anything to develop its business. He has specifically instructed Telkom to catch up on big data and cloud computing businesses.

Telkom posted about 136 trillion rupiah ($9.57 billion) in revenue and 18.67 trillion rupiah in net income last year, up 3.7% and 3%, respectively, from 2018.

The company's shares have risen 8% over the past week since rumors began to spread of Rasyid's hire, outperforming the Jakarta Composite Index's 1% increase.

Additional reporting by Ismi Damayanti in Jakarta.

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