#Asia Meet Qlapa, Indonesia’s Etsy for local handicrafts

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The platform allows customers to pre-order and customise their purchases

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When Benny Fajarai visited Bali, he was deeply impressed by both domestic and international tourists’ enthusiasm for traditional handicrafts.

Having long wanted to build something that can help Indonesia’s creative industry, he then contacted his friend Fransiskus Xaverius, who had been working for five years in Silicon Valley.

The two founders then started Qlapa, a curated online marketplace for Indonesian handcrafts.

Named after Indonesian word ‘kelapa’ (‘coconut’), a common material that has been used for generations to create traditional art and crafts, the platform enables customers to buy handcrafts directly from the craftsmen.

Complete with payment gateway and a customer service system, it also allows pre-ordering and customisation.

“We curated the products in order to maintain product and service quality, to ensure that they are up to our standards,” says Fajarai, who is now CEO of the startup.

The products that are available in Qlapa range from fashion accessories and gadget accessories to furniture and room decor.

Launched in early November, the West Jakarta-based startup is currently looking to expand its team of 14. For now, it is unable to disclose its source of investment.

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Proudly made in Indonesia

Handicrafts play a crucial role in Indonesia’s blossoming creative industry, closely following culinary and fashion as its biggest subsector.

Latest data from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy shows that in 2013 alone, the industry generated at least IDR 21 billion (US$ 1.5 million) in export value. Indonesia’s leading handicrafts exhibition, Inacraft, was able to generate IDR 115,7 billion (US$8.4 million) in four days alone, indicating strong demand from both the domestic and international markets.

However, Qlapa noticed several issues.

“To promote their products, craftsmen often rely on attending events or exhibitions, which may cost them a lot. They also tend to use social networking platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or other marketplaces to sell products. Since [promotion] is scattered, it’s hard for customers to find them,” Fajarai explains.

Handcrafts also have a hard time competing with imported and mass-produced goods. Apart from that, most online marketplaces do not give customers the opportunity to customise their purchases, which Qlapa sees as part of the excitement when buying handmade crafts.

The solution that Qlapa provides can benefit both craftsmen and customers. Craftsmen are able to directly connect with customers, getting the chance to educate them about local products. Because of the pre-ordering feature, they can also avoid creating products in bulk that would end up being unsold.

Customers can also benefit from the customising feature, while also getting to buy handcrafts at a more affordable price.

“Many craftsmen are offering themselves up [to be featured in Qlapa], but we also select and contact them one by one,” says Fajarai. “They do need help with setting up [the online] store. [But] we have our own special team for that.”

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Building Indonesia’s creative industry through technology is a lifelong mission for Qlapa’s founders. Prior to starting Qlapa, Fajarai founded Kreavi, a social networking platform for local designers and visual creators, in 2012. Even after he had stepped down from the company’s leadership, his passion for local creative industry continues to grow.

As for Xaverius, he had five years experience of working as a software engineer for Google, Blackberry, Zynga, Castlight and Homejoy.

Despite a promising future in Silicon Valley, he wanted return home and contribute to Indonesia’s development.

“I see that Indonesia is progressing rapidly. There are many problems to solve, yet there is little that technology can’t solve,” says Xaverius, who is now CTO of the startup.

Also Read: Developing: Uber to launch official company in Indonesia

Crafting the future

The Qlapa team

The Qlapa team

Apart from developing new features and increasing stability in its service, Qlapa aims to create a balance between supply and demand in coming months.

They are also brewing plans for partnership with government.

“The government plays a crucial role in the local handicrafts industry. It is within our plan to build collaborative efforts with them,” Fajarai says.

The post Meet Qlapa, Indonesia’s Etsy for local handicrafts appeared first on e27.

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