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It has been five years since Deviana Rizqi Widyawati (30) started a catering service – the first business she opened, although not her first job. Before that, she had worked as a sales promotion person of a tea-based product and had joined an auto parts company.
For Devi, as she’s commonly known, the business began almost by chance. She has always loved cooking and would share her food with her neighbors. There was no specific plan in mind, but the universe conspired otherwise. Her cooking was popular among friends and colleagues, who then became her first customers.
“I’ve got neighbors who work as teachers and government employees. When their schools or offices organize an event, they order food from me,” Devi said.
Noticing an opportunity, Devi decided to take the business more seriously and turned her simple home kitchen into a full-on production facility. She also became a regular participant in many training programs for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) organized by the government or by non-profit organizations. Devi’s networking brought her to Pattiro Semarang, who provided her with mentorship.
Since then, her business took off. Today, she runs her kitchen with the help of three employees.
Devi took the business more seriously and participated in many training programs for small and medium enterprises organized by the government or by non-profit organizations, and became part of Pattiro Semarang’s mentorship
Next, Becoming a Gulo Asem Merchant
Devi’s business also owes its growth to Gulo Asem, a digital marketplace dedicated for Semarang SMEs that has enabled Devi to expand her customer base. The Gulo Asem app was launched last March 20, 2020 by the Cooperatives and MSME Agency of Semarang.
“Pattiro told me about the app,” Devi recalled.
However, registering herself as a merchant was not a simple process. The app requires interested businesses to submit a Business Identification Number (NIB) and proof that they are a registered member of Gerai Kopi Mi – a government program to promote micro enterprises and cooperatives. Devi proceeded to obtain her NIB but quickly bumped into problems.
In front of a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with other SME owners in Semarang, hosted by Pattiro on March 19, 2020, Devi shared her problems. An NIB should take only 24 hours to produce, but by the time Devi spoke to the group her application had been delayed for more than a week. Pattiro came with Devi and four other SME owners to Gunungpati district office, which was responsible for issuing their NIBs, to sort out this hindrance.
But NIB was not the only challenge. Immediately after her NIB was issued, Devi registered as a member of Gerai Kopi Mi. “It wasn’t smooth either, because the staff at the district office didn’t understand how to navigate the online system,” Devi shared.
While waiting for her membership’s approval, a government team started to curate Devi’s products. She offered four menu choices under NDJ-19 brand: two light snacks and two menu of rice sets priced from IDR 10,000 to IDR 25,000. Even then, she still had to wait until her products could be displayed in Gulo Asem.
Devi spent the next days and weeks going back and forth to the district office and liaise closely with the Cooperatives and MSME Agency. Finally, on May 12, 2020, Devi’s Gerai Kopi Mi’s membership was approved. The next day, NDJ-19 became an official merchant on Gulo Asem.
Expanding the Market
Devi’s first order through Gulo Asem was 100 rice sets from the Communications and Informatics agency. From there, orders from different agencies flourished.
Gulo Asem has clearly helped Devi promote NDJ-19. From a neighborhood shop, Devi has now served government agencies widely.
“I’m so grateful that my order volume is growing. I think we would’ve sold more without Covid-19 pandemic,” expressed Devi.
Thanks to Gulo Asem, there’s never a sleepy day in the kitchen. NDJ-19 currently receives between 50 to 100 rice set orders a day and Devi records up to IDR 60 million of monthly gross sales. She’s planned to offer more food choices to attract more customers.
What makes Gulo Asem special for SME owners like Devi is the supply-demand transparency that the app creates. On the platform, anyone can be competitive in serving customers like government agencies. Devi is confident the app can make Semarang’s SMEs thrive.
The app’s user-intuitive design is another advantage. Gulo Asem is accessible by simply downloading it from the Google Play Store. When an order is placed, a merchant receives a notification – type of food, quantity, and requested date of delivery. A merchant only needs a few clicks to confirm the order.
The order is then processed, and food is delivered on the agreed date and time. Invoice is sent to the buyer by system and payment is settled – usually no later than a week.
Having said that, Gulo Asem still needs to improve in some areas. The administrative process is certainly one aspect to refine. New users may also need help to operate the platform.
“Some people are confused with the requirements. It’s understandable. Technology is not the best friend of many SME owners,” Devi explained, and then added that SMEs “need more training and mentoring.”