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Indonesian FinTech Builds Bridges Between Banks And Workers

February 25, 2021 at 09:00AM

There are roughly 270 million people living and working in Indonesia today, roughly 92 million of whom do not have bank accounts. That leaves a little over a third (34 percent) of the nation’s population unserved by the banking system. It’s a reality that makes providing value for the Indonesian consumer a challenge, GajiGesa Co-Founder Vidit Agrawal told PYMNTS in a recent conversation, and also a tremendous opportunity to build a bridge between those excluded customers and the banks.

GajiGesa is a newly founded FinTech designed to offer workers access to their wages as they earn them. Agrawal believes that in time it can connect Indonesian consumers to the formal financial system, particularly blue collar consumers who have been largely overlooked by banks due to their relatively small asset value.

“What we see is we have this very interesting opportunity where over time we learn about the spending behavior of the employees and their needs, and we can help the employee make better decisions,” Agrawal said. “Over time, we can believe we can also get banks to provide better financial products that are going to improve the lives of these individuals, because clearly there is a disconnect today.”

It’s a disconnect that Agrawal and his co-founder (and wife) Martina come well trained to take on. Prior to founding GajiGesa, Vidit Agrawal worked with major multinational tech players like Stripe and Uber, while Martina has served as product director at Standard Chartered Ventures. Prior to that she spent about half a decade working with unbanked customers in Indonesia and Cambodia. Combined, he said, they came in well educated to create a payroll product that could work for any employer-employee pairing. The FinTech isn’t built to solve every problem in the market on its own, he said, but to build the connective tissue that can make the creation of the entire array of products the Indonesian market and its consumers need more available to all.

“There is a lot of opportunity and there is just so much to do, but we are also a 5-month-old startup,” Agrawal said. “So for us focus is really important and we’re taking steps towards building a platform and our first product is largely focused towards the benefit of employees in Indonesia.”

Building A Platform On Earned Wage Access 

GajiGesa, he said, started with the entry point of earned wage access because of its obvious utility to workers. But building that kind of offering on their own, he said, is basically technologically impossible for the average employer. Nonetheless, the company found that it is something employers want to be able to offer their employees, even if they can’t do it themselves. This is where GajiGesa comes in — with a fully automated technological platform that allows employees to sign in and withdraw their wages instantly as they earn them.

And what they’ve seen is that earned wage access is popular by its own lights — and a significant starting point from which they have been able to insert other value because of the level of engagement they’ve see the app attract. Though employees only use the app to withdraw wages two or three times a month, they visit the app about 28 times a month.

“There is something in the platform which excites and captivates the individual that he keeps coming to that app again and again,” Agrawal said, noting the engagement and the number of eyeballs the platform was attracting made it obviously quite a good place to continue adding features and functionality that would also appeal to the consumer. So from earned wage access, he said, they went on to add prepaid card top-offs, data packets for sale, bill pay and digital wallet integration to the platform to make it more robustly applicable for users.

“This is how the product is expanded into a platform. Financial education is another element we are looking at because it’s a need of the market,” he said.

What’s Next 

Though most firms’ early thoughts run to taking on the world, and both of GajiGesa’s founders have wide experience in the global FinTech market, as of now they aren’t thinking about global expansion — despite the fact that the firm recently snapped up $2.5 million in seed funding.

“Often people don’t realize how unique Southeast Asia is, and as we think about expansion, we think about how to leave Indonesia for new markets — where everything is different about them,” Agrawal said. “So for now GajiGesa is an Indonesia-only business where we want to penetrate and think about new products that can launch here, rather than thinking about new markets for now.”

Which isn’t to say they don’t want to grow — they do, they simply see a lot of opportunity for growth in their home market before they can seriously consider an idea like taking on the entire world. There is a host of untapped value to provide for the Indonesian employer and employee, he said, and the firm is just getting started in unlocking it. The goal for the next year, he said, is to aggressively and proactively reach out to as many employers as they can to get them signed on to the platform.

Because with 92 million unbanked consumers, he said, there is a lot of value GajiGesa can offer as it works in partnership with employers to help give workers more access to their money — and the rapidly expanding digital economy worldwide. And not just access, he said, but also insight on how best to leverage that access to their advantage.

“We realize that there’s so much value we can provide to Indonesian employers and employees,” Agrawal said. “And we are just starting, especially with financial education. When you think about it, especially the blue collar worker with a very limited financial understanding — because of that, he or she gets cheated time and again. We want to be the platform that provides access to wage and financial education so workers can start building some capability to more fully manage their total financial life.”

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