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Indonesian unicorn Bukalapak looks to possible expansion into the Middle East

People using their mobile phones on July 17, 2016 in Surakarta, Indonesia.

Solo Imaji | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

Indonesian e-commerce platform Bukalapak has expanded into five overseas markets in Asia since its founding in 2010 — and the Middle East could be next, the company’s co-founder said Thursday.

Bukalapak is one of the few start-ups from Southeast Asia to have attained “unicorn” status — a term used to describe young companies valued at $1 billion or more. In recent years, the e-commerce firm has ventured outside of Indonesia and into Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“In the future, it is possible that we go to other countries and other regions, Middle East is one of them,” Fajrin Rasyid, co-founder and president of Bukalapak, told CNBC’s Matthew Taylor.

He explained that, because Indonesia has a large Muslim population, his company can build on its extensive experience working to work with Muslim merchants and customers in the Middle East.

Another area into which the company is expanding is financial technology, which Rasyid described as a “natural growth” path for e-commerce platforms.

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That’s especially relevant for Bukalapak’s home country because a large portion of the Indonesian population has limited access to financial services, Rasyid said at Innovfest Unbound in Singapore.

But, with many Indonesians owning mobile devices, Rasyid said the so-called unbanked population can now be reached. His company, he added, can offer that population “easy financial services” such as opening a bank account or buying insurance.

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