When she was young, Otari Octaviante often felt like the underdog because of where she came from.
Her hometown is Kampung Bahru, a remote fishing village in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, where many do not have access to education.
There was even a saying: “If you come from a fishing village, you cannot win.”
That’s why Octaviante considered herself “lucky” when her parents sent her to a high school in the city. But she soon discovers that there is a “gap” between her and her classmates.
She told CNBC Make It, “I was bullied because I came from a seaside village… I didn’t like people who were already well educated and didn’t experience economic hardship.”
The experience ignited a fire in her and sparked a personal mission – to ensure that one day her village would not be known for its poverty, but for its potential.
“At the time, I didn’t know how I was going to achieve this, I just wrote this in my diary.”
Today, these are not just words on the page, but a fact.
Now, at the age of 28, Octavianti is the co-founder of Aruna. It is a fisheries e-commerce startup in Indonesia that acts as an aggregator of the end-to-end supply chain, giving fishermen access to a global network.
So far, it has raised $65 million in Series A funding, which according to Aruna is the largest Series A funding for Indonesian startups.
Her entrepreneurial journey began in 2015, with a passion for seafood that Octaviante had when she was in her last year of college in technology in Bandung.
“It was not easy to find good seafood. My family makes seafood at home every day, but all of a sudden, it was very hard to find. I thought to myself, how great would it be if we could buy seafood directly from the fishermen.” [in coastal villages]. ”
She shared her idea with her classmates, Farid Nofal Aslam and Indraka Fadlallah. Together, they created a website that aims to meet consumers’ seafood requirements and connect them with fishermen.
The 21-year-old decided to join a contest called “Hackathon Merdeka” to get capital.
To their surprise, they won.
But the biggest surprise was the amount of interest Aruna attracted after launching the site.
“We received a demand for 1,000 tons of seafood from customers…from restaurants and importing companies outside Indonesia who need a continuous supply of seafood.”
The trio got up to speed quickly — using the two MacBooks they won in the hackathon to continue building on the website and booting through freelance web design jobs.
Their first major fundraising came from another competition for which they won a cash prize of about $700.
Although it was a “very small” amount, Octaviante and her co-founders used it to run a pilot program in the coastal city of Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. They stayed with the fishing community for a month.
At the end of their stay, they made their first transaction with a local restaurant in Bandung. That was the moment when they realized that their idea wasn’t something that only worked on paper.
“We can really make it happen,” Octavianti said.
Finding the Right Investors
Over the years, Aruna has expanded to include more fishing villages in Indonesia. As the demand for seafood has grown, so has the company. But one of the challenges Octaviante faced was finding the right investors.
“There are many investors in Indonesia, but finding an investor who understands our business is not easy,” she said.
“Some investors will be interested because they see the potential to scale this business. But we were selective…we wanted investors who wanted to invest not because of the company’s potential, but also because of its impact.”
Octavianti said the fishing platform exported 44 million kilograms of seafood to seven countries last year, mostly to the United States and China.
But, she said, her biggest achievement, she said, is giving fishermen direct access to the market, thus giving them fair and better wages.
“We have helped the fishermen increase their income by more than two to three times compared to what it was before they joined Arona,” she added.
Octavianti said that while Arona has been strict in choosing its investors, it is this approach that has made the company more attractive.
“We are open to investors about the challenges we face, but in return, we also expect them to, for example, help us communicate or solve problems.”
In January, Aruna announced a subsequent $30 million Series A financing led by Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India. With new funding in the bag, Octaviante is looking to expand into more fishing villages in Indonesia and invest in sustainable fishing practices.
To date, Aruna is used by more than 26,000 fishermen in 150 fishing communities in Indonesia.
“Now that we have opened the market and have more fishermen on board, we need to be very careful about fish stocks because … Indonesia is already suffering from overfishing,” said Octavianti, who is also Arona’s chief sustainability officer.
That is why Aruna is asking all of its fishermen to focus on the quality of the catch rather than the quantity and to refrain from fishing in MPAs.
Aruna also advises fishermen not to use fishing gear, such as trawls and bombs, that would damage the seabed’s natural habitat.
“It’s also about inspiring the industry. We see many fishing companies in Indonesia, who don’t care about sustainability,” added Octavianti.
do not miss: Is it a cake? This 19-year-old Netflix contestant is making 6 characters in his own bakery business
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!
Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect that Kampung Bahru is in East Kalimantan, Indonesia.