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Co-founder Achmad Zaky (L) and new CEO Rachmat Kaimuddin © Bukalapak

Rumors of a leadership change first surfaced in August as the Indonesian unicorn and its co-founder got a bad press

The CEO and co-founder of Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak, Achmad Zaky, is stepping down, the company said on December 9. He will be replaced by Muhammad Rachmat Kaimuddin, an MIT- and Stanford-educated former consultant with over 15 years of experience in finance and consultancy.

The change in leadership, which will take effect on January 6, 2020, is a “continuation of the company's long-term plan into the second decade and in order to build a sustainable e-commerce business,” Bukalapak said in an announcement.

Achmad will remain as founder and an advisor at Bukalapak. He will also be establishing the Achmad Zaky Foundation and work on startup mentorship. His fellow co-founders, Fajrin Rasyid and Nugroho Herucahyono, remain as President and CTO of Bukalapak, respectively.

“Now, we are inviting Rachmat to join us, because his leadership can take Bukalapak to greater heights,” Achmad said in the statement. “I believe he is the right person, in the right team, in the right position, who has arrived at the right time."

Rachmat was previously Director of Finance at Bank Bukopin, a private bank that focuses on MSME and local co-operative financing, and other rural microfinancing activities. He had also worked at Boston Consulting Group and was a vice-president at Baring Private Equity Asia. He has an electrical engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Stanford.

Bukalapak said it will focus on “talent and capital and financial management” under Rachmat's leadership.  

Twitter troubles

With over 70m users and valued at US$2.5bn, Bukalapak last raised a Series F round of funding in October by South Korea's Shinhan Financial Group and Indonesian media conglomerate Emtek. Its other major investors to date include Singapore's GIC, China's Ant Financial, and South Korea's Mirae Asset Daewoo and Naver Corp.

Bukalapak was originally a side project to showcase the co-founders' digital agency business in 2010. The following year, the team joined an incubator program and officially incorporated Bukalapak then, developing it into a bonafide e-commerce platform.

The startup quickly became one of Indonesia's most popular online shopping destinations, along with fellow local marketplace Tokopedia and regional names like Lazada and Shopee. In January 2018, Achmad announced that Bukalapak had become Indonesia's fourth unicorn.

The company has also had its share of rough spots though. In February this year, Achmad came under fire for criticizing Indonesia's R&D budget. In a tweet that has since been deleted, Achmad said that Indonesia's Industry 4.0 ambitions are just a pipe dream, as Indonesia only allocated $2bn to R&D. He ended the tweet saying: “Let’s hope the new president can raise [the budget].” 

Social media users were quick to interpret Achmad’s tweet as undermining then-incumbent candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, or even lending support to Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi's rival at the time. 

More recently, in September, Bukalapak was widely reported to have laid off more than 200 employees in an effort to improve efficiency and cut costs. The company explained it was restructuring and working toward a more financially sustainable, even profitable, business.

IPO in Indonesia or overseas

The focus on profitability has been a central theme for the Indonesian unicorns in the past few months, as Bukalapak, Tokopedia and ride-hailing decacorn Gojek have all considered going public. At an event in October, Achmad said he wanted to show that Bukalapak can be profitable and list wherever it likes, be it Singapore, the US, Australia or Indonesia.

Bukalapak said the execution of its “long-term plan began in October 2016 with the appointment of Willix Halim as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Bukalapak to strengthen the management team with individuals who have special and experienced expertise." 

On his new role, Rachmat said: “I believe that Bukalapak is a place where I can work with my friends to create positive changes in this nation and this country. I hope that I can help Bukalapak create a greater impact for Indonesia.” 

Achmad will continue to be active in the Indoneisan startup ecosystem, both as an advisor to Bukalapak and as a startup mentor. His Achmad Zaky Foundation will focus on science, education, R&D, entrepreneurship and impact investment. “I believe that we must not be too easily satisfied by our achievements. Now is the time to create a bigger impact,” he said.

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Edited by Bernice Tang

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