This entry is part of KrASIA’s collaboration with the Simona Accelerator, a program supporting and advancing women-led startups in APAC. Gadjian participated in the accelerator’s first batch.
Human Resources (HR) is often considered an ‘unsexy’ department within a company and is often underestimated. Based on the experience of Afia Fitriati, now co-founder and CEO Indonesian HR startup Gadjian, being the person in charge of HR can be very emotionally taxing.
Fitriati was a business consultant and already an entrepreneur several years ago. She created a traditional HR software named HRD Helper and an e-commerce business before starting Gadjian in May 2016, together with her husband Else Fernanda.
The new platform was a HR and payroll management platform based on a Software-as-a-Service model. It automates routine and tedious HR tasks, including payroll, attendance records, tax calculation, and leave management.
“In the initial years of our company, we totally bootstrapped,” Fitriati told KrAsia. It was not easy to get clients because the concept of a cloud-based HR system was still rare in Indonesia.
Some prospective clients were used to buying the product once instead of subscribing, or they expected customization because they didn’t know what to expect from a cloud-based system. Clients even turned to her with their HR problems, asking for advice–even though Fitriati only provided the software.
Gadjian managed to secure its first funding from Golden Gate Ventures, with a participation of Maloekoe Ventures. With the cash, Fitriati focused on expanding the team and marketing distribution.
Instead of using a ‘hard selling” approach, Fitriati attracted her clients by building a community and relationships with clients and HR practitioners. She did this mostly through Gadjian Academy, a division that offers workshops. For example she would offer a workshop on how to structure a compensation package so that it is aligned with the standard set by the Minister of Labor.
“Currently, Gadjian has educated more than four hundred companies from sectors such as retail, services, mining, and energy, and startup companies,” Fitriati said. She obtained a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) license while she built Gadjian.
Today, Gadjian and its sister app Hadirr manage tens of thousands of employees across thousands of companies in a variety of industries, from consumer products to services to hospitality, said Fitriati. Approximately 8 million companies in Indonesia form the target market of Gadjian and Hadirr.
Despite competition in the HR app space, Gadjian wants to stay focused and consistent in providing value and innovation in the core HR space, rather than branching out into adjacent areas such as accounting. “This focus enabled us to build stronger relationship with our customers,” Fitriati said, adding that she is considering serving more customers by going regional.
In March last year, Fitriati joined the first batch of startups in Simona Accelerator, a program devised by Simona Ventures – a woman-focus VC fund.
The Simona Accelerator program provided mentoring sessions to help founders understand Indonesia’s startup ecosystem, which included topics such as market behavior, fundraising, legal issues, marketing, pitch training, leadership, and culture training.
“It is often said that entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. Being a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated tech space is even more so. One key differentiator of Simona is that it brings together female entrepreneurs like myself. I find myself in the company of strong, driven, smart women who support each other during the program, and it was very energizing,” said Fitriati.
As a woman founder, Fitriati stated that building a tech startup is definitely not for the faint-hearted. “More than anything, you need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. A strong support system, be it family, friends or other entrepreneurs, is very valuable,” she added.
Simona Ventures will start the second batch of its Simona Accelerator APAC Women Founders program in October 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Applications are still open until 6 September 2019. Selected applicants will go through a few rounds of interviews with a panel of judges from the industry.
The second batch will consist of twenty women-led startups from countries across the APAC region. These founders will participate in a week-long program with mentoring sessions, networking events, and a demo-day where they will get the chance to pitch their business and products in front of local and regional investors and relevant industry players.
Simona Accelerator accepts startups from any vertical who have at least one woman founder/co-founder and are interested in expanding to the Indonesian market. The program is a free, non-equity based accelerator. For the whole week, Simona Accelerator will host these women founders in an all-inclusive program, where meals, local transportation, and accommodation will be provided.
This program is also supported by Digitaraya, an accelerator backed by Google Developers Launchpad.