Southeast Asia is home to roughly 25% of the world’s Muslim population. This means there is a huge market for the halal industry, which is waking up to the growing spending power of Muslims in the region. From a Muslim-friendly browser and digital Islamic finance to Muslim-oriented tourism, the region has no shortage of startups with a theological proclivity. One Indonesian startup, Hijup, stands out by targeting specifically Muslimah.
Founded in 2011, Hijup is a Muslim online fashion marketplace that recently also entered the offline market with the opening of 11 physical stores in Indonesia and one store in Malaysia. It ships to more than 50 countries in the world.
KrASIA recently spoke with Hijup’s founder, Diajeng Lestari, to understand how her background in political and social sciences impelled her to dive into technopreneurship, empower Muslim women, and cultivate positive values within our society and economy.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
KrASIA (K): Where did the idea of Hijup come from?
Diajeng Lestari (D): It was first triggered by my own needs as a professional and woman who wears hijab. When I was still working in the corporate world, I found it difficult to find good and qualified Muslim fashions products both online and offline. My career in the marketing research industry gave me access to a plethora of data, including the growth potential of Indonesia’s halal industry as well as a lack of a unified platform to incorporate the various Muslim fashion brands. At the same time, I felt that Indonesia should be a “player” in the market, not only the consumer. These reasons together led me to dive right into entrepreneurship despite not having a tech or IT background.
K: Can you explain what “Hijup” means?
D: The word “Hijup” is made up by combining the words “hijab” and “up.” It is similar to the meaning of “make up” or “dress up.” With Hijup, I want to persuade Muslimah that wearing their best clothes can make them feel comfortable and confident—”up”—and be their own best version. In doing so, they can practice good behaviors and help spread positive values.
K: How did your background in social and political science influence your business decisions?
D: As a political science graduate, I am convinced that the economy can be used to create state defense. When I was still in college, I took several classes from the Faculty of Economy. One class that really left a mark on me was “Management of Change” taught by Rhenald Kasali, which inspired me to bring about positive changes to Indonesia. Since the class, I have been wanting to help improve the economy of Indonesia. Eventually, I started Hijup as the catalyst to grow the Muslim fashion industry in Indonesia. I hope we can create positive values within society through the economy, thereby bolstering our shared national identity.
K: What is the mission of Hijup?
D: One of Hijup’s values is to empower. At Hijup, we have the #EmpowerChange campaign, where we spread the values of goodness through Islamic lifestyles. We believe every person can be their best version and goodness comes from within. We want to inspire self-confidence amongst Muslimah and in order to do so, Muslim women need to feel happy and comfortable about what they are wearing.
K: Were people receptive of Hijup after it was established?
D: When we first started out, we faced many challenges, including a small market—there were fewer women who wore hijab compared to today due to the limitations in choices and availability of professional, modest officewear—and rejection from various designers and investors. I even had my first employee tender resignation on the first day of work! We also had to compete with more affordable products from overseas.
However, I had a strong personal mission to contribute to the Indonesian economy through my experience and knowledge, which really helped me remain focused along the way despite the various speed bumps. The most important thing is to always be thankful about what we have without ceasing to be innovative and creative.
K: What advice do you have for women who want to enter the tech industry?
D: There are five things women, whether or not they are looking to enter the tech industry, should remember. They are HIJUP—honest, innovative, just do it, uniqueness, and pray. I hope every woman can strive to bring positive impact to society based on their interest and expertise.
This article is part of “Women in Tech,” a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of women who are a driving force behind Southeast Asia’s tech startups.