Marshall Tegar Utoyo of Fabelio and his passion for design: Startup Stories

Fabelio offers high-quality furniture at affordable prices.

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Marshall Tegar Utoyo of Fabelio and his passion for design: Startup Stories

Showing consistent growth since 2017, Indonesia’s furniture market is labor-intensive and export-oriented, making it one of the strategic sectors that supports the country’s national economy.

According to the Association of Indonesian Furniture and Handicraft Industries (HIMKI), the value of Indonesian furniture exports in 2017 was USD 1.6 billion, and President Joko Widodo set an ambitious target to increase this to USD 5 billion by the end of this year. This big opportunity and the rise of the digital economy were what drove Marshall Tegar Utoyo and his partner Christian Sutadi to their build furniture e-commerce website, Fabelio.

“Fabelio was started in 2015. We saw that many e-commerce sites began to take off in Indonesia and that local consumers started to feel comfortable spending millions of rupiahs shopping on their smartphones,” Fabelio’s co-founder Marshall Tegar Utoyo told KrASIA.

Portrait of Marshall Tegar Utoyo. Photo courtesy of Fabelio.

Although a finance graduate, Utoyo always had a great passion for product and interior design. Before Fabelio, he was a co-founder of Conclave, one of the earliest co-working space operators in Indonesia. He said that the unique yet comfortable design was one of Conclave’s points of pride that attracted consumers to join the space.

“I believe the reason why people like to hang out in cafes or restaurants is not only for the food and drinks, but to enjoy the ambiance that they can’t get at home. Through Conclave, I aspired to bring that atmosphere into an office environment; and now with Fabelio, I want to bring that comfort into people’s homes.”

Fabelio offers a wide range of products in different themes; from contemporary to industrial, and from Scandinavian to Moroccan style. As the chief designer, Utoyo is directly involved in Fabelio’s product design. The company works with dozens of manufacturers, including small and medium enterprises that have successfully grown their business since partnering with the company, Utoyo said. “Fabelio is not a marketplace, it’s a furniture brand. To be sustainable, Fabelio offers high-quality products at more affordable prices than the big players out there. It does this by engaging small and medium manufacturers to produce them.”

Although creating a marketplace would have been simpler than creating a whole new brand, Utoyo believes that Fabelio’s current business model is more scalable.

“We get good and consistent margins, something that might be difficult for a marketplace business model. In a marketplace, the margin should be discussed with each merchant,” said Utoyo.

There are some imported products sold on the website to gauge the market’s interest.

“90% of the products on the site are sold under the brand Fabelio, the remaining 10% are imported products. There’s a limit to the number of prototypes that can be made every month,” Utovo said, “So when we want to try new things, we’ll use an imported product and see how the market reacts. If the sales are good, we’ll proceed to produce it in-house.”

And the strategy seems to be working. Utoyo said the website has seen more  500% growth over the past three and a half years of operation, and that it is very close to being profitable.

To maximize customer satisfaction and experience, the company offers a number of additional services—one of which is a free interior design consulting service called Home by Fabelio, Utoyo added.

“This is our strategy for pampering customers. We understand that not everyone has the time to design their home or apartment, therefore we provide a service where our designer visits customers’ premises to measure and design it for free. We provide 3D design according to their theme’s preference and we’ll help them to choose the best-suited products for the design. Since this service was introduced two years ago, Home by Fabelio has designed more than 450 houses,” he continued.

Utoyo said that Fabelio serves thousands of customers every month via its website. In addition, it currently has ten offline showrooms in Jakarta and Bandung with plans to open at least 24 more showrooms across Java by the end of this year.

Fabelio has raised a total of USD 10 million in funding over four rounds according to Crunchbase. Its last funding round was raised in March 2018 through a USD 6.5 million Series B round led by Indian firm Aavishkaar Venture Capital. Fabelio is reportedly in talks to raise its Series C funding, but Utoyo did not confirm or deny this.

“Legally, I am not allowed to say anything to you at the moment. But yeah, it is a very exciting time for all of us at Fabelio as our performance has exceeded our expectations so far. We are confident that the business will continue to grow and we have many big plans for the company in the near future,” he said.