Vidit Agrawal, co-founder of startup GajiGesa in Indonesia, knows that insane growth is a good thing. But staying power is better.
“Everyone is talking about profitability nowadays,” said Agrawal. “I hope it stays that way. Building a revenue-based or profitable business is something I have championed over the years.” CNBC Make It.
GajiGesa is in the business of “earned wage access,” meaning the company lets workers withdraw their earnings as they earn them rather than waiting until the end of the month to get paid. Gaji means “salary” while “gesa” means “haste” in Bahasa Indonesia.
“Vidit is a great individual in terms of always pushing boundaries, always trying something new to help the entire ecosystem,” said Anuj Kumar Maheshwari, Chief Financial Officer of retailer Kanmo Group, a customer of GajiGesa.
Our HR department is using [GajiGesa] Such as [a part of] Employer brand, where we can attract talent [with the perk] The ability to withdraw [portions of their salaries] Before the end of the month,” Maheshwari said.
It was a “visually insane” sight – loan sharks circling on two sides of a factory in Semarang – that prompted Agrawal to found GajiGesa in 2020 with his wife, Martina Malinowska, who leads engineering and products.
On the one hand, they were trying [lend] money for the workers. On the other hand, they were trying to collect money from the workers,” says Agrawal, who has held leadership positions at Uber, Stripe and Caro for nearly 8 years.
“This is a very bad experience,” Agrawal said. “The workers had no choice.” The average Indonesian worker earns about IDR 2.9 million ($192) a month and are struggling to make ends meet.
HR Manager for Restaurant Management PT. Inovasi Kuliner Indonesia said they used to get a lot of phone calls from “screaming” sharks who lent money to their employees.
“The phone calls stopped two or three months after I started using GajiGesa,” Raya Al-Amin said.
Today, there are 42 different features – which include paying electricity bills, purchasing prepaid recharges or petrol vouchers – on the GajiGesa app.
GajiGesa partners with more than 300 companies and serves more than 750,000 employees.
Agrawal claims that GajiGesa is the highest paid player in Indonesia. “I’m not just saying that [myself]. When you talk to the investors in the market, who talk to all the players on the earned wages, they tell us we’re the biggest.”
“At the same time, we’ve never over-hired, so it’s a blessing that we don’t have to lay off employees,” said Agrawal. Technology retrenchment continues to mount in Southeast Asia.
The entrepreneur shared more about how he runs a business that lasts:
Agrawal does not believe in using incentives to keep the user engaged, as he has “seen many companies” doing so. If the product doesn’t work, it will shut it down.
“If I have to pay two dollars to earn one dollar, it is not business,” said Agrawal.
While they offer incentives when they join a new company, they do not continue to motivate existing users.
The key is to strike a balance between growth and sustainability.
“I’m okay with giving up 100% or 100x growth annually if I can build a sustainable revenue-based business,” said Agrawal.
He said that in Malaysian used car market Karu, where he was COO, they have a principle called saving balanced with quality, which he applies to his startup today.
“We don’t want to give up on quality but we also want to be frugal as a company,” he said.
He was so frugal that his employees fretted and called him “cheap”.
“We never get fancy dinners. But we don’t compromise on fun. We did events in the office where we served food. The cost is low, but we made sure people really enjoyed themselves,” said Agrawal.
He will also bargain for a 5% discount, even though the company has the money to pay for it. “Wherever we see excess fat on the bones, we try to cut it off,” he added.
“When people join GajiGesa, they’re like: Why does the CEO really care about $10? Doesn’t he have better things to do? If I can eat cheaper but still healthy meals, or I can travel on a budget, I want my team to see that.” “.
He said they had already cut costs for the first two years of operation despite having $9 million in the bank.
GajiGesa raised a $2.5M seed round in February 2021 and a $6.6M pre-Series A round in November 2021. Investors include January Capital, Northstar Group partner Patrick Walugo, European firm Wagestream, and Next Billion Ventures.
But he stressed that they are spending on things that are critical to business.
“We don’t give away engineering. We don’t give away technical tools. We don’t give away commissions for our best people,” Agrawal said.
When he was on Stripe, he learned how to take care of people. “Stripe really treated you like a human being, not a number,” said Agrawal.
All full-time employees of GajiGesa receive employee stock options.
“We all have to pay our bills and take care of the family. If the company is doing well and there is a good way out in any way shape or form, the team gets real value from that,” Agrawal said.
Nor does it hire people who are already successful. We hire people who can Be very successful with the right guidance.”
There was a young lad who turned out to be a good employee, Shark Agrawal. “He was gruff, but he was smart. I knew he could be in there.”
Today, this same young man is the Vice President of Partnerships at GajiGesa.
“Personally, I take great pride in building someone’s career because I have always had great managers at Stripe who helped build my career,” said Agrawal.
Correction: This report has been updated to correctly identify GajiGesa investors. Patrick Walugo is an investor, but the company in which he is a partner is not. An earlier version of this report incorrectly identified the company as an investor.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!