Sunday, 22 February 2015

This Lithuanian online shop-builder wants to storm the gates of Indonesian e-commerce

People aren’t used to getting things for free; much less when the thing they’re getting is a means to generate income. Most online shop builders in Indonesia offer free trial periods for users to test out the product, but local consumers and aspiring ecommerce players would be hard-pressed to find one that offers it self for free, forever. However, MobiFOR, a new online shop builder in Jakarta hailing from Lithuania, aims to be exactly that.
MobiFOR is a site that lets users create an online store quickly and easily without the need for programming skills, according to the startup’s co-founder Nerijus Abrutis. “ The startup ecosystem is growing rapidly in Lithuania and MobiFOR has already received quite a lot of attention, ” explains Abrutis. “ After a great start in Lithuania, we adapted MobiFOR for the Indonesian market and are now trying to enter it. ”

According to Abrutis, the main goal of his project is to encourage enterprising people to start their own business and give ecommerce a shot. According to him and his fellow co-founder Andrius Stepaitis, it has the advantage over local sites like Shop Shopify, as it can offer its users a free, fully functional estore, and does not take any percentage of the user’s sales transactions. Abrutis says his site also offers free hosting, a mobile responsive design, search engine optimization, and no limit on the number of products that users can upload and sell.

Freedom isn’t free

Abrutis says that most potential users who are interested in the product inevitably ask the same question: What’s the catch? The answer is that MobiFOR’s free package is limited to 300 megabytes of storage and doesn’t offer multiple currency options, among others. On the other hand, its premium package, which costs €7 (US$8) per month, offers one gigabyte of storage, multiple currency options, PDF invoices, gift wrapping, and several other key services one would need to run a serious online shop.

“ Users that choose a premium plan get more designs to choose from. They also get additional modules, such as newsletters, blogs, sliders, and even more useful ecommerce features, ” says Abrutis.
US$ 8 is still significantly cheaper than Shopify’s thriftiest package, which starts at US$ 29 per month. However, Shopify’s plan comes with comparable options, including 24-hour support and a zero percent transaction fee. Abrutis acknowledges that MobiFOR must also compete with a variety of local competitors including Sirclo, Jejualan, Pixtem, and Lakubot.

Abrutis says MobiFOR currently has 301 registered merchants, and 100 of them are active on MobiFOR at least once per week. He adds that 90 percent of MobiFOR’s active users are signing up for the premium plan, which he sees as a positive indicator of the company’s future growth. He did not mention whether the majority of the users reside in Lithuania or Indonesia, but he did say that he is optimistic about the local market.

“We have been watching ecommerce growth in Indonesia [and] that’s why we decided to expand here,” says Abrutis. “Looking at the statistics, the number of smartphone users in Indonesia has doubled between 2013 and now.” MobiFOR is a completely bootstrapped, two-man operation, and Abrutis says he’s looking for investors and strategic partners here in Asia. He also hopes that in two to three years, MobiFOR can attract around 60,000 to 100,000 users, 70 percent of whom would ideally be premium plan subscribers.

Leighton Cosseboom  - February 11, 2015

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