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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Ula raises $10.5 million from Sequoia, Lightspeed India

The startup will invest the funds in its technology platform and for building out a talent team in India

BENGALURU : Small-retailers focussed marketplace app Ula has raised seed funding of $10.5 million led by Sequoia India and Lightspeed India.

Indonesia-based venture capital fund, SMDV, growth-stage fund Quona Capital, early stage investor Saison Capital and Silicon Valley-based Alter Global also participated in the round along with prominent angels including the founders of Indian B2B unicorn, Udaan as well as Rahul Mehta Managing Partner at DST Global.

Launched in January 2020, Ula is an Indonesia-based multi-category wholesale e-commerce marketplace, which provides goods and working capital to small store owners, to increase their overall income.

The startup which has teams in India, Singapore and Indonesia, will invest the funds raised from the current round into its technology platform, and for building out a talent team in India.

“Indian leaders have long been building from the region, for the world. And a lot of this is possible because of the strong tech talent pool that is available here. Having worked with the best of the business and tech leaders during my time at Flipkart, Amazon and more recently, Pine Labs - I believe talent in India, with their focus on impact, is uniquely placed to build the next-generation of cross-over companies", said Nipun Mehra, co-founder, Ula.

Mehra previously was the chief product and strategy officer at Pine Labs, and prior to that worked as an investment advisor with Sequoia Capital.

Ula’s marketplace helps small shops in Indonesia to store less inventory by ordering daily, based on what they expect to sell. The marketplace also gives working capital credit to these small retailers allowing them flexibility in payment for goods.

“70-80% of the retailers in emerging markets like Indonesia are plagued by inefficiencies in supply chain, inventory and working capital management. With more and more Indonesian SMEs becoming open to adopting technology, platforms like Ula are an easy, affordable and scalable solution to help these retailers streamline their businesses," said Abheek Anand, managing director, Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore.

Ula’s current focus is on daily needs consumer goods (such as FMCG and Staples), and is currently in private beta and predominantly servicing East Java. Over the next year it plans to expand across the Java island and expand across categories such as apparel and electronics.

“We're excited to back Ula’s exceptional team in targeting this significant market opportunity. Their strong customer and execution orientation will enable them to offer market-leading solutions to sourcing and working capital challenges in traditional retail across South-East Asia’s emerging markets", said Bejul Somaia, Lightspeed India Partners.

Ula is currently setting up tech teams in India, Singapore and Indonesia and also hiring across roles in category management, analytics, credit as well as city leaders in Indonesia.

Over the past few months, several startups and large companies have increasingly started to solve for pain points of kiranas and small stores, bringing in technology intervention to offline retail. This is posing an exciting opportunity for investors to invest in these companies, considering the market size.

In India, Sequoia has invested in Khatabook, a digital ledger app for kiranas and small businesses, and also recently participated in the startup’s $60 million Series B round in May, this year.

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