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Asia's entrepreneurs

Tipping the scales of success: Indonesia’s Durian Guy finds a new hungry audience online

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Since going online, Ucok Durian, or “Durian Guy,” has gone from selling 100 kg of Indonesia’s famous Medan durian at their stall everyday to nearly 40 tons a month. As part of our series of interviews with entrepreneurs across Asia Pacific who use the Internet to grow their business, we spoke with Ananda Perwira, Ucok Durian’s marketing director (and brother to founder Johan Hasibuan), to find out how this startup is rapidly expanding across the Indonesian archipelago.

Brothers Johan and Ananda of Ucok Durian
Brothers Johan (l) and Ananda (r) of Ucok Durian (photo courtesy of Ucok Durian)

Tell us your story. How did Ucok Durian begin?
My brother, Johan Hasibuan, began peddling durians nearly 20 years ago. I’ve always loved durians, so when I realized how hard it is to find Medan durians outside of Medan, I figured I’d join him and develop the business. Since I came onboard earlier this year, my sister, parents and other relatives have also joined. Now it’s a family business. 

What inspired you to begin selling durians online?
Using Google's Keyword Planner, I noticed that “durian Medan” is a popular search term on the Internet, but despite this, very few traders have a website selling durians online. I saw an opportunity and went for it. We built the website on WordPress and Hostinger, a free website hosting service. The website theme and plugins we use also are free. 

Ucok Durian's traction
Image courtesy of Ucok Durian

That’s a great use of free resources. How else has the Internet helped your business? 
Before going online, we were only able to sell 100 kilograms of durian per day. We’d seen the impact that the Internet has had on many other businesses, but never imagined what it could do for a perishable product like ours. Today, thanks to the new customers we’ve found over the Internet, we’re reaching almost 40 tons a month. That’s 12 times more than we used to sell just a year ago! 

Wow, congratulations.  Now that sales have taken off, what is the farthest place to which you have mailed a durian? 

As a result of this growth, we’ve opened two warehouse distribution centers in Jakarta just this past September. These enable us to send Medan durians nearly 7,500km away, to Jayapura, the capital of Papua, which is Indonesia’s easternmost province. We also get orders from Malaysia, Singapore, and even as far as Saudi Arabia and the United States. We’re now working on ways to fulfill these orders, so we hope to start shipping overseas soon. 

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    Ucok Durian's founder Johan says Medan durians from North Sumatra are loved for their unique bittersweet taste and are known as a delicacy across the country (photo courtesy of Ucok Durian)
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    Photo courtesy of Ucok Durian
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    Photo courtesy of Ucok Durian

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs seeking to take their business online? 
In the beginning, I wasn’t too confident that bringing the business online would be successful. I’d been thinking about it since 2015, but only took action in 2016. Why? Because I was afraid to fail. However, I also knew that if I didn't try, I would ensure my failure. 

I have just five tips for people who are starting a business online: 

  1. Help people. Don’t start your business for money. Do it because you want to provide solutions for people. Make it easier for people to get products or services they need. 
  2. Think global, act local. To start your business, you don’t have to build a rocket like Elon Musk does. See something simple that has potential around you. 
  3. Read. I never attended marketing school. However, I consider myself a digital marketing geek. The Internet provides everything you need, so Google it and just read. 
  4. Continuous improvements. You stop, you die. Try to improve something everyday, even if it’s just 1% better than yesterday. 
  5. Be grateful. Don't be cocky with what you have (intelligence, experience, wealth…). Success is temporary unless you’re willing to keep working at it. 

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