Farand Anugerah: Scaling Grab Indonesia, Market Launchers & Navigating Culture at Segari - E157

· Indonesia,Southeast Asia,Founder,Start-up,Podcast Episodes English

Having a support system is helpful. I always flip between two support systems. One is internal and one is external. If you can’t talk about sensitive things to your external one, you bring it to the internal one. I’m lucky to have great mentors who always spare their time everytime I face difficulties and they are always giving me advice. Sometimes you just need to destress too. After that, you need to go back to what you are targeting this week or, at least, for that month. Having that kind of discipline really helps. -Farand Anugerah

Farand Anugerah is the cofounder of Segari, an Indonesia-based fresh produce grocery commerce upstart that he founded during the onset of COVID outbreak. Started with a simple mission to help his mom - who suffers acute asthma - to buy groceries, Segari later got seed funded and has been growing at a high double digit growth rate month to month since then. Segari is well positioned to enable thousands of households to get their daily quality fresh produce needs in the most affordable and convenient fashion. In his own tiny way, he aspires to be able to disrupt the legacy food supply chain, which is tainted with multiple layers of middlemen.

Prior to founding Segari, he headed various departments at Grab Indonesia and the Philippines. Farand received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Shanghai Jiaotong University and is currently taking gap years from Harvard Business School.

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hey, Farand, excited to have you on the show.

Farand Anugerah: (00:32)
Pleasure, Jeremy, thank you for inviting.

Jeremy Au: (00:34)
This is the second time we’ve tried this show. Fingers crossed that the internet connection holds up.

Farand Anugerah: (00:41)
I’m pretty sure this one should be better.

Jeremy Au: (00:45)
I’m excited to have you because you’re someone who I respect from Harvard Business School where we did our MBA together. You’ve been an early executive at Grab and now you’re off doing your own startup.

Farand Anugerah: (01:03)
Right…well, I guess I’m privileged and “executive” is a stretch. I wasn’t an executive yet at Grab, but privileged to join Grab early on in Indonesia and helped them in the Philippines for a year, then HBS where I met you.

Jeremy Au: (01:38)
Yeah. Tell us more about yourself. What were you like growing up?

Farand Anugerah: (01:43)
I moved to China when I was 15 years old. I did my undergrad and worked there for a year. I started in Mechanical Engineering, but later found that wasn’t my passion. Decided to jump ship into investment banking instead, doing equity research for 2 and a half years, both in China and also Indonesia. In 2015, I flew back to Indonesia and built my career from then on. When I was in Indonesia, the green helmet/green jacket thing started appearing on the road, that caught my eye and I was an early user/early adopter. I started searching and later on decided to join Grab. I moved to Grab in May/June 2016 and was in charge of expansion, building their business from the ground up. It was a great experience and I learnt so much. In 2018, I was sent to the Philippines for a new project managing their P&L. It was a great experience, I got to learn different cultures, different ways of working with people. In 2019, got accepted into HBS and did two semesters, then COVID hit and I went back to Indonesia to start Segari and it's up to this point right now.

Jeremy Au: (04:36)
Amazing. Why did you choose to work at Grab?

Farand Anugerah: (04:41)
I was just so curious about this business and prominent investors poured in billions of dollars. This kind of business model is totally different and investors are pouring money for you to burn in order to get market share. That drove my curiosity and why I decided to join Grab. During my interview, the interviewer asked what position I wanted because he could create any position for me. I wanted to learn how to launch a business and that’s how I got my launcher position.

Jeremy Au: (05:38)
What was it like being a launcher?

Farand Anugerah: (05:40)
It’s great. When I first joined, we were present in only 4 or 5 cities in Indonesia. Within 1 and a half years, we were present in 100-ish cities. The beauty of it is that I grew the team from only myself and grew it to a team of 200-300 people across Indonesia. It was filled with long working hours and flights. I could expand my network and meet lots of great people from different backgrounds.

Jeremy Au: (06:58)
What was it like growing it from yourself to 200 people?

Farand Anugerah: (07:05)
It’s a huge challenge. When you have to lead a team, your leadership style needs to adjust. Back then, I was only 25 when I joined Grab and the only leadership experience I had was managing a student organisation in Shanghai. It took time for me to build trust from the management team of Grab, that helped me, being mentored. I think, even now, there’s still so much to learn…especially about myself.

Jeremy Au: (08:07)
What did you learn about yourself?

Farand Anugerah: (08:09)
Well…things like what really drives me and what pisses me off, what are the kinds of people I can work with…these kinds of arbitrary things, but crucial for you to be a leader.

Jeremy Au: (08:23)
So, do you have any good stories from your time there?

Farand Anugerah: (08:26)
One of the most memorable stories at Grab was getting blackmailed. It was my second month at Grab. Ride-hailing wasn’t really present at that time. When I was there, it coincided with a tragedy that happened in Jakarta where Uber drivers were fighting with ride-hailing drivers which built the awareness of ride-hailing there. When I arrived, one of the things I did was to meet with the taxi driver leaders and letting them know what Grab could offer and how technology could help them. I think they saw the news and how ride-hailing kills their business and they didn’t want to share their pies. That was the first day I arrived and talked to them. The second day, I got blackmailed. He said “This is my land and if you still want to launch Grab, you know what will happen. I’ve killed people in the past.” That’s what he said. Luckily, I had a great manager, we devised a strategy and hired a pretty influential person to help us lead Grab operations. This person is pretty connected, he knows the mayor. The next thing I knew, I was working remotely.

Jeremy Au: (10:30)
Wow. That’s one heck of a story. How common of an occurrence is that?

Farand Anugerah: (10:45)
That’s a great question. I think every city in Indonesia has a different take towards technology. As my team grew, there were, at least, two more incidents that happened towards my team members. I guess Grab is a pioneer in bringing technology to these cities where acceptance towards technology is super low and these people are pretty territorial; they’ve been there for decades and feel it's their territory and who are you to threaten their income.

Jeremy Au: (11:55)
I totally get it. I had another client working in Hainan and we had some interactions with the local underground. There was a lot of talking to smooth things over, I can tell you that. It’s definitely an occupational hazard especially in emerging markets where you are bringing in technology but also changing the status quo. What tips do you have for market launchers in Southeast Asia?

Farand Anugerah: (12:44)
To answer your question, there’s two parts. One, there’s always a new cohort of market launchers. Even if you’re not physically there, you need to be ready to receive bad news. The nature of the work is pretty stressful and if the launcher is already married or has a kid, it’s even worse. That’s why there’s always a new generation of market launchers. The second thing is that if you’re someone who has that entrepreneurial spirit, being a market launcher explores your leadership qualities and you’ll wake up in different cities. Up till now, I have no regrets. Just treat it as your own baby and make mistakes. Sometimes you would get too much budget or too little and you’d experiment, but that’s where you learn and management will see in a few months if it’s worth continuing operations in that area.

Jeremy Au: (15:08)
That’s interesting because you’re starting to launch the market, after that is where the general manager starts coming in. What would you say is the difference between the general manager and the market launcher mindset?

Farand Anugerah: (15:25)
Market launcher is more about execution speed while general manager is more about excellence. That’s a brief way to put it. I would say being a market launcher is a great transition to being a general manager too because you know the operation from the ground up since you’ve built it and have someone else come in and see the mistakes you’re making. This is because it’s sometimes easier to comment on other’s works, but when you’re the one who builds it from scratch, you won’t know why this guy or predecessor make this decision in the first place.

Jeremy Au: (16:43)
Sounds like GMs and market launchers have a lot to debate about.

Farand Anugerah: (16:48)
I think it’s a dynamic and the way how the organisation is set up and that’s what I learnt and what I try to implement in Segari – what KPI to set up, what kind of people do we need and achieving your company’s goal.

Jeremy Au: (17:08)
What advice would you have for general managers to work with market launchers?

Farand Anugerah: (17:12)
Well, I think first thing for sure is that the GM needs to know what the market looks like especially for Indonesia because there’s a lot of nuances on the ground; different cities have different languages. An important bit of advice to GM would be to spend some time in the city your company operates in because without experiencing it, you can’t make a great decision. Even for me, as an Indonesian, people can easily tell where you’re from and they have a different stereotype for each city.

Jeremy Au: (18:23)
I love what you’re saying because you’re contrasting the reality of what Indonesia is versus the perception. What would you say are some of the misconceptions of Indonesia?

Farand Anugerah: (18:49)
That’s a pretty tough question…misconceptions of Indonesia tech…this is based on my personal experience. I feel that people think that Indonesia need a lot of help in terms of technology and with technology then it can leap-frog to becoming a developed country like theirs. But then the problem, even for unicorns in Indonesia, for example, I would say that 60-70% of the operations are done offline or by on the ground teams. I would say that technology is only an enabler, but is not the core business compared to tech startups in the US where technology is the backbone of their business. They can survive without having a strong operational team, but for a developing country like Indonesia, I would say good execution on the ground is even more important because in terms of technology, you can not over-engineer. This brings up the previous point that you need to go on the ground and understand the local market otherwise you can’t succeed.

Jeremy Au: (20:54)
That local understanding, do you have to be a local to understand it or can it be learnt?

Farand Anugerah: (21:00)
I don’t think you need to be a local, but you need to focus. At least speak or pick up the language. I spent 8 years in China and when I got back, my Bahasa was weird. I used to speak Bahasa in the formal way and if you spoke to Indonesians, they’d feel your Bahasa is weird. It took me 6 months to get a sense of what my country is like now and I’m talking about just Jakarta. I left Jakarta in 2007 and returned here in 2015 and it was totally different. It doesn’t have to be a local who can understand the local nuances, but if you are focused, you’ll be able to pick it up.

Jeremy Au: (22:06)
You’ve done all this learning and learnt how to become a founder as well. What was that transition like?

Farand Anugerah: (22:29)
There are so much more responsibilities on your shoulder, that’s one thing for sure. I like getting my hands dirty because that’s how I learn, but for every stage of the company, there’s a different type of founder needed. I used to be the one doing everything at the start, but as our business evolved, I can not do the same thing because the company needs me to define the company’s direction. Let’s say we’ve maxed out our warehouse capacity here, what kind of warehouse do we want to build next and where? That requires me to switch my hat and be more strategic. HBS and the Summer Fellow Program helped me to learn about being a founder, but it’s not enough. Segari is a pretty labour intensive business and we have a pretty huge workforce. Everyday, there’s news like an accident and fightings. This is where people look to you as a founder and what decisions you want to make. It defines the company and the culture. For me, showing empathy is crucial in a country where “Kekeluargaan” is crucial, everyone is your family even though you are a total stranger. It’s something intangible, but essential to them. Do you spend time when there’s a funeral or when someone gets hospitalised, they will look at you. Even in the group chats, how you talk to them will be reflected in how they talk to you. An example of this is when one of our cofounders use the word “haha” at the end of his sentences when giving instructions to neutralise the tone of the instruction and next thing you know, his team is using the same thing in their messages.

Jeremy Au: (25:51)
Let’s talk about that. How do you think founders should deliver culture?

Farand Anugerah: (26:00)
Honestly, I think that’s a billion dollar question, Jeremy. I think you’ll be the better guy to answer this question. Up to this point, I have no idea. You need to balance between growth, fund raising, setting up the culture, it’s tough and a lot of people said it’s a lonely journey and I’m privileged to have met this other two cofounders. At the end of the day, I know that I have someone to rely on.

Jeremy Au: (26:34)
Could you share about a time when you had been BRAVE?

Farand Anugerah: (26:39)
I think making the leap from an employee mindset to an employer mindset is this dilemma moment that I have – am I ready at this age, can I survive this? Being an employer, there are people relying on your day to day decision for their family to eat. I’ve always been comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone, but becoming an employer is something that I still can’t digest until now. Employees are relying on me, this will shape the company, investors have put so much faith in us, I need to make sure I don’t disappoint them.

Jeremy Au: (27:40)
How do you handle that stress?

Farand Anugerah: (27:44)
I think having a support system is helpful. I always flip between two support systems. One is internal and one is external. If you can’t talk about sensitive things to your external one, you bring it to the internal one. I’m lucky to have great mentors who always spare their time everytime I face difficulties and they are always giving me advice. Sometimes you just need to destress too. After that, you need to go back to what you are targeting this week or, at least, for that month. Having that kind of discipline really helps.

Jeremy Au: (28:47)
If you could go back ten years in time to 2011, what advice would you have given yourself?

Farand Anugerah: (28:53)
Up to this point, I would say I have no regrets. I think whatever decision I took and whatever life has brought me, that’s what shaped me into all that I am. Before HBS, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I talked to one of the top VCs in Indonesia and he said I know your undergrad school is a great one, but you’re still made in China and I think the connotation of made in China is still negative in Indonesia and he told me – you’re going to have a hard time in fundraising because you don’t have credibility. That made me apply to HBS to get the credibility for my next step in my career.

Jeremy Au: (30:19)
Do you think going to HBS helped you create that next step in your career?

Farand Anugerah: (30:22)
Definitely, yes. The brand and the network that you build, and the professors and the friendships. Even now, I’m still in touch with one of the supply chain professors in HBS who gave me a lot of great advice. His research spans across Africa, Asia, he shares a lot of great findings of what works and what doesn’t work in those countries and we brainstorm and try to apply it in Segari.

Jeremy Au: (30:56)
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Farand for coming on the show. I really appreciate that and I’ll love to paraphrase the three big things I learned for this conversation. The first was thank you so much for sharing about how you learned about scaling Grab Indonesia for many cities. In one sense, the number cities that you grew, but also the number of market launchers and how you pioneered that role and also a lot of the learnings and scary things that happen like the blackmail which also turned out to be a recurring dynamic for not just you but also for Grab, scaling across multiple countries and cities, but also for any other technology companies scaling across emerging markets. The second, of course, I really love that advice that you gave around market launcher via the dynamics around the fact that they are about speed and GMs are about excellence, I think was a great summary about the different priorities and also some great advice about whether you should take the job to be a market launcher and how to be successful on the job. And lastly, of course, thank you so much for sharing like a lot about what I call the founder reality. About what it’s like to build a culture, how hard it is, how to self-regulate, how to get balance, how to get mentorship and a lot of the judgment that VC’s may have on your past schools versus Harvard, but also what needs to be proven out in terms of culture and results. So thank you so much, Farand for coming on the show.

Farand Anugerah: (32:20)
Thank you for the summary, Jeremy. I hope it’s helpful and let’s keep in touch.