Stock Groups

Indonesia’s fishermen rake in bigger incomes thanks to Aruna app


Utari Octavianty has been known to suffer from imposter syndrome.

This 28-year old is co-founder at Aruna, an Indonesian farm and table ecommerce platform that provides fishermen with direct access to global buyers, while ensuring fair price for their catch.

“When you talked to another [start-up] founders, they came from Harvard, Stanford, and suddenly there’s us — from a local university in Indonesia,” she told CNBC Make It.

“But somehow that made the motivation. Education is not what matters.” She said, “It’s how you create impact.” 

Is my business growing in size?

Utari Octavianty

Co-founder, Aruna

Indeed, the impact that she and her co-founders, Farid Naufal Aslam and Indraka Fadhlillah, have created is far-reaching — over 26,000 fishermen across 150 fishing communities in Indonesia now use Aruna.

Even the Indonesian President praised them Joko “Jokowi” WidodoDuring the 2019 ASEAN Summit, for their innovative role in increasing fishermen’s income. 

Is it possible to start a multi-million-dollar fishery business? CNBC Make It discovers. 

Acceptance from parents 

Octavianty wanted to open a company that was related to fishing. She got mad at her mother and didn’t phone for a whole month. 

“My parents didn’t allow me to join the fishery business because the economic value … is not good,” she said. 

“That’s why I was encouraged by my parents to major in technology.” [in university]They expected me to get a job in the technology industry.

Utari Octavianty, with her mother.

Utari Octavianty

What happens mostly is that the fishermen don’t get paid … the middlemen will say that they will pay you tomorrow, but he would not. It is because fishermen are becoming poorer each year.

Utari Octavianty

Co-founder, Aruna

Octavianty was determined to find a way for technology and personal experience to be combined, even though her parents were resistant. 

“[My co-founders and I]Together, we created a timeline. Let’s agree to commit to at least 1 1/2 years. She said, “If this doesn’t work then we can look for a job.” 

“At that time, we thought, if it’s not us, maybe someone else will do it in a different way … so let’s just start.”

Eliminating the middlemen

Aruna was established in 2015. It was the final year for three of its co-founders. The goal of the three co-founders was simple: to supply seafood consumers with steady supplies.

However, after spending more time with fishermen they realized there were even bigger problems that could be solved. 

A long supply chain, for example, was one of the major factors that stopped fishermen selling their catch at fair prices. 

“Fishermen should sell to the local intermediaries and the local midmen will sell directly to the city’s middleman. From there, the city will sell to its middleman in the province.

The Indonesian fishery industry contributed $27 Billion to Indonesia’s national GDP in 2019. However, the World Bank noted that there was high poverty within small-scale fishing.


“What happens mostly is that the fishermen don’t get paid … the middlemen will say that they will pay you tomorrow, but he would not. This is why fishermen become poorer every day. “It has happened before to me too,” said Octavianty whose uncle was also a fisherman. 

Digital fish auctions not only cut down on the supply chain, but they also reduce costs. Data mapping is also used to guarantee fair trade. 

“We have real-time data about the seasonality of seafood all over Indonesia … [for example]Octavianty explained that it is when lobster, crabs, fish are in season. 

“Most of the seafood retail industry needs steady seafood supplies … so if something is not in season on one island, we can supply from another island where it is.” 

Aruna had to deal with poor infrastructure in the fishing villages. Aruna worked closely with the local government to obtain satellite internet and solar panel access for those who didn’t have internet or electricity.


Octavianty stated that Aruna has “one of Indonesia’s largest integrated fisheries trade.” She stated that the platform had exported 44 million kilograms seafood to seven countries in 2017, most to China and the United States. 

The direct market access has paid dividends for fishermen as well. 

Octavianty stated that Aruna helped fisherman to make more money than before joining Aruna. 

Personal mission  

“I’m more afraid. There are so many things I want to know. Do I have the ability to do this? Do I have the experience to manage this growing business?

What keeps her going is her personal mission she wrote in her diary 16 years ago — to lift families from fishing villages out of poverty. 

“[But now]It’s not to be proven [myself]My friends. More like: How can we keep it going? [the business]Sustainable while improving people’s lives.”

When you are able to connect your personal mission with your business mission you’ll have the motivation you need. 

Utari Octavianty

Co-founder, Aruna