Vara, a staff management platform for small businesses across Southeast Asia, today announced USD $4.8 million in funding from Go Ventures, RTP Global, Alpha JWC Ventures, Sequoia Capital India’s Surge, FEBE Ventures, and Taurus Ventures. Vara is a lightweight staff management platform that enables small companies to easily manage their attendance and payroll in just a few minutes.
Across the world, and especially in Southeast Asia, small businesses form the backbone of their respective economies. For example, in Indonesia, over 60 million small businesses contribute to more than 60% of the country’s GDP and employ close to 95% of the labor force. As many of these businesses operate in labor-heavy segments of the economy, their staff is critical to daily operations. However, despite the clear signs of labor to their success, the vast majority of these businesses manage their human capital manually — from tracking attendance to tabulating salary and more. For employers, this largely analog process of attendance and payroll management is cumbersome, time-consuming, and prone to human error.
These issues, in turn, also affect employees who, by and large, have never had access to formal employment history. Traditional financial institutions have often neglected this segment of the labor market that operates paycheck to paycheck, resulting in employees turning to their employers for their financial needs. This behavior not only leads to dependency from employees to employers but also locks up working capital for employers.
Vidush Mahansaria and Abhinav Karale, co-founders at Vara, strongly believe that technology presents an opportunity to redefine what it means to manage human capital. By digitizing not only SMEs but their employees as well, Vara seeks to build a data-rich platform that captures interactions between employers and employees.
Vidush shares, “Our ultimate goal at Vara is to deliver more time, energy, and money into the hands of SMEs and their staff.” Abhinav adds, “This funding round enables us to continue developing our products and serving our users with an increasing set of value-additive features to accomplish exactly that.”
Launched in November 2020, Vara is making strides in transforming how small companies manage their staff. Its product, Bukugaji, is geared towards the Indonesian market and has already serviced the staff management needs of over 100,000 small companies. As an intuitive, mobile-first product, Bukugaji enables business owners to quickly and seamlessly track staff attendance, tabulate salary and loans, generate payslips, and disburse payroll within just a few minutes.
Vara was founded by Abhinav Karale and Vidush Mahansaria, who met at Wharton, where they both attended university. Abhinav holds undergraduate degrees in economics and computer science and a master’s degree in data science from Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to founding Vara, Abhinav built investment and trading strategies for hedge funds and AI tools for governmental and healthcare stakeholders. Vidush holds degrees in economics and international studies from Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania. He grew up in Bangkok and has worked across product, fundraising, and operating functions at Grab before joining ICONIQ Growth, a large tech investment fund in San Francisco, to help their Asia and Europe investment efforts.
Vara is part of Surge’s fifth cohort of 23 companies that have developed new digital solutions to help companies and individuals work, live, and learn better in a rapidly evolving Southeast Asian landscape.