The woman behind Rata, drg. Deviana Maria, shares about the brand’s journey from the beginning and how it operates today
As a mother, a dentist and also the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Rata, drg. Deviana Maria believes that her job is to make more people smile confidently without any barriers. “Before Rata, people did not know that local clear aligner technology existed,” she expresses, opening up the conversation. “But with us now in the picture, we are their top-of-mind solution to straighten teeth without braces.”
Maria then also shares about the moment she realized that she was onto something big with Rata. “It happened when I spoke with a few of my patients about the product, and without thinking about it that long, they immediately purchased the product and were super satisfied with it,” she recalls. “Backed by leading research and technology, we offer quality and cost-effectiveness through other brands. Also, we carry out improvements based on customer feedback, because our company’s mindset is to value our customers first.” We also talked about the journey of Rata, from the beginning, the highs and lows as a tech entrepreneur, and more. Highlights of an exclusive interview:
First and foremost, can you introduce us to your brand, Rata?
Rata, meaning aligned in English, is the first Indonesian clear dental aligner designed to straighten teeth without braces with an affordable price tag. We officially launched in 2019, but we had started our research and development five years ago in 2016. Our vision is to revolutionize dental experience, so we provided the most affordable aligner technology for people who want to straighten their teeth easily and comfortably.
As the co-founder and CMO of Rata, how has the journey been so far you? Do you still remember how it all began?
The journey has been exciting and challenging at the same time. Being a founder is more than a title. As someone who brought something to life from the ground up, I have a big responsibility and take ownership of our duties. I combined my role as founder and dentist while building the brand.
As a dentist, I see this journey as a valuable learning experience as well. It began after I practiced at my dental aesthetic clinic for almost four years. I took notice of my customers who wanted an affordable option to straighten their teeth; that is how I knew that this kind of product would be valuable for them and what drove me to build Rata.
I am in charge of overseeing the planning, development and execution of my company’s marketing and advertising initiatives. And the amazing thing about marketing, for me, is that it can raise awareness quickly especially for Indonesians. In our second year, we managed to cater to more than 20,000 customers, and we aim to expand to all cities in Indonesia. It is our aspiration to give better dental access for everyone.
At the time, how did you identify the correct target market to suit your product? Were you able to get product feedback before launching?
We beta-launched the product at my dental clinic and it got amazing responses! That is how we managed to explain the idea to our investors and they trusted us.
Speaking of which, Rata secured funding from a notable venture capital firm, Alpha JWC Ventures, and become one of Alpha JWC Ventures’ portfolio companies. Can you tell us more about this?
We secured seed funding back in 2019, and we just closed our pre-A funding in the midst of COVID-19 in 2020 from Alpha JWC and another regional investor.
You’ve also expanded your business into other big cities in Indonesia like Surabaya, Batam, Medan and Bali. How has the Indonesian market responded to your services so far?
It was great! Turns out, a lot of people in other cities really need this product as well. Since not a lot of dentists are in their cities, they need access to this product and we are proud to provide it to them.
“You will continuously learn on how to be a better person, a better leader, to provide better services, and to produce better products for the public”
In terms of products, what gives Rata an advantage over similar services? What is it that gives the brand an edge?
The aligner itself is transparent, which means it does not affect people’s appearance. It works faster, is more convenient, and more affordable than braces. Rata’s biggest advantage is that we own our clinics and the aligner treatment planning is done by orthodontists and dentists who are experienced in aligner technology. We provide end-to-end services. Also, we are a pioneer when it comes to clear aligners in Indonesia; we do not follow the trend.
Moving on to the current situation, has the ongoing pandemic affected your business operations?
Even though the pandemic happened, thank God Rata’s business is still profitable and we can still help our patients. We adapted into the digital transition by launching our own Rata app and also online booking to minimize the transmission of COVID-19, as we prioritize our patients’ health and convenience.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for Rata right now?
Our challenge is to expand our clinics in other cities in Indonesia and develop localized marketing strategies, since many cities in Indonesia have low awareness of dental health. We see these things as challenges and opportunities at the same time, as we feel that it’s our duty as well to educate Indonesians on this matter and to give them better dental access.
What have been the highs and lows of your experience as a tech entrepreneur?
One of the highs that happened was to get funded by investors and to be trusted to run a company. These things stimulated me to do more for my company. As CMO, I want Rata to get funded by more investors and also to be trusted by more people. However, things do not come as easy as they seem. There are a lot of people that didn’t see how I build my team from the ground up. The struggles that we face, how I work with my team to pack up orders, late nights at work, and no holidays. Still, we enjoy every process as it helps us to grow bigger and aim higher.
What message do you have for young Indonesians who want to impact the world in one way or the other?
Indonesian youngsters are very adaptive, smart, and tech-savvy nowadays. They need to believe in their ideas, but while also being open to outside opinions that will help them better impact the world. This means that if they know their idea is great, but nobody really needs or buys the idea, then it is not the right product for the market. Furthermore, the most important thing is that you need to work hard and get dirty. Starting from the bottom allows them to experience real struggles and help them become true leaders.
What would be your advice for any aspiring tech entrepreneurs out there?
My foremost tip is that there is no right time to launch or even to do anything different. You have to believe in yourself and that you are capable of doing the ideas in your head right. Just do it if you believe in it and then convince others to believe in them as well. You will continuously learn on how to be a better person, a better leader, to provide better services, and to produce better products for the public. Make a move if you want your dreams to come true, otherwise it will become just an idea inside your head. Things may be hard in the first place, so remember why you started.
Last but not least, what are your thoughts on technology in general and where it’s headed in the next five to ten years?
It’s wonderful to see the tech growth nowadays and to see how people rely on tech in their daily lives. For me, personally, I believe that our aligners that come with advanced technology will totally replace braces in the next five years when it comes to strengthening teeth, which might be similar to how contact lenses become the preferable solution for bad eyesight compared to glasses. People will seek convenience and will gradually prefer aligners.