Putri Arif Febrila talks about the journey of BulkSource and its mission to promote practical sustainability in a chat with Prestige.
People have become increasingly wiser in terms of consumption behaviour, as awareness about the environmental problems caused by overconsumption has become much more common. In Indonesia, one such problem is plastic waste. Thankfully, more and more people are taking the first steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle by avoiding single-use plastics, using reusable shopping bags and so forth. Of course, a key component in supporting this switch is accessibility to better alternatives. And this is where BulkSource comes in.
Co-founded by Putri Arif Febrila, BulkSource is – as the name clearly suggests – a bulk store that provides healthy and environmentally friendly necessities presented in a practical way and accessible for urban people. At the same time, BulkSource also supports communities, producers, local SMEs, as well as promoting sustainable lifestyle.
Putri – who joined Prestige’s 40 Under 40 List in 2019 – is herself a practitioner of sustainability. She first found that sustainability is her true passion after living in Taiwan to get her Master’s degree in Brand and Fashion Management from Fu Jen Catholic University. “It is a very sustainable country,” Putri observes. Her experience there inspired her to start learning more about the subject. After got returning to Jakarta, Putri worked in a company that distributes funds from angel investors to companies that have a marked social or environment impact. That was how Putri was introduced to Burgreens, a plant-based eatery chain that serves healthy, ethical and sustainable food. She then worked as part of Burgreens’ marketing team for a year. “It was very fulfilling for me, because I know what I do every day has an impact for farmers, suppliers and also for the people who eat the food,” Putri recalls.
Finally, in May 2019, Putri, along with four of her partners which includes the owner of Burgreens, Helga, founded BulkSouce, which was initially called The BulkStore & Co. “It was a dream for me to open this store,” Putri shares about the initial idea behind BulkSource. “I thought about what people actually need. I figured that it was primarily food. So, I wanted to open a bulk store where we sell daily necessities with an environmentally friendly approach. We have a couple of missions. The first one is to reduce the use of plastics as well as food waste of urban people. Second, we want to educate the market and consumers about how we can reduce waste in our daily lives.”
At BulkSource, consumers can find organic ingredients, zero-waste utilities such as metal straws, reusable shopping bags, composters, household appliances made of bamboo, and natural beauty products. Besides providing these kinds of basic necessities, BulkSource also applies sustainability in its practice. Putri elaborates: “If we say that we are a sustainable grocery store, what are the aspects of such a store? You can’t provide organic food but still use plastic or practice zero-waste but not go organic. We want to touch on all aspects of sustainability, from the “fair price, fair trade” system to showcasing products that have a social impact, such as empowering women. So, it should balance all of those facets, as well as implying that sustainability is not a single aspect issue.”
Naturally, a few things have changed since the last time we talked with Putri. One that we noticed is the change of the store’s name. In August 2020, The Bulkstore & Co. transformed into BulkSource. “We wanted a name that is shorter but still captures the essence of who we are,” Putri explains. “We still very much promote the idea of bulk consumption as a sustainable solution when shopping for for groceries, and we also want to emphasize the origin and locality of product – the source. We are very proud to promote local and unique goods from all over Indonesia, as 90 percent of our products are locally sourced. Having been promoting local items these past two years, we still can’t believe how creative and innovative Indonesian SMEs are. It is exciting to see many amazing new creations and green product alternatives.”
“The difference with two years ago would be higher average level of eco knowledge among our consumers, which means we are growing in the right direction”
Change, apparently, has also meant growth. “In 2019, BulkSource had two stores, in Menteng and Kemang. Now, due to the support and enthusiasm from our consumers, we managed to open two new locations in Bintaro and in the BSD area,” Putri shares. “Not only that, another two stores in Pantai Indah Kapuk and Cipete are coming really soon. Our Cipete store is established in collaboration with a vegan community where they introduce many local vegan eateries in one compound. Meanwhile, our Pantai Indah Kapuk store is located in the new hip area of Golf Island.”
Apart from opening new branches, BulkSource has also started developing its own products, focusing on healthy and plant-based food. “We love, love, love to develop recipes and delicious healthy food, and we’ve received really good responses from our consumers,” says Putri. “We also launched our new sub-brand of reusable cloth essentials called KindKain, where we provide alternatives for single use items such as menstrual pads, as well as homeware goods that are all made entirely from fabrics. We wanted to provide better and more practical solutions for everyone who wants to adopt a greener lifestyle, and I think BulkSource is going in the direction to help with that.”
One question that did come to mind was did the change of name mean a change in mission? “The mission is still the same, although the means change along as the consumers grow,” Putri answers. “We want to provide a solution directly for consumers so that they can easily shift to a conscious lifestyle. Many people feel demotivated or suffer from eco-anxiety because they feel that the climate change problem is too big to handle, or that it is up to the big industries and government to deal with it. But we think that we need to meet them half way. With BulkSource, consumers have a better choice.
“Following this mission, we try different ways to let consumers feel welcome and to encourage them to try a sustainable lifestyle,” Putri remarks. “We invite everyone to visit our store or webstore, where you can find daily necessities that are low in waste, directly sourced from local producers and artisans. We also have waste drop boxes in most of our stores so that you can return packaging and segregated household waste easily.”
When we first talked with Putri, BulkSource was only a few months old. Back then, one of the challenges that she faced while running BulkSource was how to minimize the logistic footprint and waste in the store’s supply chain. That challenge, as it turns out, is still there. “I think it is a continuing challenge. But what improved is that we are starting to find more goods closer to us – goods that are even more locally sourced. This will enable the products to reach the market faster, fresher and become more affordable. And it also cuts down on our logistic footprint. Furthermore, I think it can also be a unique selling point, because if every bulk store sources their goods as close as possible, each store can carry products unique to the area.”
In the beginning, Putri wondered whether urbanites would seriously consider switching to a more sustainable lifestyle, since it’s a good thing but not exactly easy. But now, Putri finds it easier to educate since waste issues are more talked about nowadays. “More KOLs and influencers are trying the lifestyle, so it’s much easier as well to encourage people to go less-waste. The difference with two years ago would be higher average level of eco knowledge among our consumers, which means we are growing in the right direction. More curiosity, not just about what zero-waste consumption is, but the values of conscious living that proves to be healthier for us, physically and mentally too.”
From simply creating a place that gives people easier access to sustainable goods, BulkSource has grown and continues growing. So, what does the future hold for this venture? “We want to grow with our consumers and community in terms of creating and providing better products. I hope that our online community will also grow, spreading and influencing more people across generations to adopt a greener lifestyle,” says Putri in closing.