Authors: Tuhu Nugraha and Temmy Debora*
In the midst of the rapid digital era, blockchain technology emerges as an innovation with the potential to revolutionize the global financial industry. In Indonesia, SMEs managed by women stand as one of the sectors that can reap significant benefits from this technology. SMEs play a crucial role in the national economy, with over 64.2 million business units contributing 61.9% to the GDP and employing up to 97% of the workforce.
However, many SMEs face challenges, ranging from access to financing to marketing issues and productivity. With the government’s financial inclusion target set at 90% for 2024, the role of SMEs, especially those managed by women (which account for 64.5% of all SMEs), becomes pivotal. Therefore, promoting financial inclusion for female entrepreneurs has a strategic impact in achieving this target.
Here’s how blockchain can be a solution to enhance financial inclusion for female SME entrepreneurs in Indonesia:
Access to Financing
Based on data from the Ministry of Communication and Information, only 20 million out of 64 million SMEs have accessed formal financial institutions. One of the main reasons many SMEs, especially those managed by women, struggle to access formal financial institutions is due to stringent requirements. Many SMEs lack formal documents like audited financial statements, physical collateral, or a good credit history. Moreover, the lengthy and bureaucratic loan application process often becomes a barrier for SMEs to obtain working capital.
Blockchain technology offers a financial inclusion solution for female-managed SMEs in Indonesia, often hindered by strict requirements and lengthy processes in formal financial institutions. With a blockchain-based lending platform, female-managed SMEs can access financing with a simpler, transparent, and efficient process. Direct interaction between lenders and borrowers reduces transaction costs, while blockchain transparency enhances trust. Additionally, an alternative credit assessment model based on SME transaction data allows those without a formal credit history to still obtain financing.
Low Transaction Costs
Transaction costs play a significant role in SME operations. For many SMEs, especially those transacting in small amounts, high transaction costs can significantly erode profit margins. This becomes even more critical for female-managed SMEs who might have limited initial capital and smaller operations compared to other SMEs.
Blockchain technology offers a solution to reduce these transaction costs. With its decentralized nature, blockchain eliminates the need for intermediaries like banks or other financial institutions. This means that fees typically charged by intermediaries – such as administrative fees, transfer fees, or other charges – can be eliminated or drastically reduced.
When compared to the interest rates currently borne by SMEs from loan sharks, the difference becomes stark. Loan sharks typically offer loans with very high-interest rates, sometimes reaching 20% to 40% per month. This is much higher compared to interest rates from formal financial institutions. With blockchain, female-managed SMEs can not only reduce transaction costs but also potentially access financing at lower interest rates through blockchain-based peer-to-peer lending platforms.
Thus, adopting blockchain technology can provide dual benefits for female-managed SMEs: reducing transaction costs and providing access to cheaper financing, thereby enhancing their profit margins and competitiveness in the market.
In the midst of globalization, female-managed SMEs in Indonesia find opportunities to penetrate international markets. However, a disparity is evident: although SME exporters account for 77.28% or about 13,775 exporters, their contribution is only 4.09% or 6.331 million USD of total exports. In contrast, large-scale exporters, which only account for 22.72% or 4,044 exporters, dominate with a contribution of 95.9% or 148.609.7 million USD, as stated by the Director of Export Market Development of the Ministry of Trade in 2023. One of the main challenges faced by female-managed SMEs is cross-border transactions. Many of them find it difficult to access international payment platforms, such as PayPal, due to language barriers and complex administrative requirements. High transaction fees and long settlement times through conventional banks add to their burden. As a solution, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies emerge, offering simpler transactions, lower fees, and higher security. With an interface that supports the Indonesian language and without the need for a conventional bank account, female-managed SMEs now have a greater opportunity to compete more effectively on the international stage.
Female-managed SMEs, especially in remote areas, often face challenges in accessing financial services such as loans or insurance. One of their main obstacles is the lack of formal identity documents, such as national ID cards, family cards, or proof of land ownership, typically required by banks or other financial institutions. Without these documents, they are often marginalized from the formal financial system. However, blockchain technology offers an innovative solution to this problem. Imagine blockchain as a secure digital ledger, where every piece of information entered cannot be altered or deleted. With this technology, female-managed SMEs can have a “digital identity” registered on the blockchain. This identity can contain basic information such as name, address, business transaction history, and more. Most importantly, this identity is secure and verified. By having a blockchain-based digital identity, female-managed SMEs in remote areas can demonstrate to financial institutions that they are legitimate and trustworthy business entities. This makes it easier for them to apply for loans, open bank accounts, or access other financial services that were previously hard to reach. In other words, blockchain provides an opportunity for female-managed SMEs to integrate into the formal economy, enhancing their business growth potential.
Blockchain provides innovative solutions for female-managed SMEs in Indonesia, especially in remote areas. There, they often face various challenges, from inadequate education, limited capital, to a lack of supporting infrastructure. But why focus on female-managed SMEs? Because in many cases, these women are the main pillars of the family. They play a crucial role in efforts to break the chain of poverty, hoping to provide better education for future generations. With the help of blockchain technology, financial inclusion can be expanded, social disparities can be reduced, and opportunities for female-managed SMEs to improve their families’ quality of life become even greater.
*Temmy Debora, CEO and Founder Nakama.id, & Web3 Trailblazer Indonesia