Original post by TechNode Global
Indonesian aesthetic dentistry technology startup KLAR, which recently announced the close of its Seed funding round led by AC Ventures, plans to expand its business in its home market first before expanding into other neighboring countries.
“We would like to focus on innovation. If you look at Gojek, Grab, and other startups, you cannot be a winner without conquering a market as big as Indonesia. This is where we are strong. We want to create a strong foothold in Indonesia before exporting the recipe to neighboring countries,” its Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ellen Pranata, told TechNode Global in an interview.
“The market of clear aligners in Indonesia is very much still untapped. We also see the trend of moving towards clear aligner technology as compared to traditional metal braces,” she said.
Combining technology with orthodontic expertise, KLAR creates a modern ultra-clear aligner that is comfortable to wear and can improve dental aesthetics and alignment without the use of braces.
The clear aligners market in Indonesia is valued at $3 billion, according to Ellen.
She said KLAR wants to win the local market first and educate Indonesians about the importance of aligning teeth.
“We still have a lot of homework in educating general Indonesians about the importance of aligning teeth, not only for beauty but also for health,” she said. “I think that other brands are not focusing on this.”
Launched in September 2020, KLAR has grown to become one of Indonesia’s dental technology brands, partnering with more than 600 dentist partners, including dentists and orthodontists, throughout the archipelago in less than a year.
KLAR is present in more than 100 dental clinics across 32 cities. Jakarta, Bali, and Surabaya are the company’s key cities.
The firm announced last month the close of its Seed funding round led by AC Ventures, with participation from the Kenangan Fund.
It plans to use the funding for R&D development to achieve economies of scale and treatment optimization, expand the company’s talent base, enhance branding, and venture into complementary product offerings.
The funding round also came as clear aligners are gaining popularity in Indonesia as well as Southeast Asia. The funding round also came after Singapore-based cosmetic dentistry startup Zenyum raised a $40 million Series B round in June. This includes $25 million from private equity firm L Catterton. Other participants include Sequoia Capital India, RTP Global, Partech, TNB Aura, Seeds Capital, and FEBE Ventures.
Zenyum started offering clear aligners in Indonesia in 2019. Another notable brand in the Indonesian market is Invisalign, manufactured by US-based Align Technology, a multinational medical device company listed on NASDAQ.
Affordable clear aligners are in demand, as brands from overseas entering Indonesia are seen as unaffordable. Zenyum’s price starts at 12.9 million rupiah ($889.95), Invisalign’s price starts at 13.84 million rupiah ($954.81), information from their websites and a clinic website dok.ku showed.
According to a post on harga.web.id, getting Invisalign aligners would costs between 30.1 million rupiah ($2,076.39) and 83.14 million rupiah ($5,735.18).
KLAR is offering its aligners from 9.9 million rupiah ($682.99), according to its Facebook post dated June 23. Alpha JWC Ventures-backed Indonesia’s dental startup Rata sets its aligner price from 9.9 million rupiah ($682.99).
Rata raised a pre-Series A funding round last year, backed by existing investor Alpha JWC Ventures and regional investors, Prestige reported last month.
Alpha JWC Ventures first invested in Rata’s seed round in August 2019. Launched in 2019, Rata claims to be the first company in Indonesia, which has the technology to produce aligners in-house.
Partnerships with orthodontists, competitive pricing to win customers
Partnering with orthodontists, providing aligners at more affordable prices are among the strategies KLAR adopted to differentiate itself from other aligner brands.
The strategies were formed based on the findings from a survey conducted by KLAR.
According to the survey, general dental treatment awareness is low in Indonesia as only less than 10% of the population with dental issues visit a dentist.
There is a very strong dentist and patient relationship in Indonesia, of which 52 percent of the respondents lean on their preferred dentists for dental treatment choice.
And lastly, less than 10 percent of the respondents are aware of clear aligner treatment. Of those who are aware, cannot afford Zenyum or Invisalign, or think the two brands are “too expensive.”
In conclusion, Ellen said it is important to drive the prices of aligners to an affordable rate for most Indonesians, besides creating awareness about the treatment.
“Our production facility is one of the core competencies. Our founders, myself, comes from a long-term dentistry background. I am one of the owners of the largest Indonesian dental tools importing company, Cobra Dental. Our Chief Operating Officer (David Sugihartana) is a dentist who has strong capability in production,” she said.
Together, they have come up with a production facility that is scalable, and can produce clear aligners at a high standard, comparable to Invisalign (another aligner brand), but at a fraction of a cost.
“We own the orthodontist network internally. We create all the treatment planning in-house, produce and import everything end-to-end. That is why in terms of costs, our production is very cost-competitive,” she explained.
With the funds from investors, KLAR will be able to scale its business.
“Our capacity is around 200 aligners per month, but that can grow quickly and exponentially depending on the machinery that we purchase as we already have the key ingredients,” she said.
“We believe that we have at least 40 percent cost competitiveness compared to competitors,” she added.
A quarter of the seed funding will go into research and development (R&D), focusing on how to make the treatment more efficient, faster, more comfortable for the patient, Ellen said.
“What differentiates KLAR from other brands, is actually our ability to move teeth according to the standard that we promise. The gold standard is 0.25 millimeters per week, and this is very difficult to get if you do not have the secret recipe,” she said.
She said the firm has already invested a lot in orthodontic skills, upskilling dentists, working with manufacturers to find an improved version of the materials used, and working on different patients. KLAR is also able to import key materials at a preferred rate.
“And most importantly, how to make it not only aesthetically pleasing but more user-friendly and economical,” she said.
KLAR also plans to expand on other dental products and provide a full range of technology-enabled products. It is currently doing R&D on a few products but Ellen declined to disclose the details.
Challenges and competition: Affordability is key
While the aesthetics dentistry industry in Indonesia is only starting to gain popularity with plenty of untapped opportunities, Ellen also shared the challenges KLAR meets in the increasingly competitive market.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, how to bring down the prices of aligners, and the lack of awareness on oral health care are among the challenges faced by KLAR as it expands its business.
“The pandemic is here and the pandemic is real. People are not going to the dentist and that obviously puts a barrier for us to grow. However, we have already been preemptive by enabling our patients to do consultation through our apps,” she said.
As the gross domestic product per capita in Asia continues to grow, there are more people who want to invest more in self-care and aesthetics.
“But there’s a gap between what you want and what you can afford. So KLAR is committed to bringing this price down through marketing and R&D,” she said.
KLAR also needs to provide customers with the confidence to visit a dentist, raise awareness on dental health and bring down the stigma of scariness about dentistry, according to Ellen, as a survey shows Indonesians do not enjoy visiting dentists.
Asked about more competition seen in the industry, Ellen also noticed its competitors are aggressive in marketing and advertising on social media to attract customers.
“Our survey has shown that Indonesians still trust their dentist network very much when deciding on which treatment to use. By owning the distribution network and partnering with the best dentists in Indonesia, dentists will then recommend our clear aligners to their patients,” she said.
“Our treatment is done by orthodontists. They are specialists in aligning teeth. Our product also uses attachments, and this is something that others do not focus on. Attachments are like composites. They are the building blocks that are put on your tooth as a pressure point,” she said.
Except for Invisalign, Ellen said KLAR is the only brand in the market that is able to provide this technology to dentists.
Some competitors who also work with dentists are also aggressive in recruiting more. But this is not the case for KLAR.
“We do not plan to recruit more. We want to focus on the dentists who already put their trust in us to bring in more patients. it’s quality over quantity, we want to make sure that our providers know how to use the aligner technology,” she added.
KLAR has also launched a patient app based on research on Indonesian customers. It allows patients to consult dentists and monitor their treatment without a face-to-face meeting.
On its next fundraising, Ellen said KLAR is looking to raise pre-Series A funding round next year. She, however, declined to disclose the amount.
“I think it’s important to not over-fundraise but to actually be responsible for the money that we have managed to raise and provide returns,” she added.
Investor AC Ventures: Proven globally, aligners work
Commenting on why AC Ventures chose to invest in KLAR, its Co-Founder and Managing Partner Michael Soerijadji pointed out that KLAR is trying to solve a problem with a better, cheaper, and more convenient solution.
“With a solid founding team and strong industry network, they have the ingredients required to come out as a winner in a large and growing market of dental aesthetics in Indonesia,” he told TechNode Global in an email.
“As proven globally, aligners work. They are more effective, cheaper, and also more convenient because you have fewer trips to the dentist. The key is localizing, as well as educating product adoption through industry practitioners. It’s only a matter of time before aligners replace conventional braces entirely,” he added.
Moreover, he said the founding team of KLAR is well-rounded with each of them having deep expertise in complementary areas from business management to orthodontics.
“They are very passionate about dental aesthetics and know the right people to make this work,” he added.
With a growing GDP per capita and increasing interest in self-care and aesthetics, the demand for aligners will continue to grow.
“Like any new product designed to replace a conventional solution, it requires education and adoption. So, the biggest challenge for KLAR is educating the market. KLAR is working with dental partners to tell consumers why aligners are more effective than braces,” Soerijadji said.