Founder Spotlight: Naga Tan of Dana Cita | Bukas.ph

Democratizing Access to Higher Education

By Robert Vergara



Education is important. It opens doors, develops skills, and helps students access a better future. Simply put, education makes the biggest difference in the lives of children. But as important as it is, not everyone gets the opportunity to access higher education.


For most developing countries, not many youths are able to make it to tertiary education. As much as these children would have wanted to further their learning, their families simply can’t afford it.


Fortunately, there are now some helpful options out there for families struggling to send their kids to school. Among those options are student loans. These loans can provide a possible means for families to attain the funds needed for their children’s education. However, some are deterred from applying for these loans because of feeling uncertain of their capability of paying it back when the time comes.


Statistics show that in 2017, the gross graduation ratio is only 21.29% in Indonesia because most families don’t have enough money to get their kids to higher education. Compared to its neighboring countries, Indonesia has approximately 28% enrollment rate while Thailand has 49%, and the Philippines has 36%. It is clear from the data that Indonesia is lagging behind.


While student loans have yet to become a more popular source of funding in Southeast Asia, Y Combinator-backed Dana Cita hopes to spark the awareness for this payment option. With the goal of providing the opportunity for people to have the means to access education, Dana Cita is seeking to make an impact on the lives of students and their families.

Using one’s opportunities to give others opportunities

“I have benefited a lot, both personally and professionally, from my higher education and would like to pay it forward,” Naga Tan, Co-Founder of Dana Cita, states. Before attaining his Master of Business Administration degree (MBA) at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he worked in London for a few years as a fixed income trader.

Upon graduating from business school, Naga found himself at a crossroads, and having to choose between joining McKinsey and pursuing entrepreneurship. He ended up following the path that was riskier but also where he knew he had the opportunity to create greater impact - he chose to work on Dana Cita.


“It was not an easy decision to turn down a great opportunity like that,” he tells us. “But I knew what I had to do.”

While Naga was taking his MBA in Wharton, he met Susli Lie who would later turn out to be one of the Co-Founders of Dana Cita. Both of them pursued starting Dana Cita because they felt very strongly about the impact they could create. They wanted to make sure that as many Southeast Asians as possible get that same opportunity.


Naga states, “We believe in equal opportunity; it shouldn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.” He sees higher education as the great equalizer.


Accessible education through Dana Cita


‘Dana Cita’ means ‘aspiration fund’ in Indonesian. And indeed, through their organization, Naga and the team seek to give students hope through their loans.


Founded in 2017, the fintech company was set on their mission to democratize access to higher education in Indonesia by providing loans to help students reach their goals.


In order to do this, the loans they provide are made as affordable as possible. At a flat monthly interest rate starting as low as 1%, Dana Cita can help students cover the cost of tuition fees with affordable repayment schemes. They cater to those who are pursuing diploma programs, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even vocational courses. To date, they have helped students from over a hundred schools in Indonesia attain funds for their education.


Dana Cita is launching its sister company in the Philippines called Bukas.ph in the hopes of providing the same opportunities to Filipino students as they have done for those in Indonesia.


To learn more about Bukas.ph and how it works, visit their website here.