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Future of transport

In Singapore, a preview of how Grab and Go-Jek will likely face off across Southeast Asia

A similar battle is being waged in China by strategic investors in the two Southeast Asian companies - Meituan and Didi

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 11:13am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 8:24pm

Two weeks after announcing a US$500 million plan to expand beyond its home market of Indonesia, on-demand services platform Go-Jek was onstage at a big Singapore tech conference telling investors, industry partners and government regulators about its story and what it had to offer.

Go-Jek, which started off as a motorcycle ride-hailing phone service in 2010, now operates across Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s most populous nation with a population of 261 million. It offers everything from rides to meal delivery to massage and home cleaning, all on demand, available through a super-app.

Founded by Nadiem Makarim, a Harvard MBA and ex-McKinsey alumnus, Go-Jek’s planned foray into Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines in the “next few months” will extend the competition with Singapore-based Grab to other markets in the region.

Indonesian start-up Go-Jek to invest US$500 million in Southeast Asia expansion

Indeed, a day before Go-Jek chief marketing officer Piotr Jakubowski finished off his keynote speech at the Innovfest Unbound conference, Grab co-founder and CEO Anthony Tan had been on the same stage announcing the set-up of Grab Ventures, an investment arm that will back start-ups, and an ambitious target of creating 100 million “micro-entrepreneurs” in the region.

Grab has created more than 6 million income-generating opportunities so far and the plan is to alleviate poverty and bring a “new economic reality to Southeast Asia” with its portfolio of companies and its ecosystem, Tan said in an interview with CNBC on June 5. In his presentation, Tan talked about Grab’s reach: 217 cities in eight countries, an installed base of a hundred million and over three million drivers.

Go-Jek’s Jakubowski reeled off his own set of statistics a day later: 75 per cent of its drivers make more than Indonesia’s average national wage, Go-Jek has helped lower the unemployment rate by 0.5 of a percentage point in 2016, with US$1 billion put back into the Indonesian economy by its drivers and merchants last year.

Go-Jek now has 100 million monthly bookings across its suite of services, which includes services such as buying medicine and picking up prescriptions to getting a pedicure-manicure and facial at home.

Go-Jek: from 20 bikes to US$2.5b – and an e-money revolution

If all this sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because a similar battle is being waged in China by strategic investors of the two Southeast Asian companies. Meituan-Dianping, which has morphed from a restaurant review and group-buying site to a provider of multiple on-demand services, is an investor in Go-Jek. Grab counts Didi Chuxing as an investor and both share the distinction of prevailing over Uber in their respective home markets.

Meituan and Didi are now engaged in competition on multiple fronts, from food delivery to ride-hailing in China, home to the world’s biggest internet market.

Ending his presentation at the conference in Singapore, Go-Jek’s Jakubowski showed a slide that crossed out the word “Indonesia” to be replaced with “Southeast Asia”, followed by a declaration that Go-Jek’s mission is now to make the region “move faster, more efficiently” and help unleash its potential through technology.