Go-Jek could be riding into these Southeast Asian countries soon

go-jek southeast asia

Go-Jek is ready for Southeast Asia. Source: Shutterstock.

FROM 20 bikes to US$5 billion, Go-Jek has cemented its leadership in Indonesia. And it’s now ready for expansion, with rumored plans to venture deeper into the Southeast Asian market.

The first startup of Indonesian origin to be classified as a transport system, Go-Jek had very humble beginnings, within the four walls of a call center. Go-Jek, a name that’s a play on the word ojek (motorcycle taxi), now has a fleet of more than 400,000 drivers for people in 50 Indonesian cities.

It has also evolved beyond a ride-hailing app as it now includes transportation, logistics, food delivery, and payment. And clearly, its key investors such as Google and Chinese tech giant Tencent are pleased.

“Go-Jek is led by a strong Indonesian management team and has a proven track record of using technology to make life more convenient for Indonesians across the country.

“This investment lets us partner with a great local champion in Indonesia’s flourishing startup ecosystem, while also deepening our commitment to Indonesia’s internet economy,” Google’s Next Billion Users VP Caesar Sengupta wrote.

Having enjoyed huge success on home soil, the company is now looking to expand to the Philippines later this year, as well as to three other Southeast Asian countries.

The expansion will see the company attempt to grab a share of the regional market share of around 640 million people.

Although Go-Jek has neither denied nor confirmed the names of these three other countries, its founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim previously said the company would place their investment in countries with large populations and those that still rely on cash transactions.

With Uber out of the way in Southeast Asia, Go-Jek only has to worry about Singapore-based Grab, the competition that brands itself as “Southeast Asia’s Leading Ride-Hailing Platform”.

“So far, we have held off operating [outside Indonesia]. It will be the first time we have faced tougher competition,” said Nadiem, as reported by The Jakarta Post.

While Asians in this part of the world are waiting with bated breaths for the official announcement rumored to be coming in the “next few weeks“, these are the countries that will benefit most from the Go-Jek expansion:

Philippines

This archipelagic country, home to the city with the third worst traffic in Southeast Asia, has been on Go-Jek’s radar since last year.

Go-Jek Group Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Ajey Gore said in an interview with Reuters that, “almost all Southeast Asian countries are on the radar over the next three, six to 12 months. The Philippines will be the first one just to figure out how things work.”

Of course, the Philippines seems to fit the bill of “countries with large populations and those that still rely on cash transactions”, as it happens to be the second most populated country in Southeast Asia, with over 100 million people.

Heavy traffic on the streets of Manila, the city with the third worst traffic in Southeast Asia. Source: Shutterstock.

And as at end-2017,  the current payment system in the Philippines was still predominantly cash- or check-based, according to The Manila Times.

Vietnam

With a population 93 million and motorbikes being the country’s preferred mode of transportation, Vietnam being picked as the next best choice for Go-Jek’s Southeast Asian expansion is a no-brainer.

There are about 45 million motorbikes owned in the country. In Hanoi alone, there are over five million motorbikes, according to CNN.  Motorbikes are a way of life.

Also fitting the bill of “countries with large populations and those that still rely on cash transactions”, despite the country’s high smartphone and mobile internet penetration rates, cash is still king in Vietnam.

Busy motorbike traffic in the Old Quarter in Hanoi. In recent decades, motorbikes have overtaken bicycles as the main form of transportation. Source: Shutterstock.

Operating expenses in Vietnam are also cheaper than in Singapore and Malaysia. And word on the street is Go-Jek is already in the process of recruiting professionals in Vietnam to drive its entry into the country.

Thailand

Thailand is the fourth most populated country in Southeast Asia. Its bustling capital, Bangkok, has the worst traffic in Southeast Asia. With such a reputation, it’s easy to see why motorcycle taxis are important to Thai people.

Just like in Vietnam, motorcycle taxis are an informal public transport for the people of Bangkok. It’s helpful for navigating through traffic-clogged roads and narrow alleys during rush hours.

This is why Bangkok’s first official and fully legal motorcycle-taxi app, GoBike, is reaping the rewards.

Morning traffic on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling but busy capital. Source: Shutterstock.

Especially after UberMoto and GrabBike were both forced to suspend their operations in the capital in May 2016.

Myanmar

Although ride-hailing and using smartphones to book taxis is still a relatively new concept in Myanmar, there’s great potential in the country as it is the fifth most populated in the region.

Of its 54-million strong population, nearly five million reside in the country’s largest city, Yangon. The city is undoubtedly a goldmine for ride-hailing app players as taxi services have gained popularity in Yangon in recent years.

According to Frontier Myanmar, a traffic command center was built last year to aid the fight against Yangon’s chronic road congestion.

Other Southeast Asia countries include Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei, and East Timor.

Singapore has already seen its Go-Jek presence when the company rode into the island city-state last June to open a data science office. The news brought on speculation and excitement about Go-Jek rolling out its bikes in Singapore.

However, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) told The Straits Times, “Motorcycles are not allowed to be used for point-to-point transport services, unlike taxis and private hire cars.”