SINGAPORE: Indonesian ride-hailing and online payment firm Go-Jek said on Thursday (May 24) it will enter Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines in the next few months, investing US$500 million in its international push.
The move will start with ride-hailing services before expanding to other sectors, Go-Jek said in a press release.
"People in Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines don't feel that they're getting enough (choice) when it comes to ride-hailing," CEO Nadiem Makarim said. Uber had exited these markets after Grab announced it had acquired its Southeast Asia operations in March, though the deal is still being scrutinised by regulators.
The firm said it will work with regulators and other stakeholders to prepare for the new operations, and that is has received a "positive" response so far.
"I think a lot of governments and regulators have been actively welcoming competition in each of their countries because that's healthy and good for the consumer," said Mr Makarim.
"Our aim is to partner with countries and their governments to bring benefit to everyone who uses our technology whether consumers looking for fast, competitive services, or drivers looking to secure additional income."
However, not all services will be available in every country. For example, Go-Jek's motorcycle taxi service will not be replicated in Singapore.
"I think that we have to be respectful to both the market sentiment as well as the regulatory climate of each of the countries, and so we are extremely cognizant of maintaining good relations with each of the local stakeholders," Mr Makarim added.
GO-JEK TO HAVE "SIGNIFICANT PRESENCE" IN PARTNER COUNTRIES
Go-Jek noted in the press release that while it will provide the technological support to its chosen partner countries, local founding teams will run the companies that Go-Jek will help set up.
Mr Makarim stated that the company would have a "significant presence" in each country, but its philosophy would be to give the local teams autonomy.
"I think we're going to put a lot of trust in the autonomy of the local teams and have them make autonomous and critical strategic decisions about where to go, and where to take their countries," he said.
"The local companies will determine their own brands and identities to ensure good traction in each new market," said the transport firm.
"Our role will be to act as advisors, giving the new companies the benefit of our operational and development experience so they can take the spirit with which we created Go-Jek and find the best way to achieve that locally," added Mr Makarim.
He expressed ambivalence when asked whether Go-Jek will retain its brand name as it expands into other Southeast Asian markets.
"Depending on what the local teams say in terms of what brand will resonate much greater in that local market, then we will make that decision.
"I think one of the really unique and interesting things about Go-Jek is that we don't mind if a country owns their own brand and creates something that is a different brand other than just Go-Jek," he noted.
Replying to Channel NewsAsia's queries, the Land Transport Authority said that it has reached out to Go-Jek to share the regulatory requirements it needs to meet in order to operate in Singapore.
"All prospective private hire car booking service operators will need to comply with LTA's existing regulatory requirements before being allowed to operate in Singapore," a spokesperson said in an email.
To ensure that the industry remains open and contestable in the long term, the authority is also "reviewing the regulatory structure of the point-to-point industry".
This is also to make sure that no single operator dominates the market to the detriment of commuters and drivers, added the spokesperson.
Go-Jek's expansion comes after it received investment from firms such as Google, JD.com, Tencent and Temasek.
The company currently offers services like transportation, logistics, mobile payments, food delivery in various cities in Indonesia. It announced late last year that it plans to expand into Southeast Asian markets, starting with the Philippines.
Additional reporting by Chandni Vatvani