SINGAPORE: Gojek is looking to expand its range of services in Singapore, said the Indonesian ride-hailing giant’s new leadership on Thursday (Oct 24), but will take a "fairly deliberate approach" when doing so.
Gojek co-CEO Kevin Aluwi said this is because its rival Grab, which operates in eight Southeast Asian countries and is based in Singapore, is "a lot more entrenched" here.
“We definitely do have plans to launch other products in addition to transportation,” he said, when asked about the firms' plans for the Singapore market.
He noted though that as a start, Singapore users can expect “a lot more features on the transportation side” sometime within the next quarter.
Together with co-CEO Andre Soelistyo, Mr Aluwi - who founded Gojek with former CEO Nadiem Makarim - spoke to international media via phone conferencing from Gojek’s Jakarta headquarters.
It was the pair’s first interview since assuming the helm at Gojek this week. Mr Makarim left the firm this month to take up the role of education and culture minister in Indonesian President Joko Widodo's new cabinet.
The Indonesian firm - whose name is derived from ojek, the Indonesian term for motorcycle taxis - is reported to be valued at about US$10 billion.
Last year, it launched a US$50 million expansion plan that saw it move into three other countries in Southeast Asia – Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore – following Uber’s exit from the region.
Beyond ride-hailing, the firm offers services such as payment methods, food and grocery deliveries, and concierge services such as cleaning and massages. But these services remain limited to Indonesia and have yet to be introduced in its other markets.
While Gojek previously said it intends to enter the food delivery sector in Singapore, it is not in a rush to do so, said Mr Aluwi.
“There (are) already five other players, all competing with 30 per cent, 40 per cent discounts,” he noted.
“That means that the only thing we could actually do (to compete) is offer a 50 per cent discount. That’s not something we want to do from a long-term strategy perspective.”
The firm is researching how it can offer a different food delivery service in Singapore given the more concentrated market here, he added.
During the briefing, Gojek indicated that it has about 800,000 active monthly users in Singapore – the smallest among the four countries it operates in.
Mr Aluwi said that while Singapore is the Indonesian firm’s smallest market, it is a “very valuable” one, noting that consumers here spend more on its services.
“We’re quite happy with the growth we’ve seen in Singapore,” he added.
Indonesia remains Gojek’s stronghold, said Mr Soelistyo, with 80 per cent of its users there.
The firm intends to expand its international presence, he noted, and hopes to have 50 per cent of its customers from outside Indonesia within the next few years.
GOJEK NOT AN “UNSUSTAINABLE UNICORN”
Gojek is aiming for an initial public offering (IPO), Mr Soelistyo confirmed, though it has not set a date to go public yet.
In the meantime, it is preparing by improving its governance and processes. It aims to defy the impression that unicorns – startups valued at more than US$1 billion – are “unsustainable”, said Mr Aluwi.
Ride-hailing startups Uber and Lyft lost US$6.2 billion and US$1.7 billion respectively in their first two quarters as publicly traded companies.
“For us, we’ve always aimed to create an enduring, sustainable company,” he said.
This means moving away from growth led by promotions and incentives – which characterised the rise of Gojek as well as its rivals Grab and Uber – to building loyalty among its customers based on the quality of its products, said Mr Soelistyo.
Gojek confirmed earlier this week that despite leaving the company, Mr Makarim continues to have a stake in the ride-hailing firm, although it did not comment on the size of his stake.
He will not have to put his shares in a trust, said Mr Soelistyo, noting Indonesian regulations allow for government officials to hold shares as long as they have no “special ability to dictate or direct the company”.
“He has no position at all in the company, and we will maintain it that way,” he added.
Mr Makarim is a passive investor who will not play a role in the company, "officially or unofficially", the co-CEO added.
Addressing Mr Makarim’s departure, Mr Soelistyo said his appointment to Mr Widodo’s cabinet was a validation of Gojek’s work and defied the negative perception of chief executives in high-growth companies.
“I think we are definitely very proud, but we’re sad at the same time because he is a dear friend. We’ve been together since day one," he said.