- Go-Jek’s vision is to escape competition by creating an on-demand platform for anything the consumer wants
- With rides on motorcycles,Go-Jek has built on the usual strategy of providing rides to introduce a slew of additional Go- services to the app
- The sudden success over the past two years took even its founder by surprise
JAKARTA—Some of the pain of Indonesia’s maddening traffic has become relieved by Go-Jek ,a mobile app for hailing rides on motorcycles.The ride-hailing apps that are now part of daily life from New York to New Delhi and London are usually used to summon cars. Jakarta, the world’s sixth-largest urban sprawl and by some measures the most car-clogged, needed something different.
Go-Jek became a sudden success over the past two years and took even its founder by surprise. “We really had no idea it would be adopted so widely and so quickly,” said Nadiem Makarim, who admits the company and its app struggled to keep pace when tens of thousands began downloading it. Makarim believes Jakarta’s carmageddon had arrived at a “pain point” of huge unmet demand for a solution.
As by far the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, making up a third of the region’s gross domestic product, Indonesia has also attracted Uber and Go-Jek’s fiercest competitor, Malaysia’s Grab, which is headed by Makarim’s Harvard classmate Anthony Tan.
Go-Jek has built on the usual strategy of providing rides to introduce a slew of additional Go- services to the app, including delivering food, groceries, cleaners, massage therapists and beauticians to homes.
The Go-Send document pickup and delivery service and Go-Food are the company’s two biggest businesses after rides, Makarim said. Go-Food, he said, has become the biggest food delivery business in Southeast Asia by number of transactions.
“Go-Jek’s vision is to escape competition by creating an on-demand platform for anything our consumer wants,” he said. “We’re not stuck on our identity based on what we think it should be. We let the market decide what they want us to be.”
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Like elsewhere, ride hailing apps are drawing an angry backlash from taxi drivers as their incomes drop. In March, a protest by thousands of taxi drivers that paralyzed the capital turned violent, with cabbies brawling in the streets with green-jacketed drivers from Go-Jek and Grab.
Go-Jek says it has more than 200,000 drivers around Indonesia but the pain for taxis seems most acute in Jakarta, where all the ride hailing services are battling fiercely for customers, pushing fares to rock bottom.
Yet the apps have proven so useful to people in a city where officials estimate congestion causes losses of $3 billion a year that attempts to ban them on the basis of claims of unfair competition have failed.
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When the transport minister issued a directive last December banning app-based ojeks, the public outcry was such that President Joko Widodo quickly overruled the decision.
“We want to make Indonesia proud that this is a uniquely Indonesian company that was started here,” Makarim said. The nationalistic appeal of a home-grown tech success is also a potent advantage for the company. (VOA)