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Go-Jek ramps up driver benefits to threaten archrival Grab

Indonesia ride-hailer beefs up Singapore operation amid Philippine hurdles

grab gojek
Lien Choong Luen, general manager of Go-Jek Singapore, explains the company's new driver benefits program at an event on March 27. (Photo by Kentaro Iwamoto)

SINGAPORE -- Indonesian ride-hailing operator Go-Jek will boost benefits for its drivers in overseas markets, in a bid to expand its fleet size in countries that are dominated by regional rival Grab. 

On Wednesday, Go-Jek announced that it will launch a drivers benefit program called GoalBetter in Singapore on April 1. The program includes medical leave insurance and online medical consultation services as well as fuel rebates.

As for medical leave insurance, Go-Jek has partnered with local insurance startup Gigacover, offering drivers earnings protection coverage of 80 Singapore dollars ($60) per day. The drivers pay a subsidized fee for the monthly insurance premium, ranging from SG$22.40 to SG$130.80 depending on their age. 

With respect to medical consultation, Go-Jek will tie up with Singapore telehealth app startup Doctor Anywhere, in which Go-Jek drivers can have smartphone-based video consultations with doctors at lower rates.

Raditya Wibowo, Go-Jek's global head of transport, told reporters that Go-Jek will introduce such a program in Vietnam and Thailand, which the company has already entered through local partners Go-Viet and Get, respectively. In Indonesia, Go-Jek began a similar program called Swadaya (self-help) in 2016, offering affordable health insurance and financial planning for drivers. 

"We think that taking care of our drivers is really important in any market," Wibowo said. "In Vietnam and in Thailand, we would first do an analysis on what would really help drivers the most there."

Go-Jek focused on its home market for years, then started regional expansion in 2018, starting with Vietnam, aiming to become Southeast Asia's regional super app offering various consumer services.

One of the challenges for Go-Jek in the regional expansion is building up drivers network and retain them so that it can offer sizable volume of services. Since Grab acquired Uber Technologies' regional business last March, most markets in Southeast Asia have been dominated by Grab.

In Singapore, there were about 45,000 private cars registered for ride-hailing as of December, of which Grab is estimated to control over 80%. Go-Jek declined to reveal its fleet size in Singapore, but "we have been growing steadily our driver supply," said Lien Choong Luen, general manager of Go-Jek Singapore. The benefit program is "definitely meant to help attract and retain the talent of our driver partners on our platform."

Go-Jek faces another hurdle in its overseas expansion. In January, the Philippine authorities rejected Go-Jek's entry due to restrictions on foreign ownership. Earlier this month, the Philippine transport regulator rejected Go-Jek's appeal.

Go-Jek is still keen to enter the Philippine market, and is researching potential entries into Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Earlier this year, Go-Jek raised a total of about $1 billion from Google, JD.com, Tencent Holdings, Mitsubishi Corp. and other investors. It said the funds raised would be used to "strengthen its presence in its rapidly expanding regional footprint," the company said in a statement. 

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