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Technology

Mitsubishi hops on Gojek to navigate Southeast Asia business

Trading house taps super app to strengthen foothold in Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines

Gojek offers delivery and finance on top of its signature ride-hailing service.

TOKYO -- Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp. is hunting for new business opportunities with Indonesian ride-hailing unicorn Gojek in mobility services and beyond as the automotive industry faces a once-in-a-century shift.

"For the last 60 years, we have expanded our automotive operations hand-in-hand with car makers. That is about to change," Kyoya Kondo, a general manager at Mitsubishi Corp.'s Automotive and Mobility Group, said recently.

Kondo said he believes that future competition will center on connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles, as well as mobility as a service. "They will have a bigger impact than motorization," he said.

Amid this shift, Mitsubishi Corp. chose to partner with Gojek over numerous other mobility companies to gain a home-field advantage in Southeast Asia. Dubbed a "super app" by founder Nadiem Makaram, Gojek has quickly expanded beyond ride-hailing to grocery deliveries and electronic payments.

The Japanese company invested in Gojek in spring, and expanded its stake in the summer. Mitsubishi Corp. wants to combine its long and varied business experience in the region to create new drivers for growth.

Mitsubishi Corp. has long operated automotive businesses with Mitsubishi Motors and Isuzu Motors in Indonesia and Thailand. It also formed a partnership with Indonesian retailer Alfa Group in 2011, and is expanding the Lawson 108 convenience store chain in Thailand with the local Saha Group. In the Philippines, Mitsubishi Corp. has worked with Ayala Group for over 40 years in areas like real estate and utilities.

The Japanese company hopes to bring its manufacturing, logistics and retail experience in Southeast Asia to produce new services and bolster existing ones with Gojek. "We will actively be involved as a strategic partner, not just as an investor," said a manager at Mitsubishi Corp.

The Gojek partnership will serve as a touchstone for Mitsubishi Corp.'s reforms. The company has created specialized teams to focus on digital strategy and business creation under its midterm plan through March 2022.

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