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Go-Jek rides through regulatory obstacles for SE Asia expansion

Malaysia and Myanmar in sight for Indonesian unicorn, president says

The brand of Go-Jek is permeating every scene of Indonesian people's daily lives.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Undeterred by recent regulatory setbacks, Indonesian ride-hailing operator Go-Jek will continue to pursue growth in Southeast Asia, with plans to enter two new markets in the region this year.

By the end of this year, the company hopes to be operating in six countries and rank first or second in market share in some Southeast Asian nations, besides its home, Go-Jek President Andre Soelistyo told Nikkei.

Filipino authorities denied Go-Jek's entry in January for violating rules that require local units to be at least 60% owned by domestic shareholders. The hitch has not discouraged Soelistyo, however, who said "we are now adjusting our application to make sure that we comply with what the country needed."

"I don't think it is right to say we are getting blocked from entering the market," he added.

Go-Jek secured a foothold in the Philippines the week after its rejection by investing in local smartphone payment startup Coins.ph. The company expects the ride-hailing and mobile-payment services to reinforce each other.

Go-Jek -- one of Indonesia's "unicorns," or unlisted companies worth over $1 billion -- is now doing market research for Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia. "Malaysia, this is a big market, and Myanmar is an exciting market," Soelistyo said.

Go-Jek President Andre Soelistyo. (Photo by Shin Watanabe)

After entering Vietnam in August, Go-Jek reached 40% market share in four months for two-wheel transport, according to Soelistyo. The company has also launched a food-delivery service in Ho Chi Minh City and is exploring other major metropolitan areas for expansion.

But Go-Jek's Vietnamese operations were launched under its local partner's Go-Viet app. Singapore-based rival Grab, by contrast, has been able to expand to eight countries under a single brand.

In Singapore, Go-Jek controls 20% to 25% of the ride-hailing market after launching there in December, and has begun some services in Thailand, according to Soelistyo.

The company has received funding from Google as well as Chinese e-commerce heavyweights Tencent Holdings and JD.com. New investor Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp in January took part in a $1 billion funding round that also included existing shareholders

"There is a lot of learning from the best," Soelistyo said. On Tencent, he called WeChat Pay "one of the greatest payment products globally."

"We learn a lot in terms of what to do, what not to do," he added.

The company wants to explore partnerships not only in business-to-consumer products but also logistics and other business-to-business services, according to Ryu Suliawan, its head of merchants.

Go-Jek also remains open to new investors.

"We are still a very high-growth company which needs capital from time to time," Soelistyo said.

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