KUALA LUMPUR -- Indonesia's Go-Jek has received in principle approval to enter Malaysia, opening up a new front in the company's battle across Southeast Asia with Singapore-based ride-hailing giant Grab.
Go-Jek's fifth Southeast Asian market, the company's application was approved at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The decision comes days after Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim met with Mahathir in the premier's office in the administrative capital Putrajaya.
Nadiem was in Malaysia for business meetings which included meetings with Transport Minister Anthony Loke and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saadiq Syed Rahman.
Announcing cabinet's decision, Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof said the cabinet had discussed the proposal at length before giving the green light.
"Cabinet in principle has agreed for Go-Jek service to be implemented," Redzuan said. "The Youth and Sports Ministry and the Transport Ministry have been asked to work together and discuss what laws need to be amended or created to enable this service to be implemented in the country."
Redzuan said it was important to ensure that whatever was implemented did "not contravene the law."
Last year, Malaysia ruled out legalization of motorcycle ride-hailing services in order to safeguard riders and passengers. In 2017, the government banned local motorcycle ride-hailing service provider Dego Ride over safety concerns.
A Ministry of Transport analysis at the time found that the risk of motorcyclists being involved in fatal accidents was 42.5 times higher than that for buses and 16 times higher than that of cars.
Taxi operators are also warning of potential street protests if Gojek is allowed to operate in Malaysia.
Big Blue Taxi Services founder Shamsubahrin Ismail said taxi associations were opposed to moves to introduce motorcycle ride-hailing services, and instead wanted the government to focus on creating a level playing field between ride hailing companies and taxi drivers.
"Gojek as a career will not ensure a promising future, our youths deserve better than that," Shamsubahrin told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
Founded in 2010 as a motorcycle ride-hailing call center in Indonesia, Go-Jek has evolved into a self-described super app valued at over $10 billion, and offering more 20 services to millions of users across Southeast Asia.