Indonesian super app Gojek to increase investment in Viet Nam

Tuesday, Aug 11, 2020 10:00

Kevin Aluwi (left) and Andre Soelistyo, co-CEO of Gojek

This month GoViet, a popular ride-hailing app, was rebranded as Gojek. On Viet Nams streets now, people are getting used to the new green and black uniform with the Gojek logo in place of the red uniform of GoViet.

Viet Nam News speaks with the co-CEOs of Gojek, a decacorn from Indonesia, Andre Soelistyo and Kevin Aluwi, to understand more about the company and its rebranding in Viet Nam.

Gojek is one of the most successful start-ups in Southeast Asia. Tell us about its beginning …

Kevin Aluwi: The word Gojek is actually a play on the word “Ojek”, which means “motorcycle taxi” in Indonesia. As a company we believed that Ojek drivers were an under-utilised asset in Jakarta at the time. We were founded on the principle that drivers are actually trustworthy, hardworking people who just needed more opportunities.

What is important to note is that right now a lot of companies talk about being a super app - one app for many services. But in reality we have been this way from day one. When we launched the app in Jan 2015, we already had three different services. We did not see it as trying wanting to build a super app; we saw it from the perspective of the driver.

From driver- and customer-centric views, we expanded into many services. The expansions were part of our company's culture and philosophy of solving customers problems. We launched more and more of these services to address specific users' needs.

A few years ago we realised that what we had built in Indonesia with this customer-centric approach, which is an eco-system, was something we could take to other countries because problems to be solved and challenges to be taken were similar in other countries to what we saw in Indonesia.

Andre Soelistyo: The origin was owed to our obsession with delivering value to our users and reducing their friction, and by doing that we created this marketplace that started with our driver-partners, enabling them to be empowered and trusted because many of them are in the informal economy.

Over time what started as a focus on the user side and the driver side really expanded to the merchant side as well when we started introducing GoFood to the users six months after we first launched the app. Now we have a three-sided marketplace: the user, the driver and the merchant.

We realised that to reduce the friction that eventually the users can feel, each side of the marketplace is a really important side. What we've done over the last couple of years is not only building a super app for the user side, but also investing in building our capabilities and applications to help our drivers and merchants perform a better task, utilise our tools that eventually provide a much better experience to the overall system.

Last month GoViet announced it was rebranding itself as Gojek. Why was this change made at this time? Does it mean Viet Nam has become a strategic market for your company?

Andre Soelistyo: We saw a lot of similarities in Viet Nam as compared to Indonesia. That was really exciting for us as you know motorcycle taxis are a common concept in this market.

When we saw that Viet Nam has a similar concept as us, that was a big yes. What was important was to enable this driver partnering. We enabled and empowered them, helped them do many things and contribute to Viet Nams economic growth.

A lot of the interactions with Vietnamese people have been really exciting for us. We can see a lot of dedication and, most importantly, their loyalty and patriotism to help the country become better, which we think is similar to how Indonesians feel about our country. We also saw a lot of migration to online, starting from smartphone penetration and including adoption of many big social media platforms like Facebook, social messaging apps.

We also have a great local team that really came together three years ago. We found the right partners and felt great from a chemistry perspective to ensure there is always a localised approach to how we customise our services to the needs in the Viet Nam market.

Kevin Aluwi: The rebranding is something we've thought through for a while now and it's actually an important event for us because it signifies the importance of the Vietnamese market, and unifying the apps and the brands means we can offer even better services and products to our users.

There will also be additional benefits like having tourists from and to Viet Nam having the same consistent experience. So it's an important event that we finally got to take our brand and also to deliver a similar experience that we offer Indonesian customers.

When we first launched GoViet, our focus was just to get something up very quickly. But then as we saw the growth in Viet Nam and our approach of investing in local talent pay off, we decided to make an even bigger investment and that involved unifying the brand and apps while still retaining the very local flavour. The head of operations in Viet Nam has been with the company for several years since the beginning. We are really happy that the rebranding and unification brings together all the resources that we have in Indonesia while also retaining the local talent so that we can continue to serve in a way that is appropriate for Viet Nam.

How much will Gojek allocate to developing the Vietnamese market?

Kevin Aluwi: Very sizable because we do have a transition by customers from the old app to the new app. It is a significant investment and we will continue investing in the Vietnamese market.

Andre Soelistyo: There's no specific number we can share because every year we have business plans and investments to push growth. One thing we always mention is we started this globalisation platform a couple of years ago.

Viet Nam, we always believe, will be one of the largest contributors to the progress of SEA outside of Indonesia. That has been true since a couple of years ago, and we feel that the growth in this market can be really big, and we are very excited to bring in new services over time.

What are the biggest changes after the rebranding? Will consumers benefit from this change and how?

Kevin Aluwi: In the near term there are new and refreshed functions to improve the users' experience. A lot of different features that were not available in the GoViet app will be brought to Viet Nam. Features present in the Indonesian app will be here. In the longer term we can operate quicker. Previously we had to manage different apps, and it took longer to deploy separate things to separate apps in separate clusters. Now that everything is unified, it means we can be more responsive, we can improve things faster for Vietnamese customers.

Andre Soelistyo: With this unification of apps, our primary focus is to ensure migration to the new app and the user experience, driver migration is smooth and everything is working perfectly.

Going forward, we plan to bring more services to Viet Nam. It is being evaluated by the local team and headquarters. Over time we will add new services. But we dont have a timeline yet for when cars or other services will be launched. When our team and the market are ready, we will do that quickly.

Sharing economy is now becoming a popular concept. How important is the sharing economy in the region and what should companies do to take the advantage of it?

Kevin Aluwi: The sharing economy has been a topic discussed very often over the last couple of years. I think if you look at most countries in Southeast Asia, the sharing economy really works. The core concept behind it is that many assets are underutilised, and those can be hard assets like apartments, houses, cars, or motorcycles, and on a personal level it can be time.

They found people who have underutilised assets or time, and in our case both, and figured a way to monetise and derive revenues from the assets.

The potential is really large when we start putting together various players who all have excess assets and time and connect them to customers who will pay for that. Generally speaking, the way of seeing the world this way, where there is always a way to connect demand and underutilised assets, is something that as a concept will have a lot of different applications. Some of those applications we will build as part of our core business, but I think many other companies in Viet Nam and Southeast Asia will figure out interesting ways to increase productivity and monetise assets through this sharing economy concept.

I think we are only really in the early stages of where it can go because everywhere you look there are underutilised assets and time that can potentially be more productive. – VNS

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