JAKARTA: Indonesia is witnessing the rapid growth of Go-Jek, a transport-based super app which, like China’s WeChat, has moved outside of its original remit into multiple new functions.

Go-Jek, a play on ojek, a common form of unlicensed motorcycle taxi, opened the doors to its call centre in 2010 armed with 20 riders. The service launched an app five years later, when it began to expand financially and geographically.

The company, now Indonesia’s first billion-dollar tech start up, acquired three fintech companies in December 2017. These gave it control of an offline payment-processing firm, an online payment gateway, and a community-based savings and lending network, which saw it handling as much as US$5 billion worth of transactions.

By the beginning of this year, Go-Jek had caught the eye of western giant, Google, nudging its total valuation close to US$3 billion, having already secured serious funding from China’s JD.com, as the e-commerce company pushed into Southeast Asia. Between the two, Go-Jek has ridden a competitive wave as both East and West aim to overcome rivals to achieve dominance in the region.

Indonesia’s mobile-first attitude and the prevalence of cheap motorcycle travel to overcome notorious traffic in Jakarta, its capital, illustrates the unique circumstances in which the service has grown up: the widespread use of ojeks has enabled penetration into an older age group where a social-first service may have struggled.

It shares similarities with China's WeChat, however, is in its ability to expand vertically into further services, and horizontally into new local and international markets. Its full offer now adds cars to its motorbike taxi fleet, in addition to on-demand services, food, and shopping on-demand, and payment services.

In December, the Jakarta Post reported that the app had introduced some relatively rudimentary display ads for the latest Star Wars movie. Its innovation, however, was in allowing users to purchase merchandise using Go-Points, the company’s voucher service. With 15 million weekly active users, it has the potential to become an important reach channel, one in which the platform can guarantee human eyes.

According to a recent survey by Google and Temasek, Southeast Asia's fast-growth internet economy is on track to be worth $200 billion by 2025. Within this, ride hailing is expected to be worth over $20 billion. But the real prize will be in e-commerce, estimated to reach $88 billion, a pot for which Go-Jek aims to contend.

Sourced from Tech in Asia, Reuters, Google; additional content by WARC Staff