Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

Indonesia's First Billion-Dollar Startup Looks to Expand Abroad

  • Jakarta-based startup mulling 3 to 4 Southeast Asian countries
  • CEO says Go-Jek’s looking at countries with large populations

Go-Jek, Indonesia’s first billion-dollar startup, is looking to expand its ride-hailing services to three to four countries in Southeast Asia, escalating its rivalry with Grab and Uber Technologies Inc.

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Nadiem Makarim didn’t specify the countries or services that Go-Jek will target, but said in an interview they will be places with a large population and where cash rules, hinting that Go-Jek’s digital payment service will be a key part of its push into new markets.

Nadiem Makarim

Photographer: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg

Singapore-based Grab, aided by massive funding from SoftBank Group Corp. and China’s Didi Chuxing, has pushed aggressively onto Go-Jek’s home turf. Grab, Southeast Asia’s largest on-demand transport company with operations in seven countries, is run by Anthony Tan, Makarim’s former classmate at Harvard Business School. For Go-Jek, this will be its first foray outside its home country.

“We’ve always been on the defensive,” Makarim said in Jakarta, without saying when Go-Jek would expand. “It’s time to bring competition to their doorsteps.”

After Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand have the most number of people in the region, with a combined population of about 270 million. Go-Jek and Grab have rolled out mobile digital-payment services, seeing it as a way to scale their businesses and build a potentially lucrative business by offering financial services to a large number of people with little access to banking.

“I think we’ve cracked the model of a platform that works in an emerging economy where infrastructure isn’t so great,” Makarim said. “There is a high likelihood that we would leverage our full stack. If we come in, we come in with the whole sweep of weapons.”

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