Digitization pushed Gojek to profitability after a decade

Digitization pushed Gojek to profitability after a decade. Source: Shutterstock

Gojek wants to spark up small businesses in Indonesia

  • Indonesian unicorn Gojek has kicked off an initiative to get local SMEs to commit to digital transformation
  • Over 90% of Indonesians are employed in the small-to-medium enterprise segment

Small-medium enterprises (SMEs) underpin economies around the world. That’s why, faced by a looming recession, getting them back on their feet is a key priority for governments and large businesses alike.

With Southeast Asia set to surpass 310 million digital consumers by the end of 2020 instead of the original forecast 2025, digitization is necessary for that recovery.

Singapore is injecting SME-targeted stimulus worth up to SG$3.5 billion (US$2.52 billion) this year, while Malaysia is coaxing growth via its Malaysia Digital Economic Corporation (MDEC) as the country’s manufacturing and agricultural operations are encouraged to embrace digitization on the road to becoming an Industry 4.0-ready society.

In China, IT heavyweights including Alibaba, JD.com, and Tencent have all announced a range of relief efforts targeting smaller businesses on the mainland, making digital productivity tools and even a B2B-oriented marketplace to encourage trade between smaller firms. Indonesia’s tech giants seem to be taking a similar tact in support of smaller businesses.

Gojek has launched its “#MelajuBersamaGojek” aimed to empower micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in its native Indonesia to digitize their business operations more easily. Indonesia’s most valuable startup launched the website which includes a range of digital solutions pulled from Gojek’s ecosystem, including support for marketing, order processing, payment, shipping, and administration, among other operational needs.

Digital-first services like its business management application GoBiz, e-wallet GoPay, food delivery app GoFood, and e-commerce service GoShop, are all part of the incentive package. Alongside these, Gojek is offering multiple training programs and community partnerships, including payment support with QRIS and Link Aja, as well as logistics providers Pos Indonesia, Paxel, and JNE, to help newly-digitalized SMEs complete their order fulfilments with limited contact with the end customer.

“It is very important for conventional MSMEs to transform into digital businesses so that they can adapt according to changes in consumer behavior who are now using more digital platforms to meet all their needs,” proclaimed Andre Soelistyo, Gojek’s co-CEO, adding that in the last four pandemic-stricken months, at least 120,000 new MSMEs have joined the Gojek ecosystem, and have managed to sustain their business in the midst of COVID-19.

Soelistyo cited research from the Demographic Institute of the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Indonesia, which found that a major majority of 94% of MSMEs who started going digital with the Gojek ecosystem were micro-businesses, while less than half (43%) were startup entrepreneurs.

Last month, Gojek began its true international expansion in earnest, announcing its flagship app’s availability in Vietnam, with the Thai market set to follow. Silicon Valley investors will likely be keeping an eye on the development of this Southeast Asian unicorn.

Gojek’s initiative is similar to that of competitor Grab’s. The Singapore-based ride-hailing giant Grab launched a business-to-business (B2B) service to help more small businesses across Southeast Asia go online and reap the benefits of business digitalization. While providing a digital ‘leg-up’ for businesses, the initiatives also generate a bigger client-base, bigger reach and, of course, more data. 

“COVID-19 has accelerated change. We have seen dependency on online services grow exponentially almost overnight,” said Hooi Ling Tan, co-founder of Grab.

“This is spurring innovation in Southeast Asia, but is also putting us at risk of widening the digital divide. Small businesses make up the backbone of Southeast Asia’s economy, but the vast majority of these businesses are offline.”