Gojek 'only for the poor' resistance in Malaysia is part and parcel of expansion

Now an esteemed home-grown decacorn, multi-billion dollar ride-hailing giant Gojek used to be rejected at home. Many may remember massive protests by conventional taxi and motorcycle taxi drivers and the furor over Gojek disrupting their business.

Now history repeats itself for Gojek, which currently also operates in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. After failing to secure a license to operate in the Philippines earlier this year, Gojek is now seeing public resentment in Malaysia.

A viral video recently showed the founder of Big Blue Taxi Malaysia, Shamsubahrin Ismail, speaking up against Gojek’s plan to enter the country, saying “Gojek services are only for poor people” such as those in Jakarta, Thailand, India and Cambodia.

“These are poor countries, we are a rich country. Our young people are not like Indonesia. If Indonesia’s young people are good they would not go overseas to find jobs. Gojek is only for poor people like in Jakarta,” Shamsubahrin said in a speech recorded on camera just after the Malaysian government gave Gojek the green light to operate in Malaysia.

Shamsubahrin later apologised as Indonesian drivers grouped under the Two-Wheel Action Movement (Garda) laid out a plan for a massive street demonstration in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta involving thousands of motorcycle taxi drivers.

“Today, I want to apologise to all Indonesians because I have labelled them poor. However, I also warn our country, our kingdom, that if it wants to bring Gojek into Malaysia, they are welcome, I don’t have any problems. But please keep passengers safe,” said Shamsubahrin as quoted by Malaysia National News Agency, Bernama.

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Gojek responded to the issue calmly, saying: “Regarding the latest situation, we believe there is always a way to find a solution that works best for all parties.”

“Gojek always prioritizes collaboration with the government and other stakeholders in countries where we operate, as we do in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore,” Gojek chief of corporate affairs Nila Marita told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

It's a go for bike e-hailing in Malaysia

Nila added that Gojek was always looking for opportunities to bring its technology to benefit more people and users in Southeast Asia. “This will naturally include carefully reviewing the local opportunities, challenges and regulations that exist,” she said.

Garda is still planning to convey its sentiments in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Kuningan, South Jakarta, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, despite the apology from the Malaysian businessman.

“We have filed a report to the Jakarta Police that we will conduct a press conference and [street] demonstration as a response to the apology statement issued by the Malaysian taxi boss,” Igun told the Post on Thursday.

The Transportation Ministry expected Garda not to carry on with the plan which could potentially prolong the misunderstanding, the ministry’s land transportation director general Budi Setyadi said.

“Don’t let this issue disrupt the harmonious relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia, because diplomatic relations between the two countries are good,” Budi added.

The Malaysian government has agreed in principle to Gojek’s proposal to operate in the country, pending a legal review that would involve Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Ministry and the Transportation Ministry, according to a recent Bernama report.

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No monopoly for Go-Jek, Malaysian ministers assure

Earlier this month, Gojek executives including co-founder Nadiem Makarim met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and related ministries to discuss Gojek’s plans to expand its services in Malaysia.

Gojek, which began as a delivery call centre with 20 drivers and now has more than 1 million drivers after nine years of operation, has announced in May 2018 its expansion plan to enter Southeast Asian markets with a US$500 million (S$694 million) initial investment for its international expansion strategy.

Today, Gojek operates in 20 eclectic submarkets with gross transaction volume (GTV) across Southeast Asia reaching $9 billion last year. GoFood and GoPay in Indonesia alone contributed $6.3 billion and $2 billion, respectively.

Fueling regional expansion, Gojek has secured most of its ongoing Series F funding round, which aims to raise US$2.5 billion this year. Gojek last announced that it had secured $250 million from Indonesian automotive giant Astra International and two undisclosed amounts from Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors and America’s Visa.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that Inc. was in talks to invest in Gojek to join its ongoing funding round, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Gojek declined to comment on market rumour and speculation.


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