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Gojek's 35-year-old chief to join Jokowi's new Cabinet

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Nadiem Makarim hails from a prominent Indonesian family. He started Gojek in 2010 as a call centre as a business arranging couriers in Jakarta.

Singapore

INDONESIAN President Joko Widodo has offered the 35-year-old co-founder of the country's biggest startup, Gojek, a position in his new Cabinet, affirming the importance of the Internet sector in propelling Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Nadiem Makarim on Monday told reporters that he has accepted a Cabinet post after resigning with immediate effect as chief executive officer of the ride-hailing giant he started nine years ago. This leaves the US$10 billion startup, one of South-east Asia's largest, without its most visible leader at a time it is pursuing funding to compete with arch-rival Grab Holdings Inc.

Gojek said President Andre Soelistyo and co-founder Kevin Aluwi will be co-CEOs. The company will outline its next steps in the coming days, Gojek said a statement.

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Mr Joko, commonly known as Jokowi, will specify the role to be taken up by Mr Makarim later.

Mr Makarim's appointment - in line with the Indonesian president's stated desire to include professionals and millennials in his second-term team - shouldn't disrupt operations at Gojek, given its deep bench of experienced managers.

Willson Cuaca, managing partner of East Ventures, one of the most active Indonesian-focused venture capital firms, said: "This means President Joko's new Cabinet will be filled with young people with ability to execute. It shows that Indonesia appreciates what they've done for the country. For Gojek, it's reached a point that even if Nadiem resigns, it's business as usual."

The Gojek co-founder hails from a prominent Indonesian family. His grandfather was in the delegation that won the country's independence from the Netherlands in a 1949 conference at The Hague.

Mr Makarim, in announcing his resignation to reporters on Monday, said: "Since the beginning, my mission in Gojek has been to display Indonesia on the world's stage. So, this is a continuation of that mission, but this is certainly for the state and on a bigger scale."

Gojek is the largest player in an Indonesian Internet industry that is booming as smartphone adoption there explodes. The world's fourth most populous country with 264 million people has produced other unicorns such as Tokopedia and Bukalapak, which are driving e-commerce and the digital economy more generally.

Mr Makarim started Gojek in 2010 as a call centre arranging couriers in Jakarta. Back then, everything was done manually: Employees called motorbike drivers one by one until someone accepted an order. Mr Makarim had to work at other startups in order to sustain Gojek.

It was only in 2014 that he introduced a mobile app with backing from private equity investor Northstar Group. When that debuted in January 2015, the service was so popular that Gojek couldn't cope with demand, he said in an interview in 2016.

Gojek today has more than two million drivers and 400,000 merchants; its apps have been downloaded more than 155 million times in South-east Asia.

The company counts Google, JD.com Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd among its investors, and is seen as an icon for aspiring Indonesian entrepreneurs.

Bloomberg Businessweek has named Mr Makarim as one of 50 people who defined global business in 2018. BLOOMBERG