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Go-Jek in head-to-head fight with Grab for S-E Asian dominance

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Go-Jek - which will enter Singapore in November - is on course to build an empire of over 20 business verticals and take on Grab to become South-east Asia's most inclusive Super App.

Singapore

GO-Jek - which will enter Singapore in November - is on course to build an empire of over 20 business verticals and take on Grab to become South-east Asia's most inclusive Super App.

The Jakarta-based ridehailing company now operates 18 product lines spanning transport, logistics, beauty, food and video streaming among others, for which it sees 100 million orders monthly. It currently has a presence in Indonesia and Vietnam, and will expand to Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines next.

Grab, its regional rival, has some 15 product lines - fewer than Go-Jek, but a significantly larger presence across South-east Asia, having expanded to eight markets. Grab does not disclose its number of monthly orders.

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Niranjan Paranjape, chief technology officer (CTO) of Go-Jek, said at last week's Cloud Expo Asia conference that Go-Jek wants to be the one app for every need - and that is made possible only by support from its partners. One of these partners is ThoughtWorks, a Chicago-based creative technology consultant.

For more than three years now, Go-Jek has worked with ThoughtWorks to scale its platform, and rapidly develop and deploy new products in Indonesia, among them loyalty programme GO-POINTS and bill-paying service GO-BILLS.

Saptorsi Hore, ThoughtWorks' chief operating officer for India, told The Business Times in an interview that Go-Jek's goal is to build a platform on which it can "add products quickly". He said Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim had in 2015 approached ThoughtWorks with the aspiration to "launch 20 products in a year" and become a Super App.

This makes Go-Jek one of many companies that are increasingly hankering after Super App status, said Mr Hore. "Many clients, including large enterprises, now come to us with that ambition. I definitely see a consolidation of Super Apps in the future."

Mr Hore could not disclose names of such clients, but said ThoughtWorks is starting to see more large enterprises move beyond their traditional businesses by "creating ecosystems" through the building of scalable platforms.

Being a Super App gives a company more brand stickiness, engagement and data, he added. "By owning a Super App ecosystem, you own more touchpoints with your customers. Through those different touchpoints, you have information on all the interactions. From that, you know what else you can do."

While every Super App desires to offer multiple products to users, it must know that not every single product is going to be successful, said Mr Hore.

"Business agility is therefore about taking new products to market, testing them, failing and moving on."

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A large part of what ThoughtWorks does with Go-Jek is think of and test new products; refine Go-Jek's operations around cloud engineering and automation; and support Go-Jek in its adoption of new technologies.

Mr Hore said: "It's common for ThoughtWorks members to be part of Go-Jek's product teams, or to completely work out of Go-Jek's office."

At Cloud Expo Asia, Mr Paranjape highlighted Go-Jek's "ultra lean" engineering approach, which ThoughtWorks helped shape. Today, Go-Jek has some 200 engineers who oversee its 18 or so business verticals, or "one engineer for about half a million monthly users", he said.

"Ten good engineers is better than 100 average engineers," the CTO added.

When Go-Jek lands here, it is not expected to immediately offer its full, diverse range of products, which include on-demand massage service GO-MASSAGE, medicine-delivery service GO-MED and car-washing service GO-WASH. Commuters, however, will enjoy a new private-hire car service, as Go-Jek is said to have approached six local car rental firms to sign up private-hire car drivers and supply vehicles to those who do not have their own.

Grab declined to comment on Go-Jek's launch in Singapore. But what is clear is that come November, the Republic will become the newest battleground for the two South-east Asian ridehailing giants, unicorns and Super Apps.