Gojek rolls out beta version of app with ride limitations

Indonesian ride-hailing firm Gojek has launched a beta version of its app here.

Beta is tech talk for prototype, which means changes and modifications may be in the offing.

The app went live yesterday afternoon, and indications are that a full launch will be held early next year. During the beta phase, only rides beginning and ending in the eastern and south-central part of Singapore will be available.

Gojek president Andre Soelistyo said: "It is with great pride that we begin the roll-out of our services in Singapore. We are launching in beta now while we fine-tune to make sure it meets the high standards expected in Singapore."

During the beta phase, access to the app will be granted in batches "to balance ride demand and service capabilities". Priority will be given to cardholders of DBS Bank, Gojek's payment partner here.

Gojek has been signing up drivers in recent weeks, but it is not known how many will swing over from the incumbent dominant app, Grab.

The Straits Times understands that some 20,000 drivers have expressed interest in signing up with the newcomer, but the firm would not reveal how many have actually downloaded the app.

Mr Soelistyo, 35, said "there will be promotions initially", when asked how Gojek will differentiate itself from Grab. Also, there will not be any dynamic pricing - where fares surge during peak hours - during this period. "But once things stabilise, we hope pricing will not be the key determinant for people using us," he added.

He said it will be the "little details" which will set Gojek apart. For drivers, its commission rate is 20 per cent - the same as Grab.

Drivers will also be able to withdraw their earnings on a daily basis, something which Grab introduced early this year.

Mr Soelistyo would not say how long promotions will last. "Who knows? The competition might do the same," he added.

The multi-function app firm - its services in Indonesia include food, massages and payment - has set aside US$500 million (S$686 million) to expand in South-east Asia, going head-to-head with Grab.

 
 
 

It started a motorcycle-hailing service in Vietnam three months ago, and has rolled out food delivery there. By mid-December, it will have a beta launch in Thailand, followed by the Philippines next year.

Mr Soelistyo said Gojek has 105 million app users in South-east Asia, just behind Grab's 110 million. But unlike diversified Grab, Gojek's main market is still Indonesia, where it was founded in 2010.

Gojek aims to go for a public listing in "three to five years' time", but the group as a whole is still not yet profitable. "Some parts are profitable," he said. "But we can't reveal which."

In his opening address to the media yesterday morning at Gojek's office in AXA Tower, Mr Soelistyo attributed the app provider's success to "50 per cent luck and timing".

"We were not super awesome or defying gravity," he said, explaining that the explosive smartphone penetration rate which helped change consumer behaviour catalysed the firm's growth.

"The other 50 per cent was our belief that if you place trust in humankind, you will be surprised by what is possible," he said. "No one believed that women would take a motorbike for transport. No one believed that food delivery would be trusted."

Meanwhile, Grab Singapore head Lim Kell Jay said: "We welcome competition. We believe more choice in the market enables innovation and promotes a higher level of service in the industry."

Commuter Bryan Tan said he looked forward to using Gojek. "I have used it in Indonesia before. Its coverage there is better than Grab's," he said. "I am happy that it is here. Competition is good for any market."

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