Ready, set... Gojek takes off in Singapore, with app in beta form

INDONESIAN firm Gojek on Thursday launched the beta version of its app in Singapore, which the firm said will give "hundreds of thousands" of people first access to its ride-hailing service.

The beta phase is expected to take place over a few weeks, with a full version of the app to be rolled out in early 2019.

During the beta launch, Gojek's service areas will cover more than half of Singapore, including the Central Business District, Jurong East, Changi, Punggol, Ang Mo Kio and Sentosa. These areas were chosen based on population density, said Gojek. It will progressively expand its coverage throughout the beta phase.

The ride-hailing service will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Users have to download the app and sign up for an account, after which they will be placed on a wait-list and receive an email or push notification once access is granted.

During the beta phase, access to the app will be granted in batches "to balance ride demand and service capabilities", but DBS card members will get priority on the wait-list, as part of Gojek's partnership with DBS Bank.

Gojek and DBS announced their strategic partnership for regional payment services during the Singapore FinTech Festival earlier this month. On Thursday, Gojek said, in response to queries, that its e-wallet Go-Pay will not be integrated into the beta app.

Other privileges available to DBS card members include a S$5 voucher credit which riders can use for each of their first two trips, and future discounts on the ride-hailing service in the form of "promo codes".

Gojek's base fare is S$2.70, and each kilometre costs an additional S$0.65. The firm said that it will not introduce dynamic pricing for now.

Rival Grab charges a base fare of S$2.50 for its private hire cars, a per km rate of S$0.50 and a per minute rate of S$0.16. It applies dynamic pricing based on the demand-supply ratio of cars in the area.

Gojek's drivers, who are not subject to an exclusivity clause, will pay a 20 per cent commission fee for each ride. The firm said that "tens of thousands" of drivers registered through its portal launched last month, but declined to reveal how many drivers were onboarded.

Private car drivers with Grab similarly pay a 20 per cent commission when using the GrabCar and JustGrab platform.

For taxi drivers, Grab charges 60 cents for standard metered taxi rides booked on the app, 3 per cent for JustGrab fares below S$10 and 12 per cent for JustGrab fares $11 and above. For GrabHitch, drivers pay a 10 per cent platform fee for each ride.

Gojek president Andre Soelistyo said: "It is with great pride that we begin the roll-out of our services in Singapore. Consumers throughout the country have told us that they want more choice in this sector and with the launch of our beta app, their wait is coming to an end."

Mr Soelistyo added: "We are launching in beta for now, while we fine-tune our service to make sure it meets the high standards expected by Singaporeans. As such, we are asking all users, whether drivers or passengers, to provide us with ongoing feedback as we work towards creating the best possible service for the country."

Gojek's entry into Singapore has been highly anticipated by consumers after Uber was swallowed up by Grab in March this year when the US firm's South-east Asia's operations were acquired after a battle for market share which also involved local taxi firms.

Talk of Gojek in discussions with ComfortDelGro over a partnership surfaced in April. The company did not confirm or deny the rumour, but told BT on Thursday: "We're open to partnering with any firms that will help us meet our supply and strategic needs."

Gojek, one of South-east Asia's unicorn startups, is backed by investors including Google, Tencent, Temasek and Meituan-Dianping. The firm said in May that it would invest US$500 million in its international expansion strategy to enter markets in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

On its homeground of Indonesia, Gojek's app has been downloaded more than 108 million times by users in Indonesia as at October 2018. It has partnered over one million drivers and more than 30,000 service providers throughout the country, while seeing over 100 million transactions per month.

In Vietnam, which Gojek entered in September this year under the brand name Go-Viet, the company achieved a 35 to 40 per cent market share in six weeks, according to Mr Soelistyo.

Fellow unicorn Grab, which now has presence in eight countries in South-east Asia, does not reveal statistics for each country. But regional figures provided by the company in November this year show that the app has seen 125 million mobile downloads, with 8.5 million micro-entrepreneurs across its network.

In response to Gojek's launch, Lim Kell Jay, head of Grab Singapore, said: "We welcome competition. We believe more choice in the market enables innovation and promotes a higher level of service in the industry."