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Here Comes GoTo: The Story of Indonesia’s Very Own Tech Giant

As GoTo, Indonesia’s largest tech company, held its initial public offering today (12 April 2022), it is a good time to look back on how it got to this historic occasion. GoTo is the holding company for ride-hailing service Gojek and e-commerce platform Tokopedia, two companies that have shaped the lives of consumers and businesses in Indonesia and beyond. Gojek is Indonesia's homegrown super app, providing more than 20 different services from cashless payments to food deliveries. Tokopedia is an e-commerce platform that not only offers the standard online retail experience, but also serves the distinct needs of a predominantly Muslim market.

goto executives at indonesia stock exchange
GoTo executives celebrating a successful IPO (Credit: GoTo)

Channel News Asia reported that GoTo's rise from strength to strength has ensured financial backing from firms like Alibaba, SoftBank, Alphabet (Google’s parent firm), Tencent and Temasek Holdings, which mostly reads like a who's who of some of the world's largest tech businesses. So how did GoTo get to where it is today? It starts, of course, as all businesses do. People have needs and the business aims to meet them. In Gojek's case, for instance, people needed a ride. Soon, it turned out to be everything else.

Recent visitors to Indonesia may have noticed Gojek’s ubiquitous green and black helmeted motorbike riders around town, and this is no accident. The “Go” in GoTo started life in 2010 as a company meant to meet a peculiar Indonesian need. The company’s name comes from “ojek”, the Indonesian term for a motorbike taxi. It started because founder Nadiem Makarim saw two problems: ojek drivers were sitting around for passengers and passengers found it hard to spot an ojek even if they wanted to ride one. Gojek was meant to connect both, and it started life as a call centre where operators would receive passenger requests and pass them off to affiliated ojek drivers. As smartphone use became more prevalent in Indonesia, the company launched the first version of what would become Indonesia’s first homegrown super app to make the matching process easier.

Today, users of Gojek’s super app are in four countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and its home Indonesia), allowing them to access its 20+ businesses. Among them are food delivery service GoFood, courier service GoSend and the GoPay electronic wallet. With these businesses, the company claims to have added US$7.1 billion in value to the Indonesian economy in 2019. The pandemic may have helped improve its fortunes as GoFood riders were kept busy delivering food to people under lockdown, for instance.

gosend rider
Credit: GoTo

Tokopedia, on the other hand, was founded a year before Gojek (2009) and aims to do for Indonesia’s retail sector what Alibaba has done in China: provide a platform for customers to buy from various merchants, particularly homegrown ones. Over the years, the company has expanded its business line to cover fintech products (which helps smooth transactions between its clients) and provide specialised services in the world’s largest Muslim country such as Tokopedia Salam (launched in 2020), which highlights Sharia-compliant businesses and facilitates Umrah visits to Mecca for pilgrims.

In May 2021, the two businesses established a common holdings company called GoTo, following a six-year partnership between the companies that began when Gojek agreed to serve as one of Tokopedia’s delivery services. Around the same time, Gojek’s fintech businesses were spun off to form a separate firm called GoTo Financial. The new company accounted for 2% of Indonesia’s GDP at that time, but with today’s IPO, it is certain to be worth more than that. As GoTo celebrates a new chapter in its ongoing story, its companies' role in making the lives of people at home and abroad much better is something we will continue to watch. Like ojek drivers taking their passengers across town, these proudly Indonesian tech businesses continue to give what their clients want. That is what technology does at its very best.

  • GoTo, the parent holdings company of Indonesian tech firms Gojek and Tokopedia, had its initial public offering today, raising more than US$1.1 billion from local investors and marking a new chapter in the history of its two component companies.

  • Gojek grew from being a business meant to connect motorbike taxi drivers and passengers to a super app company with at least 20 different services for its users in four Southeast Asian markets.

  • Tokopedia is an e-commerce platform serving Indonesian businesses and consumers and provides some services specific to the world’s largest Muslim country.

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