Car Industry

Ride-hailing firm Go-Jek goes head-to-head with Grab in Singapore

The Indonesian ride-hailer's arrival has been expected for months.

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Screenshot by Zoey Chong/CNET

There's a new contender to dominate the ride-hailing market in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia-based ride-hailing firm Go-Jek is stepping up efforts to expand in the region with the rollout of a beta app in Singapore, it announced Thursday.

Access to the app at this phase will roll out in batches to "balance ride demand and service capabilities," the company said in a statement. Go-Jek counts tech giants Google and Tencent as backers.

Go-Jek says the app is available from today in iOS and Android versions. At time of writing, CNET was able to download the app on an iPhone, but we couldn't find it on Google Play.

The launch of the beta app comes after Go-Jek opened up driver registration in the city-state last month, fuelling expectations that a full launch could arrive as soon as early next year -- it took six weeks for the company to officially operate in Vietnam following a soft launch in the last quarter.

In an email to CNET, Go-Jek says it won't launch under a different name like it did in Vietnam (where its app is called Go-Viet).

"Our expansion strategy involves talking to stakeholders within each local market to determine what will work best for them. For Singapore, our discussions revealed that  there was enough brand recognition and understanding of our company to justify the usage of the Go-Jek brand," a spokesperson told CNET.

When Go-Jek finally lands in Singapore, it will up the competition among the country's ride-hailing companies. Grab is the reigning champion since absorbing Uber's businesses in the region earlier in the year. The buyout triggered contention from people who thought it was anticompetitive in nature, despite the presence of cab companies and other ride-hailing companies in Singapore such as Ryde and Tada. Grab and Uber were both slapped with a fine amounting to $9.5 million by the local competition watchdog in September.

In addition to ride-hailing services, Go-Jek provides many other offerings back home in Indonesia and in Vietnam, including food delivery and digital payment. The company told CNET it will begin by offering its ride-hailing service in Singapore first because it provides "more choice and immediate benefits to riders and drivers" in the city state. It will determine which other services it should introduce to the market next based on customer feedback. Grab already provides various offerings in the region in addition to ride-hailing services as part of efforts to become an "everyday superapp" such as food and grocery delivery.

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

First published Nov. 28 at 8:15 p.m. PT.
Update, Nov. 29 at 12:29 a.m. PT: Adds comments from Go-Jek.  

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