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airasia Digital acquires Gojek's Thai ops

airasia Digital acquires Gojek's Thai ops

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Airasia Digital is acquiring Gojek's operations in Thailand in what is described as a win-win deal to rev up the expansion of the airasia super app in ASEAN, while enabling Gojek to increase investments in Vietnam and Singapore. In return, Gojek will receive shareholding in the airasia super app whose market value is around US$1 billion, the release said. The deal provides both parties with a strong foundation to explore additional opportunities for collaboration and synergies in ASEAN. According to group CEO Tony Fernandes during a virtual press conference today, this is an all-share deal worth US$50 million in total. Gojek's investment is valued at US$40 million while GoPay's is at US$10 million. According to him, these will be transferred into shares for the airasia super app, which is valued at US$1 billion. 

He added that moving forward, the airasia brand will be promoted aggressively in Thailand while the Gojek brand will no longer carry any prominence in the market. "The benefits for us is that we have been known for low fares, good value and inclusivity among the Thais. But the obvious added advantage is that many Thais have a lot of BIG Rewards points and the AirAsia Bangkok Bank credit card is also one of the biggest cards in Thailand. These will be brought into the ecosystem," he said. 

As part of its commitment to Thailand, the airasia super app will continue leveraging the existing ecosystem services for riders, merchants and customers while adding new offerings, such as groceries and beauty items. It will seek regional expansion into new markets such as Chiang Mai and Phuket in the near future. The Gojek app will continue to operate for existing users in Bangkok through to 31 July 2021 to ensure stability for Gojek drivers and merchants, who will be invited to onboard the airasia super app in the coming weeks.

The airline said it will work with the existing Gojek team in Thailand, which will operate the Gojek business during the transition period before moving over to the airasia super app, bringing local market expertise and a deep understanding of Thai users' needs to the business. Fernandes said it will be a seamless transition and no redundancies. "We want to grow and add people to this. There will also be career opportunities for our All-Stars in Thailand," he added. 

Fernandes said that the announcement is "the start of a tremendous long term strategic partnership with Gojek which is sure to rock the industry". He added that the acquisition further pushes airasia into ASEAN and Thailand becomes its next big port of call. When airasia first launched 18 years ago, Fernandes said his first foray outside of Malaysia was Thailand. With this acquisition, airasia aims to be "as good as Agoda and Traveloka", supplementing the business with the offerings that Gojek has built, especially on the payments and super app fronts. 

“All of our digital businesses are going from strength to strength and through this alliance, our goal of becoming the ASEAN super app of choice is fast becoming a reality," Fernandes added. Fernandes' belief in airasia becoming even more successful in Thailand following the acquisition stems from the vast amount of data that the airline has accumulated over 19 years. Its ecosystem of fintech and logistics offerings will also enable it to succeed, he said, adding:

This is about resources and we have been in Thailand a lot longer than Gojek. Our brand in Thailand is significantly larger. We have a large brand, huge database and are omnipresent in every major and secondary city.

The airline officially launched its super app last October with over 15 types of products and services under the pillars of travel, eCommerce and fintech previously. Among the list of categories included flights, hotels, SNAP, activities, insurance, Big Rewards, unlimited deals and wifi.

Since then, it has expanded into various areas such as Singapore's food delivery and groceries scene and introduced a chat function for the super app. This year, it also launched unlimited flights to destinations including Alor Setar, Langkawi, Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru within Malaysia, as well as other ASEAN destinations such as Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Amanda Woo was named CEO of the super app in May, replacing Karen Chan who took on a board position.

airasia gojek

Gojek doubles down on Singapore and Vietnam

At the same time, in a realignment of its international strategy, Gojek is increasing investment in its Vietnam and Singapore operations, having identified these markets as strong sources of growth for the business going forward. This includes increased driver and merchant acquisition initiatives, enhancements to user experience as well as launching new products and services.

Gojek CEO Kevin Aluwi, said the deal is a testament to the accomplishments of its team in Thailand, which grew the business from nothing to an on-demand service provider. "The business was built on a huge amount of talent and passion and we will, of course, work closely with our Thai employees as well as airasia through this transition. We are proud of and deeply grateful for everything Gojek Thailand has achieved, as well as for our loyal Thai consumers and driver and merchant partners," he said.

The ride-hailing company will soon launch its GoCar service in Vietnam as well as its cashless payments service to customers in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in the coming weeks. It also added GoFood to the list of offerings in Thailand for consumers and launched a week-long campaign to provide users with free rides to vaccination centres in Vietnam. Similarly, Gojek also offered two ride vouchers worth SG$15 each for Singaporean users and tapped on six influencers to promote its vaccination initiative.

Aluwi said during the press conference that Gojek recently became the number one free app in the Singapore app store on both iOS and Android. "We have seen the Singapore business grow from strength to strength over the last couple of weeks. We also have GoTaxi which allows Singaporean customers to book taxi rides on our app in Singapore," he said. 

Through this partnership with airasia, Gojek is confident that its achievements in Singapore and Vietnam can also be replicated in Malaysia. "We are confident that the airasia team can go from strength to strength to take our Thailand business to the next level," he added.

Last month, Gojek announced that it is merging with Tokopedia to form GoTo Group, marking the largest ever business combination in Indonesia and the largest between two Asia-based Internet media and services companies to date. Aluwi remains Gojek's CEO following the merger. Meanwhile, CNBC also reported that the company is planning for its IPO this year. 

Aluwi clarified that the IPO process "had very little to do with this specific decision". Instead, the decision to sell its Thailand ops to airasia Digital was based on where the company could really commit the resources in order to ensure its teams have a path towards market leadership, Aluwi said, reiterating that the company sees that in Singapore and Vietnam. "Hence our commitment there is as strong, if not stronger than ever. Our IPO is going as planned and so is our commitment to Singapore and Vietnam," he explained.

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