This August saw the launch of Go-Viet, a new urban ride-hailing company in Vietnam. Can Go-Viet repeat the phenomenal success that its parent company, Go-Jek, has had since starting up in Indonesia just eight years ago, and what does it take to grow your business across SE Asia?
IA's Marjolein Winkelman discusses strategy with IA director Claire Koch, and invites Loan Nguyen and Thu Hang Tran from the IA Vietnam office to take Go-Viet for a test drive to find out more...
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and that is certainly true when it comes to the unique architecture of the mega-cities of SE Asia, where high-density urban living, traffic gridlock and a young, entrepreneurial population on the move has led to the amazing success story of Go-Jek, the one stop shop for all your urban needs, delivered right to your door by bike.
IA picked up on this trend in Jakarta with a blog post way back in 2015, and since then the Go-Jek offer has expanded to provide services such as Go-Med, Go-Clean, Go-Tix, and even Go-Glam and Go-Massage. In fact, Go-Jek has become so popular in Jakarta that it is hard to imagine life without it: pick up your medicines, clean your house, order some tickets - you name it, Go-Jek it.
Now Go-Jek is expanding across the region, taking on rival courier company Grab with the launch in Vietnam of Go-Viet and the imminent launch of Get (Go-Jek Thailand). New services in Singapore and the Philippines are also on the cards.
This news made me smile, because in a funny sort of way the Go-Jek trajectory reminded me a bit of the InsightAsia story. Of course, Go-Jek is a multi-million dollar company that is way bigger and much younger than IA, but after all, IA also started in Indonesia, exploiting a gap in the market and providing exceptional service before spreading its wings to set up offices in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. So, I decided to ask IA founder and director Claire Koch for her recollections of starting out and what she remembers of growing the IA brand across the region.
'Well one thing I do think is interesting,' says Claire, 'is that we found it essential for IA to get to know the local scene, which is different for every country and market. SE Asia has similarities across the region that in turn differ from the US and Europe, but here there is such a rich and complex mix of cultures, traditions and histories that one size rarely fits all.' Claire thinks that understanding those differences was a key factor in the success of IA's initial expansion and continuing growth. 'It is interesting to note that Go-Jek have set up tailored brands and offers for each market they are entering. That seems like a good move and should keep them close to the needs of their customers.'
And now it is time to find out just what our local IA staff Loan and Hang thought of Go-Viet.
Not surprisingly, both Loan and Hang were after a good service at a reasonable cost. First impressions are important and the Go-Viet app is simple and easy to navigate, making it straightforward for users to order a bike. And when it arrives, the bright, new, colourful uniform that the driver is wearing is a definite plus. This may sound superficial, but in a business where you are hopping on a bike to be whizzed around town by a driver you have to trust, smart fresh uniforms are reassuring. As Loan puts it "with Grab, the driver’s uniform is old. I appreciate good service from drivers and good policies from their company." Likewise, Loan and Hang appreciated the clean new helmets supplied by Go-Viet - by contrast, Grab users can feel that they have to wear a helmet that is not as clean as it might be.
Not all Go-Viet drivers were in their new uniforms, however, and some were even wearing the Grab outfit. This was a definite minus point which both Loan and Hang found unsatisfactory.
Will Go-Viet revolutionise service provision and be another winner for Go-Jek?
The Go-Viet launch has been relatively low-key, starting out with just two services, Go-Bike and Go-Send, in three cities - Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Danang. (The full Go-Jek offer comprises 16 services in 50 cities). But both Loan and Hang were excited for the possibilities of additional new services coming to Vietnam in the future. Loan would like a bit of pampering with Go-Massage and Go-Clean, whilst Hang just laughs: "I am an easy customer" she says, "so it would be great to have all these services in Vietnam."
Overall, with an easy-to-use app and competitive introductory rates keeping prices low, first impressions from our testers of Go-Viet were positive. But it will be interesting to see if Go-Viet can maintain their shine once the dust settles. And how will Grab respond? The arrival of a new player in the market might provide an incentive for them to refresh their offer too.
Either way, the arrival of Go-Viet suggests that another game-changing, Go-Getting shake-up of urban city living is on the way across the region.