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Rumored $18 Billion Gojek-Tokopedia Deal Spotlights Lure Of The ‘Super App’

In Indonesia, in the battle to build “super apps” that keep consumers sticky as they conduct any number of daily tasks – from ride-hailing to eCommerce, while paying for it all – is bringing key players together in multi-billion-dollar deals.

As reported on Tuesday (Jan. 5), the country’s ride-hailing and payments platform Gojek is in talks with eCommerce firm Tokopedia for an $18 billion merger. The combined firm may go public, as noted by Bloomberg, citing sources. The firms are in the midst of conducting due diligence, according to media reports – and we note that, as always, no deal is final until the ink is dry.

But it’s worth drilling down into the companies – and the rise of super apps in particular – to understand the allure of such a linkup.

For one thing, multi-service platform operator Gojek seems actively on the hunt to merge with a startup that would broaden its reach and scope. A rumored deal between Gojek and Grab Holdings fell apart. Tokopedia, focused on eCommerce, had reportedly been in the crosshairs of a blank-check acquisition firm (Bridgetown Holdings), more commonly known as a SPAC.

Indications are that both companies are looking to do a deal. Bloomberg reports that the firms are mulling a range of options for a public listing, which span a traditional IPO or working with SPACs to come to market.

The Strategy – and Indonesia’s Appeal

If the lure of a listing is there, what about the strategic value of a tie-up? Reuters notes that Tokopedia stands as the No. 2 online shopping site (in terms of market share) in the country, behind Singapore-based rival Sea. Gross merchandise value for eCommerce grew 54 percent year on year to reach $32 billion last year, according to a Google report cited by Reuters.

As reported in Nikkei Asia, the combination would bring two firms together in a complementary manner. The publication cited an unnamed person with “knowledge of the matter,” who stated that a Gojek-Grab merger would “dominate in markets like ride-hailing and food delivery,” but they are a “low entry-barrier business,” the investor added. “But Gojek and Tokopedia is one plus one becoming 11. Ride-hailing and food delivery [are] high-frequency and low-ticket items, and eCommerce is a slightly less frequency and middle-ticket item. [A merged company would] cover the range of transactions.”

In terms of scale, Gojek has about 38 million monthly active users stretching across five Southeast Asian countries. Indonesia-based Tokopedia has 100 million users in that country – which, of course, would give a tie-up critical mass.

Gojek has continued to make inroads in Indonesia. Late last month, the company said it had invested in Indonesia-listed technology-based Bank Jago. That’s a bid to offer a broad range of digital banking services, where Indonesia has one of the largest unbanked populations in the world – about 95 million adults, or 52 percent of adults in the country, are unbanked and 47 million are underbanked, according to World Bank Data.

As Karen Webster wrote in 2019 – before the pandemic made digital-first consumers of us all – the everyday app, done well, “becomes the front door for how consumers interact with and purchase goods and services as they go about their everyday activities.” The goal is to make life easier for consumers, monetizing activities for interactions and transactions as new ecosystems are created on mobile devices – enabled, of course, by platforms such as Gojek’s.

As 2021 dawns for the continued rise of the super app, then, the tie-ups begin.

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