It’s a Payment War not Ridesharing Battle

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As it became official today — Kudo has just been acquired by Grab. This just confirmed my theory that I fought for in a WhatsApp conversation with a startup friend: This SE Asia region war isn’t in the ridesharing, but actually in the payment space — and Uber might be losing out.

Let’s look back and track how the two companies are doing it:

GoJek — yes they started with a ridesharing, and then expanded even more successfully in the food delivery space: GoFood. After that it keeps adding more use-cases (Go Massage, Go Glam, and more) and became an on-demand platform (for platform play, see WeChat in China).

At first, I was thinking that GoJek was aiming to become WeChat indeed — adding all things into one app and become the go to platform in our daily life. I heard they are even on the verge of closing a $1B round from Tencent (HA!)

After launching their payment platform, GoPay, and basically just subsidize the whole lot of usecases for the sake of people pumping money inside its wallet. Now, I’m confirmed that in fact this is a payment war.

It is the war to actually banking the unbanked

if you think about it GoJek are creating its own ecosystem with its drivers — they are essentially the drivers’ bank by holding their income and in fact even enabling them to buy things through its payment system. Imagine this: whatever things that GoJek sell to its drivers — most likely they might buy it e.g. micro insurance or even loan.

With GoJek present in technically all big cities and potentially all cities, it has the (huge) potential to become THE bank for people who are usually out of reach from the traditional banks.

Now on top of that growing ecosystem is also all the middle class who are becoming more and more used to using GoJek that having millions on its GoPay system are a norm now.

Back to the big news of the day (congratulations for Albert and Agung — you two never cease to amaze me, and can’t thank you guys enough to be our early paying customers), at the other side of the arena, Grab is a bit too late in expanding its use-cases, such as its GrabFood (May 2016) and even its payment system.

While its ride-sharing market share isn’t far from GoJek, it has to add more users and more use-cases to its platform to make the payment (or digital bank) works. Kudo, who’s basically went from 0 to $100m (the unconfirmed value of the acquisition) in just 2 years, has tens of thousands agents on the field who are giving access to:

a) e-commerce for those who aren’t familiar with it and doesn’t even trust it and, b) banking the unbanked again by its payment platform

By buying Kudo, Grab gained access to its ever expanding ground workers who are acquiring more and more users. While this might not beat GoPay, yet, it is a step in the right direction and in my opinion — they might be buying Kudo while it still can :)

I’m going to close this post with two predictions:

1) Similar players to Kudo such as Ruma (one of the most awesome – yet under the radar startup by the way!) and or Kioson might be on the radar of GoJek to expand its payment user base

2) GoJek might not be acquired by a “similar” player such as Uber and or Didi but in fact payment players such as Ant Financial.

What do you think? :)

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