Now everyone can ride: Air Asia & Gojek merger
Only a few weeks after Gojek’s announcement of the merger with Tokopedia, Indonesia’s largest e-commerce platform, the ride-hailing unicorn surprises us again. The surprise comes from the nature of the deal, as well as from the partner sitting at the other side of the table.
What’s the deal?
Gojek has announced a all-share swap between its Thai business for a 4.76% stake in Air Asia’s “superapp” business. The Asian “superapp” business refers to the single-app-full-experience as delivered by, for example, Grab: on the same app, the consumer can book transport, order food or other deliveries, save, pay and even insure. The “superapps” profile themselves as a lifestyle companion.
Who’s Air Asia?
Air Asia is Asia’s largest low cost carrier, established in 1993. The company is declined into local affiliates, such as Thai Air Asia. The company is not only focusing on air travel, but has developed a wide range of non-air products and services including food, non-food deliveries, payments and e-commerce. The range of non-air services however didn’t include a ride-hailing option, which is now available in Thailand.
Gojek’s Kevin Aluwi explained the swap as a means for Gojek to continue investments in Vietnam and Singapore, the first being a high-potential country whilst Singapore is the center of gravity of competitor Grab’s business. There could however be some doubt on whether this is the only rationale; Air Asia Digital (the name of the non-air business) has already expressed its intention to go head-to-head with Grab and Gojek in Singapore, bringing a third party into a highly competitive and mature market. At the same time, Air Asia and Gojek didn’t exclude further collaborations in other South-East Asian countries.
So, will 3 parties take the risk of a loose-loose-loose scenario or are other strategies being developed? Gojek’s merger with e-commerce giant Tokopedia illustrates its intention to reinforce its ambitions to become a superapp (which Grab has achieved organically) and a region-wide collab with Air Asia can potentially give Gojek the leverage to differentiate from Grab.
What does it mean for the APAC Fleet Manager?
The APAC mobility ecosystem is developing at a pace that is unmatched by any other region. The concept of aggregating services has become the industry standard and the acceptance that transport is a mere commodity that one acquires on the go, has become a given.
Focusing on the car-as-a-default in APAC is therefore not the way forward, not only because of what’s described above, but also because of the pressure of traffic in Asian mega-cities and its effects on sustainability or wellbeing. Therefore, CSR imperatives as well as efficiency arguments point towards the defaulting of superapps, rather than company cars.
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