China is taking its high-tech show on the road, looking to export its money and expertise to nearby Southeast Asia.
On the streets of Jakarta, more than 10,000 motorcycle drivers now provide ride-hailing, delivery and other services. They’re divided into two groups: those wearing mostly green jackets with black trim who work for Gojek; and those wearing mostly black jackets with green trim who work for Grab.
Jakarta-based Gojek and Singapore-headquartered Grab are the two most valuable tech startups in Southeast Asia. Competing in ride-hailing, food delivery, digital payment and other services, the two are engaged in cash-burning turf wars in Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and beyond.
They are fighting to build a super app to dominate a Southeast Asia market of 600 million people.
Gojek’s investors include Chinese tech giants Tencent, Meituan Dianping and JD.com, alongside global giants like Google, Visa Inc. and KKR. Grab boasts an equally impressive list of backers, including ride services giant Didi Chuxing, sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. and equity investors Ping An Capital and Hillhouse Capital, alongside global backers Softbank, Toyota, Honda and Microsoft.
The Gojek-Grab rivalry shows how Southeast Asia is turning into an extended battlefield between tech startups under the influence of Chinese industry giants and capital. As China’s internet sector cools following years of white-hot growth, companies and investors are turning to Southeast Asia as the next frontier, analysts say.