In a blog post announcing the news, WhatsApp chief operating officer Matt Idema said the move forms part of Facebook’s ambition to bring more small businesses into the digital economy. “This investment will support Facebook and Gojek’s shared goal of empowering businesses and driving financial inclusion across the archipelago,” Idema wrote. It’s clear the investment is not about Gojek’s core ride-hailing business, but rather its relationship with merchants and its digital payments business—which is the largest in Indonesia.
Facebook and PayPal have made investments in Gojek, joining Google and Tencent among other high-profile technology firms that have backed the five-year-old Southeast Asian ride-hailing startup that also offers food delivery and mobile payments.
Idema said the combination of WhatsApp’s communication platform with Gojek’s commerce platform, distribution and payment infrastructure can “bring millions of people into Indonesia’s growing digital economy”. “The majority of small businesses in Indonesia rely on cash to operate due to the country’s large unbanked population,” he said. “Digital payments are safer than cash, both for businesses and customers. And digital payments help more people participate in the economy and give businesses access to credit which is crucial for business growth.”
The deal announced Wednesday marks Facebook’s first investment in an Indonesian company and is a major boost for the country’s largest startup, a ride-hailing giant that’s morphed into a provider of services like payments and meal delivery. Gojek is now backed by some of the world’s largest internet companies from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., helping it compete against Singapore’s Grab Holdings Inc.
Facebook’s investment in Indonesia’s biggest tech unicorn comes just months after it funnelled US$5.7 billion for a 9.99% stake in India’s largest telecom company, Reliance Jio. Overall, Asia-Pacific is by far the biggest region for active users for Facebook (the region counts 678 million daily active users, compared to 195 million in the US and Canada), but it is the second-lowest region for revenue by user.