Facebook is ramping up its investments in Asia-Pacific, taking a stake in Indonesian ride-hailing giant Gojek.
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.
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."
“WhatsApp helps small businesses communicate with customers and make sales, and together with Gojek, we believe we can bring millions of people into Indonesia’s growing digital economy,” Idema added.
Indonesia is one of Facebook's key growth markets—in its fourth quarter results, it called out Indonesia, India and the Phillipines as leading a 9% year-on-year growth in daily active users, to 1.7 billion.
The country has the largest and fastest-growing internet economy in Southeast Asia, according to a 2019 report from Google, Temasek and Bain & Company. Estimated at $40 billion in 2019, Indonesia’s internet economy has more than quadrupled in size since 2015 at an average growth rate of 49% a year.
"We are excited to invest in Indonesia’s future as the largest digital economy in Southeast Asia," Idema noted.
The tech giant has not disclosed the size of its investment in Gojek. Payment platform PayPal also participated in Gojek's latest funding round—providing a further boost to its digital payments business. Gojek has raised a total of US$4.5 billion in funding, including US$1.2 billion in financing in March, according to Crunchbase. Google, Temasek and Tencent also have investments in Gojek.
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.