Gunjan Prasad
Jul 28, 2016

Go-Jek: Social impact, delivered on two wheels

Go-Jek CMO and Indonesia native Piotr Jakubowski talks about the most gratifying part of his job and why even a sensationally successful startup needs smart marketing.

Piotr Jakubowski
Piotr Jakubowski

Piotr Jakubowski, the CMO of Go-Jek, does not much look like the technology geek and social entrepreneur he purports to be. But don’t be fooled. Behind his suave and charming manner and a natty sartorial sense is a man who seriously believes that technology has the potential to transform people’s lives by making them more efficient and functional.

Born and raised in Jakarta—thanks to his parents’ love for the country that saw his mother renew her teaching contract at Jakarta Intercultural School 33 times—Jakubowski knows the ways and means of the country just as a local would.

“While in school, I made a personal promise that having grown up here and understanding the culture and the language, I will work in an environment where I could make a social impact for the community that had nurtured me,” he reminisced recently. “Thus, when Go-Jek came calling, I jumped without any hesitation.”

If you haven’t heard of Go-Jek, you are definitely on a planet far removed from Southeast Asia. Founded in 2010 as an online bike-taxi hailing company, this mobile technology startup launched its app in January last year and has since become the number one online service-booking app in Indonesia. It boasts 17 million downloads as of May 2016 with presence in 10 cities in the archipelago.

“From just taking people from one point to another in this traffic infested city, our services now include Go-Ride, Go-Send, Go-Food, Go-Mart, Go-Box, Go-Glam, Go-Clean, Go-Massage, Go-Busway and Go-Tix, with many more in the pipeline," Jakubowski said. "We have 35,000 restaurants listed and 200,000 driver partners.”

Go-Jek was launched from of a deep understanding of the Indonesian consumer and stands on three main pillars: Speed, innovation and social impact. There was a need for a service that would ease the pain of being stuck in traffic for hours and thus enable people to go on with their lives amidst this menace. “When traffic stops, lives cannot stop, and this was just the gap that we plugged,” said Jakubowski. However, it is the social impact that Go-Jek has managed to create that Jakubowski finds most gratifying.

According to him, one of the biggest psychographic shifts in recent times has been how Indonesians have embraced entrepreneurship. “The country always had a streak of creativity and enterprise running through its veins but in recent times, with access to technology, the definition of success has turned on its head," he said. "Youngsters are breaking away from traditional careers like banking and government and expressing their individuality through startups. In Go-Jek, they found a marketplace to hawk their wares. Mobile technology tapped by Go-Jek is giving them as much work as they want. We happened to be at the right place at the right time with the right solution and started a revolution. It is a heady time to be in this space in Indonesia.”

No surprise then on why Jakubowski traded his previous career path in media agencies (he was formerly head of digital at VML Qais Indonesia) for his first on the client side. While some startups believe that their customers will do their marketing for them and rarely have any place for marketing in their business plan, Jakubowski finds the approach regressive and arrogant. “Even though Go-Jek has become deeply embedded in the social fabric of Indonesia, something that’s not likely to change in the near future, one of my key briefs is to create differentiators on the platform while ensuring that we stay true to the tenets the company was founded on.”

The barriers to entry in this space are very low and there is competition everywhere including Uber and Grab upping their game in Indonesia. “We need to have a close connection with the consumers and push things creatively through product innovation and campaigns that engage not just when the consumers access the application but everywhere else too,” he said.

A big champion of content marketing, Jakubowski mid-wifed the launch of Go-Video campaign within the first two months of his appointment. Themed “Indonesia chooses Go-Jek”, the company offered Rp 250 million (about $20,000) to the best 10-minute video judged on craft and quality. The contest received 700 entries from various parts of Indonesia, many of high quality. “Not many brands are leveraging the power of UGC in Indonesia. Sometimes, one needs to look beyond just customer acquisition to understand the ROI content marketing can deliver,” he said.

Go-Jek also unveiled a 360-degree Ramadan campaign last month based on ‘Togetherness, giving and kindness’. Besides creating a digital short highlighting how Go-Jek brings people together, some aesthetic changes were made to the food section of the app to respect those fasting. “For the entire month of Ramadan, Go-Jek partnered with Rumah Zakat, a non-profit organisation, to create dedicated drop points where consumers could send donations using Go-Box and Go-Send, while also utilising Go-Pay as a payment platform,” said Jakubowski. “We want to touch every aspect of our consumers’ lives.”

Digital growth in marketing terms will come from investments in digital transformation by traditional businesses to maximise the overall end-to-end user experience, Jakubowski said. Social, content marketing and programmatic are all tools that drive digital footfall, and it is critical for brands to leverage technology and build an ecosystem in which they can create a rich experience for each customer, regardless of which part of the funnel they are.  “We've seen very rapid adoption of new platforms, particularly Snapchat," Jakubowski said. "It's interesting to see people who used to be influencers on sites like Twitter, YouTube or Instagram evolving the way they create their content.”

Sitting on the other side of the table, there is just one thing he can tell his ex-colleagues, “When things are running at the speed of light, a very sharp focus is critical," he said. "I think we are all constantly learning, adjusting, experimenting to be able to keep up with the way the technology landscape, and the way our consumers use this technology, is changing. Agencies are as ready as the people that are part of the team.”

Jakubowski: Company has become embedded in the social fabric, but still needs to differentiate


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