AirAsia partners Gojek for Asean growth, expands Thailand services in swap deal

12, Jul. 2021

AirAsia's super app for travel and lifestyle offers bookings, flights and hotels, travel packages, holiday activities, shopping for branded products and latest deals in town. It will be launched in Thailand in August 2021. (Photo: AirAsia)
AirAsia's super app for travel and lifestyle offers bookings, flights and hotels, travel packages, holiday activities, shopping for branded products and latest deals in town. It will be launched in Thailand in August 2021. (Photo: AirAsia)

By Chalermlapvoraboon Valaiporn

BANGKOK, NNA - Malaysia's budget carrier AirAsia Group and Gojek, an Indonesian transport and payment company, have embarked on a strategic partnership to grow their expanding digital services across Southeast Asia, starting with Thailand.

Expanding its super app for travel and lifestyle in the kingdom, AirAsia will acquire Gojek's Thailand operations for $50 million in shares, taking over its app-based ride-hailing, food delivery and other services from August.

In return, Gojek, which is part of giant tech group GoTo after its recent merger with Tokopedia, will own about 4.7 percent of shares in AirAsia's Asean super-app, which is valued at $1 billion (32.5 billion baht).

Following the swap deal, Gojek will invest to boost operations in Singapore and Vietnam, while AirAsia will build on Gojek Thailand's network of 50,000 riders, 33,000 merchants and customers to provide more services like groceries and beauty products.

AirAsia is a familiar brand name in Thailand as it has been operating flight services there for the most part of the past two decades.

Its longstanding presence is seen as an advantage in bolstering the growth of the services that Gojek began in the kingdom in 2019, and hopefully, making them profitable as AirAsia promotes the use of its app from Bangkok to other flourishing cities which are also popular holiday destinations like Chiangmai in the north, and Phuket in the south.

Aiming to be a leading tech player in the region, AirAsia said in a statement, “This win-win deal is expected to rev up expansion of the airasia super app in Asean, while enabling Gojek to increase investments in its Vietnam and Singapore operations.”

“The deal provides both parties with a strong foundation to explore additional opportunities for collaboration and synergies in one of the fastest-growing regions in the world,” added AirAsia, which is working to turn its fortune around after many of its planes were grounded like most other airlines in the world since the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said the Thailand deal marked “the start of a tremendous long term strategic partnership with Gojek which is sure to rock the industry.”

“By taking on Gojek’s well-established Thai business, we’ll be able to turbo charge our ambitions in this space to become a leading Asean challenger super app.”

He said AirAsia already boasts a “complete digital economy ecosystem”, having established over 15 different non-airline products and lifestyle services on its e-commerce platform in Malaysia.

He said, "Now it’s time to take it to the next level. In response to overwhelming regional demand, we are setting our sights on bringing our super app offerings to all of our key markets, following the successful roll out in Thailand."

“All of our digital businesses are going from strength to strength and through this alliance, our goal of becoming the Asean super app of choice is fast becoming a reality,” added Fernandez, who is widely regarded as the pioneer of low-cost travel in Asia.

Supporting the launch of the enhanced app in Thailand, AirAsia Thailand executive chairman Tassapon Bijleveld said “Not only will it support local SMEs and fresh food suppliers, it will also create more income-earning opportunities for delivery drivers in the new markets we aim to launch soon.”

He said Thai people are already ahead of the curve in embracing the digital revolution, having made mobile and real-time activities including e-commerce, fintech and online entertainment a way of life.

Gojek CEO Kevin Aluwi said the deal with AirAsia is a testament to the accomplishments of Gojek Thailand, which has made a difference to “hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country.”

"At the same time, the deal will enable us to pivot our focus in international markets towards Vietnam and Singapore - markets providing us with the best return on investment and strategic growth opportunities,” added Aluwi.

Aireen Omar, president of airasia digital, the carrier's digital division, highlighted how the airline has successfully developed a digital-driven business with a one-stop super app anchored on travel. It also offers e-commerce, financial services, farm to table, health and edutech products and services as well as membership rewards.

The digital division has two other companies. One is Teleport, a fast growing e-commerce logistics company serving Southeast Asia.

The other is BigPay, a fintech company focusing on payments, remittance, lending and virtual banking, which is expected to roll out soon. BigPay aims to democratize financial services across Asean by providing good-value financial products such as a multi-currency e-wallet, said AirAsia.

After launching in Malaysia and Singapore, BigPay is accelerating its entrance into Thailand following the acquisition of Gojek and GoPay’s Thailand businesses, said Salim Dhanani, CEO and co-founder of BigPay.

AirAsia and Gojek will be working closely with the Bank of Thailand to ensure a smooth transition to BigPay, while GoPay is winding down its operations in the country.

BigPay Thailand aims to go live in the first quarter of 2022.

Since 2017, BigPay has served over 1.4 million Malaysians. The company has launched a slew of regulated financial products, from e-money and international remittance to micro insurance, with the goal of being a one-stop solution.

BigPay recently applied for a digital banking license in Malaysia with a consortium of partners.