By Adithya Venkatesan
It was the inevitable cliché. From the Valley, plonked into the by-lanes of Indonesia. A garage. 2 call centre staff, 1 operations staff, 1 admin staff, 1 intern. 1 generalist. 6 people in all. And a whole bunch of wedding cards.
Wait, what?! Wedding cards?
Distributing wedding invitations was all the rage when Gojek started. Our driver partners would go to each house and give wedding invites from couples. Hey, it was good hustle to earn a quick buck. 🤷♂️
Also, the green jacket was publicity to each house. Our driver partners were our advertisers.
This is what our first office looked like 👇
All those boxes were filled with wedding cards. 😝
But things were shaping up, and before long, we moved to a better office.
We now had an entire room to ourselves. But we couldn’t use the main door because it led to another office. So, we had to improvise. And improvise we did.
The french windows became the office door. We were also growing, and by this time, we had 20 staff in total.
This was a time customers could order from multiple sources. We had an excel sheet to manage it all. We’d get orders from calls, SMS, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Yahoo Messenger (yeah, those existed then), BBM, emails or any other communication available.
These folks managed it all:
Here’s a glimpse of the training session with our driver partners. Little did we know, in 4 years, we’d book an entire stadium to hire more driver partners! We now have more than 2 million, who form the crux of Gojek.
Once we had major rains and the entire floor flooded because of a leakage. We had to turn off the electricity, put tables on each other and get all the computers and equipment on top of it. Furniture came from different people, and was not owned by the company. 😂 This hole below created an eventful day:
This was a particularly important chapter in our history. 👇
It’s when we touched 100 orders. 🥳
It was a surreal moment for all. The hope that bigger things were just around the corner…
We do over 200 million orders a month now. 😉
Things didn’t stop there. We’d do all kinds of odd jobs. Sf Diah, one of our early employees remembers knocking on the doors of various large corporates. She’d pitch the idea for a hyper-local logistics partner. We’d slowly started building relationships. Here’s a physical receipt we issued for one of the employees of a corporate, to establish the work done. We’d have a standard fee in an attempt to win business, regardless of the distance.
Any business was good business. This was the first time a driver partner stood in a queue at a music concert to get tickets for a customer. We’d eventually launch GoTix for movies, events, and concert bookings. But back then, hustle was the prerequisite. 🖖
The hustle permeated the org. Sometimes we used to get fake addresses to deliver milk. Our driver partners knew how everyone was giving it their best. So, instead of coming back with the unfulfilled orders, they wouldn’t give up.
Many went to a gas station to sell the leftover milk — hustle was ingrained.🥺 👇
We had a small dinner event for secretaries and personal assistants of various organisations. We pitched Gojek as a transportation and logistics partner. It was a neat little way to work from the ground-up, and understanding our core consumers. (We even promised to take kids to school everyday with an ojek 😁)
Towards the end of 2012, we even entertained a customer pickup from Jakarta to Ubud.
For context: That’s a 1190 km trip on a motorbike. 4 days on the road! 🤯
We accepted it, because the said gentleman was going to give us some publicity, logging his experience. We hoped to get some media traction with it as well.
It was some hustle, aite:
To balance the economics of it all, we worked with a tissue company to sponsor an operations partner who was accompanying the driver and the customer.
Our deal: We’d stop at multiple locations and distribute the tissues at different gas stations for their publicity.
This is the model for the tissue company. It’s now closed.
We loved our driver partners even now as much as we did then. We sponsored a trip for those who stuck with us and helped us. (We still have music festivals and events for our ecosystem of partners.)
5 years later, we went digital. Our app was live. It’s a whole other thing it broke a million other times subsequently, because of the massive demand and poor supply. 😂
But, we had arrived. Battered and bruised, but raring for more.
This is what the old app looked like. We did 3 things, and we did them one way or the other. The roller-coaster had begun. What we did in the last 5 years, would happen in a matter of a month. Then days. Then hours…
2016. We got funded to realise our bigger mission.
1.5 years in all — from when we launched the app, to a unicorn. This was our tipping point. 🦄
We had to book an entire stadium to onboard more driver partners. 50,000 of them at that point.
What does our app look like now?
Well, it’s customised for each individual.
What a journey it has been.👇
Today, we’re a verb in Southeast Asia. We do more than 200 million orders every month. We contributed 1% of Indonesia’s GDP in 2019. As we finish 10 years, looking back at our humble beginnings has been an eye-opener.
The world sees the behemoth Gojek has become, but the painstaking efforts of millions to achieve this dream are aplenty.
Our driver partners are the most important organism in our ecosystem. They form Gojek, and are responsible for who we are now. We understand this trust and responsibility more than anyone else. As our leadership always reminds us…
‘No product decision will be taken that adversely impacts our partner ecosystem’.
Click here for more stories on how we build our Gojek #SuperApp! 💚