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In cities under partial lockdown, super apps are the new survival kits

Grab and Gojek have shifted gears to match the needs of consumers and partners, but all must make adjustments with shrinking incomes.

Indonesia continues to struggle with COVID-19. As of Monday, the country has registered 4,557 positive cases, with the total death toll reaching 399. Indonesia has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in Southeast Asia.

Last week, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan announced new mandatory restrictions that include a ban of most work activities, except in essential sectors such as health, energy, and food; reduced public transport hours and passenger capacity; as well as a ban for gatherings of more than five people in public spaces. The police force has increased patrols to enforce compliance.

So far, nine Indonesian cities have implemented similar measures, and more are awaiting approval from the Ministry of Health, as reported by Kompas.com. Basic daily routines such as dining out are no longer an option.

Read this: How Indonesian tech companies are adapting in a time of crisis

As such, food and groceries are being delivered to households. The country’s “super apps,” Gojek and Grab, have logged an uptick in orders starting from the day when government orders were issued for citizens to stay at home. Grab’s delivery businesses such as GrabFood, GrabExpress, and GrabFresh are thriving. At the same time, its ride-hailing business in the country has been negatively affected, a company spokesperson told KrASIA.

Gojek reports a similar shift in consumer behavior. “The role of food businesses in society has changed dramatically,” the company stated. Neither Grab nor Gojek has released numbers related to their sales or order volumes.

Shifting online

Ride-hailing drivers in Indonesia are now banned from taking passengers, though there are exceptions. To make up for lost income, many drivers are shifting to food delivery. Restaurants also rely on online orders, like those placed via GrabFood and GoFood, to maintain an active cash flow.

Grab says more restaurants are interested in becoming GrabFood partners. “Merchant inquiries have more than doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak began in Indonesia,” said the company spokesperson. The firm has rolled out a new merchant support program to provide cashback for food ingredients and discounts on food packaging, enticing more restaurants to join GrabFood.

Gojek has also noticed an increase in merchants joining their restaurant listing platform, especially small and micro enterprises. “We have made our onboarding process for offline food merchants faster and easier, so that they can continue serving customers during this period,” the company said.

From April 1 to May 5, Gojek is hosting a National Culinary Day (HARKULNAS) for merchants to offer special promotions on GoFood’s main page. A higher order volume will also give driver partners to earn higher income.

Shifting gears

With changing consumer purchasing behaviors, both Gojek and Grab have adjusted their offerings for users. Gojek now includes a feature called “daily necessities” that leads GoFood users to the grocery and food listings of its partner stores. Gojek also collaborates with the Ministry of Agriculture to provide access to 11 types of staple foods from markets that the ministry operates with local farmers.

“People will increasingly need to order food and staple goods so that they can continue to live as normally as possible during this period,” Gojek CEO Kevin Aluwi said in a statement.

At Grab, many ride-hailing drivers are now delivering for the GrabMart and GrabFresh services. The company is actively supporting the shift as part of a region-wide initiative. Grab is also expanding its on-demand concierge service, GrabAssistant, for users who require services at stores that are not listed on GrabMart.

Both Grab and Gojek have revamped their healthcare plans and income support schemes for driver and merchant partners, and senior management at the companies decided to give up part of their salaries to raise funds for the partners that have been hit the hardest. These are helpful pushes, but many drivers and merchants must still contend with diminished revenues.