As it became official today — Kudo has just been acquired by Grab. This just confirmed my theory that I fought for in a WhatsApp conversation with a startup friend: This SE Asia region war isn’t in the ridesharing space, but actually in the payment space — and Uber might be losing out.

Let’s look back and track how the two companies are doing it:

Go-Jek — yes they started with a ridesharing, and then expanded even more successfully in the food delivery space: GoFood. After that it keeps adding more use-cases (Go Massage, Go Glam, and more) and became an on-demand platform (for platform play, see WeChat in China).

At first, I was thinking that Go-Jek was aiming to become WeChat indeed — adding all things into one app and become the go to platform in our daily life. I heard they are even on the verge of closing a $1B round from Tencent (HA!).

But after launching their payment platform, GoPay, and basically just subsidize the whole lot of use-cases for the sake of people pumping money inside its wallet. Now, I’m confirmed that in fact this is a payment war.

It is the war to actually banking the unbanked.

If you think about it Go-Jek (and possibly Grab) are creating its own ecosystem with its drivers — they are essentially the drivers’ bank by holding their income and in fact even enabling them to buy things through its payment system. Imagine this: whatever things that Go-Jek sell to its drivers — most likely they might buy it e.g. micro insurance or even a loan.

With Go-Jek present in technically all big cities in Indonesia and potentially all cities soon, it has the (huge) potential to become THE bank for people who are usually out of reach from the traditional banks.

Now on top of that growing ecosystem is also all the middle class who are becoming more and more used to using Go-Jek, that having millions on its GoPay system are a norm rather than the exception today.

Back to the big news of the day (congratulations for Albert and Agung — you two never cease to amaze me, and can’t thank you guys enough to be our early paying customers), at the other side of the arena, Grab is a bit too late in expanding its use-cases, such as its GrabFood (May 2016) and even its payment system.

While its ride-sharing market share isn’t that far from Go-Jek, it has to add more users and more use-cases to its platform to make the payment (or digital bank) works. Kudo, who’s basically went from 0 to $100m (the unconfirmed value of the acquisition) in just 2 years, has tens of thousands agents on the field who are giving access to:

a) e-commerce for those who aren’t familiar with it and doesn’t even trust it and,

b) banking the unbanked, again, by its payment platform

By buying Kudo, Grab gained access to its ever expanding ground workers who are acquiring more and more users. While this might not beat GoPay, yet, it is a step in the right direction and in my opinion — they might be buying Kudo while it still can (in terms of valuation) :)

I’m going to close this post with two predictions:

1) Similar players to Kudo such as Ruma (one of the most awesome — yet under the radar startup by the way!) and or players like Kioson might be on the radar of Go-Jek to expand its payment user base

2) In the (near) future, Go-Jek might not be acquired by a “similar” player such as Uber and or Didi but in fact payment players such as Ant Financial.

What do you think? :)


Disclosure: This post is originally written by Joshua Kevin and has been republished with permission. He’s Founder of Talenta.co. Read the original post in here.

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