What Went Wrong at GoPlay? Why the Costly hiccup in growth

GoPlay also offers its content in a bundle with vouchers for GoFood, the food delivery service of Gojek. For IDR 99,000 (US$6.09), you get a one-month subscription of GoPlay and IDR 240,000-worth (US$14.76) of food vouchers. This means, if you’re a regular food delivery user, Gojek subsidises you with IDR 141,000 (US$8.67) to try out its video app. That’s worth five caffe lattes at Starbucks.

Launched in 2015, Gojek first made plans to get into the content creation and distribution business public in May 2018. It raised more than US$2 billion that year and became Indonesia’s highest-valued tech company, scratching the $10 billion mark.

Cancelled commitments

With its charismatic founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim still at the helm, Gojek wanted to inhabit all corners of Indonesians’ digital lives. Instead of merely forming the layer through which people ordered services or bought food, Gojek thought: why not get into concerts, sports events, and movies, and distribute them through its own channels?

But amidst this feverish pursuit, some projects floundered and struggled to find direction. GoPlay is one of them.

Some of those involved with GoPlay, either as former employees or partners, said that giving the outward impression of a growing content business in addition to Gojek’s other services helped with fundraising and justified skyrocketing valuations. However, they added that there wasn’t a full buy-in internally, at the shareholder level. Makarim has since left the firm and now serves as Indonesia’s Minister of Education and Culture.

The chaos left some filmmakers whom Gojek had agreed to support stranded. They had already begun working on projects and had even spent from their own pockets to get things started.

It’s a drama that will never make it into the GoPlay content library, but one that shows business processes can be messy, even at one of the brightest and best-equipped tech companies in the country.

The first cracks in Gojek’s newfound interest in film and entertainment began to show in the second half of 2018.

At a press conference in Jakarta in July that year, several smiling faces beamed down from a stage. There were Gojek representatives, and people from Indonesia’s documentary film scene. The creative economy agency, a government body, was also present.

Press conference to announce the Docs By The Sea Co-Production Fund in July 2018. Image: Indonesia’s Creative

Economy Agency (Bekraf)

The event marked the launch of the “Docs By The Sea Co-Production Fund”. Under this initiative, Gojek’s newly formed film production unit, Go-Studio, would co-finance 12 Indonesian documentary projects and mentor filmmakers. The aim was to obtain global distribution for these documentaries. In August, the films selected for this scheme were announced at an event in Bali.

However, Gojek pulled out of its commitment about three months after the announcement, according to Amelia Hapsari, head of Docs By The Sea. “I was told that Gojek was going through a massive restructuring,” she said. Gojek told her that the people spearheading the fund didn’t have an actual authorisation from the company to do so. Hence, their commitments weren’t valid.