By Patpicha Tanakasempipat
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Indonesia's Go-Jek has begun services in Thailand and is working toward entering the Philippines, founder and chief executive Nadiem Makarim said on Wednesday, as the ride-hailing firm continues to up its game against regional market leader Grab.
Go-Jek, a play on the Indonesian word for motorbike taxis, launched in Thailand under the brand GET and is building presence in the Philippines through a recent fintech acquisition, Makarim said.
The launch comes as Go-Jek and Grab raise billions of dollars and invest aggressively to secure market share in Southeast Asia, as more of the region's 640 million consumers turn to smartphones to commute, shop and make payments.
Earlier this month, sources told Reuters that Go-Jek's was valued at up to $10 billion after raising over a $1 billion in a funding round led Tencent Holdings Ltd, JD.com Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google.
But Go-Jek suffered a setback to its regional expansion last month when its application to start services in the Philippines was rejected on grounds that its domestic unit did not meet local ownership criteria.
Go-Jek subsequently announced the purchase of Philippine fintech company Coins.ph. The Indonesian firm was drawn by Coins.ph's e-wallet and remittances services as well as its 5 million users, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
On Wednesday, Makarim said the acquisition meant Go-Jek had begun to develop a presence in the Philippines.
"We are present there, we just don't have our mobility services launched as of yet," he told reporters. "I can't give you a firm (start) date, but knowing Go-Jek, it's usually pretty fast."
Launched in 2011 in Jakarta, Go-Jek has evolved from a ride-hailing service to a one-stop app allowing users to order and make online payments for products and services as varied as food and massages.
The firm started operations in Vietnam in September and began trials in Singapore and Thailand at the end of last year.
In Thailand, Go-Jek offers motorbike taxis, food and delivery services. Pinya Nittayakasetwat, chief executive of the Thai subsidiary, said Go-Jek will offer payment services "soon."
Co-founder Kewin Aluwi in January said Go-Jek was evaluating other Southeast Asian markets including Malaysia. On Wednesday, Makarim declined to comment when asked whether Go-Jek planned to enter countries surrounding Thailand such as Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Christopher Cushing)