When one thinks of unicorn and decacorn startups built in India, names like Oyo, Paytm*, and Byju’s spring to mind. One decacorn, however, usually goes under the radar—Gojek. The Indonesian super app startup has relied on an Indian tech backbone to build all its offerings, from payments to ride-hailing to foodtech. 

Gojek’s tryst with India began in 2015. It has since built a reputation within India’s engineering circles for its innovation, both in terms of work culture and product development. Over the years, many of its leaders like Ajey Gore, Sidu Ponnappa, Vikrama Dhiman, and Gokul NS have developed a fan following among developers and engineers. Discussions hosted by them on social media platform Clubhouse regularly attract hundreds of participants. They, among others, have made Gojek synonymous with a “cool nerd” culture. 

“The tenets of all other unicorns are very similar,” explains a former Gojek executive. “In a way, Swiggy, Ola, Flipkart, etc., all borrow their cultures from Western companies like Amazon and Uber. It is heavily borrowed from the American startup success story. Gojek is completely different.”

“A lot of it was inspired from the Agile Manifesto Agile Manifesto Agile Manifesto The Agile Manifesto is a document that sets out the key values and principles behind the Agile philosophy and serves to help development teams work more efficiently and sustainably. Known officially as 'The Manifesto for Agile Software Development', the manifesto detailing 4 Values and 12 Principles. ,” says Prasun Jain, referring to the document that enshrines key tenets of the agile school of software development. Jain, a former employee at Gojek, is presently the current head of product growth and experience at Bengaluru-based fintech unicorn Razorpay. At Gojek, explains Jain, the Agile Manifesto was applied in a product context. “Here was a thing which they believed in, and here was an opportunity at a massive scale. They all just went for it.”

This approach powered Gojek as it scaled its business from US$100 million to US$1 billion, and then beyond even the US$10 billion mark. Along the way, Gojek went from just ride-hailing to tacking on more than 20 different products—from logistics to news and even video streaming—while operating across five countries in Southeast Asia.

Gojek did all this with a tech team of just 300 engineers. These, too, were largely situated thousands of miles away from its headquarters in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta. In stark contrast, Indian unicorns Swiggy, Paytm, Zomato, and Ola have a combined engineering strength of around 6,000 engineers. Gojek declined to participate in this story, and did not respond to detailed questions sent by The Ken.

Hiring for hires

Gojek’s focus on hiring engineers in India was such that it even acquired the startup behind tech recruitment platform AirCTO in June 2019.

AUTHOR

Pranav Balakrishnan

Pranav writes about the business of moving people and things around, i.e, mobility and e-commerce. Over the past two years, he has written about Ola, Tesla, Flipkart, Amazon, and the increasing role played by Reliance Industries in the Indian technology story. Pranav joined The Ken from Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, specialising in business journalism.

View Full Profile

Read this story. Subscribe Now

This story is available across both editions. Subscribe to the one that’s most relevant for you. Questions?

Pick an edition

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at support@the-ken.com detailing the error or queries.