Gojek co-founder Nadiem Makarim retains stake, but relinquishes roles to join Joko Cabinet

Co-founder and ex-chief executive of Gojek Nadiem Makarim has been appointed education and culture minister, in a sign that President Joko Widodo will focus on developing the booming technology sector in Indonesia. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday (Oct 23) named 35-year-old Nadiem Makarim, the co-founder and former chief executive of ride-hailing and payments firm Gojek, as education and culture minister.

Gojek said on Monday that its president Andre Soelistyo and other co-founder Kevin Aluwi would replace Mr Nadiem in running unlisted Gojek.

The Indonesian company, valued at US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion), raised over US$1 billion earlier this year from backers including Alphabet's Google and Chinese tech giants Tencent and JD.

A spokesman for Gojek told Reuters on Tuesday that Mr Nadiem will keep his stake but not have any advisory or executive role at the company. Gojek declined to comment on the size of his stake.

Investors say that Mr Joko's choice of Mr Nadiem, a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Business School, is a welcome signal that the President will focus on developing the booming technology sector in South-east Asia's largest economy.

The Indonesian leader has repeatedly pledged to invest in bridging the acute skills shortage faced by the country's start-ups.

While Indonesia's Internet economy is forecast to grow to more than US$100 billion by 2025, it produces only 278 engineers per million people a year, according to consultancy A.T. Kearney.

Departing communications minister Rudiantara previously told Reuters that he expected the next Indonesian technology "unicorn" to come from the education sector due to legislation that mandates the government has to spend 20 per cent of the national budget on education.

Gojek, which acts as one-stop app through which users can make online payments and order food and services, is one of Indonesia's five unicorns - companies that have reached US$1 billion in valuation without tapping the stock markets.

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The others are travel site Traveloka, market places Bukalapak and Tokopedia, and Grab-backed fintech firm OVO, which competes with Gojek's own payments platform Gopay for the top spot in Indonesia's multi-billion-dollar online payments market.

Mr Rudiantara said he believes that five-year old start-up Ruangguru, Indonesia's largest online tutoring platform, will join their ranks within one to two years.

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