Pandemic-fuelled e-shopping boom spurs courier firm's growth

J&T Express is valued at US$7.8 billion (S$10.4 billion).
J&T Express is valued at US$7.8 billion (S$10.4 billion).PHOTO: JNTEXPRESSSG/FACEBOOK

JAKARTA - For the past one year, Indonesian courier start-up PT Global Jet Express, better known as J&T Express, has been sending hundreds of millions of parcels across the sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands despite challenging terrain and underdeveloped roads.

The Jakarta-based start-up founded by businessmen Jet Lee and Tony Chen in 2015 is the country's newest unicorn, joining five others, according to United States technology market intelligence CB Insights.

Backed by funds such as Hillhouse Capital Management, Boyu Capital and Sequoia Capital China, J&T Express is valued at US$7.8 billion (S$10.4 billion) after Indonesia's most valuable start-up Gojek, with a US$10 billion valuation.

Rising delivery orders due to the Covid-19 pandemic has boosted J&T Express' business in Indonesia, allowing it to grow significantly, said chief executive Robin Lo. "As people work from home, people have shifted to online shopping and we've been operating to cater to the needs of goods delivery," he said.

Facebook and Bain & Company estimate that the number of Indonesia's digital consumers surged by about 15 per cent to 137 million in the past year from 2019.

Prior to the pandemic, which hit the country in March last year, J&T Express delivered one million parcels daily on average, mainly across Indonesia's most densely populated island of Java.

The figure rose by 40 per cent during the early pandemic period.

By the end of last year, it could deliver 1.7 million packages in a day, two-thirds of which came from e-commerce platforms and especially from its key partners Bukalapak, Tokopedia and Shopee, a unit of Singapore-based Sea.

J&T Express currently delivers 2.5 million parcels each day.

In 2018, the company spread its wings to Malaysia and Vietnam.

It continued its overseas expansion into the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Cambodia in 2019, and last year, it entered China.

The pandemic also spurred its business overseas, said Mr Lo. Its foreign markets, which now make up 70 per cent of its business, enabled it to grow tremendously in the past few years, he added.


J&T Express continued its overseas expansion into Singapore in 2019. PHOTO: JNTEXPRESSSG/FACEBOOK

He noted that J&T Express "had already covered South-east Asia", and said there will be "expansion into other countries", though he declined to elaborate.

J&T is considering an initial public offering in the US which could raise more than US$1 billion, Bloomberg reported, quoting people familiar with the matter last month. However, Mr Lo said J&T Express' management still could not comment on the United States listing.