Jakarta. Future expansions of Uber, Grab and Go-Jek Indonesia — leaders in the ride-hailing industry in Southeast Asia over the past two years — hinge on how the companies can reign in drivers' sometimes bad behavior and maintain affordable price levels, according to a study by media intelligence company Meltwater.
The services now cater to a market of 640 million people, mostly young and social media-savvy customers who have grown critical of the companies' services, according to the Meltwater report.
The media intelligence company sourced conversations from millions of posts across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, blogs and online forums between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 1., 2017, with a focus on Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
At national levels, Uber leads conversations in Singapore and Malaysia, while Go-Jek convincingly beats both rivals in Indonesia.
Driver behavior was one of the most hotly discussed topics on social media in that period, with 73 percent of social chatter revolving around drivers. A majority of these posts were negative, with words like "rude," "dangerous," and "unsafe" most commonly used to describe driver behavior across the region.
Conversations also centered on service pricing (12 percent of total), promotional offerings (7 percent) and ride queues (6 percent).
"Driver behavior and price are the key barriers to the uptake of ridesharing apps in Southeast Asia," Meltwater stated in its report, which was received by the Jakarta Globe on Monday (05/03).
"Part of this problem [drivers' behavior] can be attributed to the high-pressure, incentive-driven environment drivers operate in. In the past, both Grab and Uber have been accused of exploiting drivers to hit some tough goals by incentivising them to drive more," the report said.
Of the countries studied, Singaporeans regard price as an important factor, with 39 percent of all conversations about Grab in Singapore focusing on the topic, and 13.5 percent of all Uber riders in Singapore expressing their viewpoint on social media. Malaysians and Indonesians are slightly less sensitive to price.
Gap in Interest
While Uber claimed 51 percent of all online ride hailing conversations in Southeast Asia last year — compared to Grab with 28 percent and Go-Jek with 21 percent — thanks to its global presence, the company is trailing its rivals in terms of app downloads and actual usage.
Grab had more than 16 million app downloads compared to Uber’s 9.9 million in Southeast Asia in the first half of 2017, according to Meltwater, quoting data from Sensor Tower, a mobile app analytics company.
Furthermore, according to App Annie, Grab has the most number of monthly active users in Southeast Asia, except for the region's biggest market, Indonesia, where homegrown Go-Jek Indonesia unsurprisingly leads.
With its first-mover status in offering motorcycle taxis in Indonesia, Go-Jek is still leading in the country with 15 million weekly active users, better than Grab, which has 2.5 million users.
"These findings suggest a massive disconnect - one of which could be a gap between consumer interest and actual usage. Identifying and understanding what pulls consumers in and turns them off is a game changer for companies operating in this space," Meltwater said.
"With customers living a significant portion of their lives on social media, it’s important for ridesharing companies to meet and connect with customers on these platforms. Feedback and data from these platforms can also inform operational changes. For example, comments around driver behaviours can be used to shape better driver support and training programs," Meltwater Asia Pacific regional director Mimrah Mahmood said in the report.
Grab is doing a considerably better job of engaging and interacting with people on social media, especially in Indonesia, with an engagement rate of 1.2 percent, versus Uber’s 0.87 percent and Go-Jek’s 0.9 percent across the year.
And the market in Southeast Asia is still wide open. The region represents more than 640 million people who live in 10 countries, many of whom are young, middle-class consumers. The region, according to the International Monetary Fund, is the third-fastest growing market after India and China.
Some projections estimate that the current value of ride-hailing businesses in Southeast Asia reaches $5 billion, more than doubling since two years ago. Amid fast penetration in the region, a joint study by Temasek and Google forecasts that Southeast Asia's ride-hailing market will be valued at $20.1 billion by 2025.
"The robust growth reflects steep consumer demand, product innovation, improved user experience and attractiveness for drivers as a viable job opportunity," California-based Meltwater stated.