October 23, 2019 / 2:26 AM / 20 days ago

Indonesia president names Gojek co-founder as education minister

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

Nadiem Makarim, founder of the Indonesian ride-hailing and online payment firm Gojek waves to journalists as he arrives at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo

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

The Indonesian company, valued at $10 billion, raised over $1 billion earlier this year from backers including Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Chinese tech giants Tencent (0700.HK) and JD (JD.O).

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

Investors say that Widodo’s choice of Makarim, 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 Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The Indonesian leader has repeatedly pledged to invest in bridging the acute skills shortage faced by the country’s startups.

While Indonesia’s Internet economy is forecast to grow to more than $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 spend 20% 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 $1 billion in valuation without tapping the stock markets.

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.

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

(Corrects 4th paragraph to add dropped letter)

Reporting by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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