Go-Jek is a growing transportation network that’s come a long way since its start. Established in 2010 as a motorcycle ride-hailing phone service in Indonesia, Go-Jek evolved to provide on-demand transport and lifestyle services in over 50 cities across Southeast Asia. To learn from their journey, I interviewed Diwakar Kaushik, Head of Product, to discover more about how they’ve scaled their product.
What has been Go-Jek’s journey so far?
Go-Jek’s journey has been enriching and fulfilling so far. The most satisfying part is being able to use technology for changing the everyday lives of drivers, small merchants and users who rely on us for the variety of everyday use cases that we offer.
That keeps everyone at Go-Jek going even in the ever-challenging environment. The large scale reflects the validation of how technology can touch and change lives in a positive way in the largest countries of the world.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a growing team?
One of the biggest challenges we face is deciding whether to build for scale or to offer more innovative and new products. Over the years, we have built a good sense of judgement on this critical piece for creating a multi-product company by making regular short- and medium-term product development trade-offs.
The second challenge that we have is change management. Go-Jek has grown immensely in business and organization scale and that brings a lot of organizational debt as well as technological debt. Managing these along with dealing the needs of growth is challenging for everyone in the organization and we are learning to cope with this all the time.
Another challenge that we face is that our product scales faster than our teams and hiring becomes a big challenge.
Hiring is one of the top challenges that product leaders face. What is your approach to hiring?
Hiring is a first-class problem for internet and technology companies across the world and we are thoughtful enough to treat it as one. We deal with it in three ways, First, by going really strong on referrals and getting people who the current set of people have worked with in past. This adds the first round of filter and also adds overall accountability in the org about the kind of people we get.
Second, we stay extremely diligent on our hiring process and even under extreme pressures of increasing teams we don’t compromise on process quality and details. While it helps us make sure that we hire the right people who will thrive in our setup, it also gives the candidates enough time and interactions to understand what kind of people work at Go-Jek, what’s the culture and whether they would be fit in a demanding, transparent and high ownership environment.
Third, we hire for attitude and a culture fit. We focus on more than just the core skills.
What are your tips for ensuring strong communication within your team?
Especially for geographically distributed teams, there is just one big tip – Over-communication never hurt anyone. Also, it’s important to find a process in your communication. Trivial as it may sound: define your cadences and write as much as possible.
At Go-Jek we have clear cadences for different product groups, within teams, between different functions – and all of the decisions are always well documented. The documentation Ninjas make life easier for everyone, and little time is wasted on indexing our minds for what happened when.
Also, try to build a culture of not-so-fancy weekly/monthly updates and don’t put pressure of perceived quality for these updates. The message should pass on. Less experienced team members are generally anxious about the quality of communication and that leads to a lack of communication which hurts.
We set the expectations clear by doing simple yet regular communication to large groups. At Go-Jek, these ways keep us well communicated, and this information symmetry helps execution of complicated cross-functional products smooth.
Is there something that you’ve learned through the process of growing that you wish you knew before?
Many things, but the most important one is to let go. A lot of us in the startup world get too close to an idea or to a feature or to a wish that at times we continue to waste time and be irrational in our decision making. But as we build products in the ever-changing world of user behaviour and technology, we need to be ready to let go of our inhibitions when some significant new information arrives.
The other thing that we are learning every day is finding the right way of choosing what to do and what not to do. The combined aspirations of all the passionate people getting together to do a startup (irrespective of the scale) will always be greater than the amount of code that can be written, products that can be made, and businesses that can be scaled. So, it’s necessary to continuously improve your velocity (where the direction is even more important than speed) and be prepared to break comfort zones whenever required.
If you found this interview interesting, follow more of the ScaleUp Valley content for further discussions on how others have scaled their companies. For example, the ScaleUp Valley podcast – where we speak with successful scale-ups about their growing process – is a fountain of valuable learnings brought to you directly by the source.
Mike Dias is the CEO at startup education firm ScaleUp Valley
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