TikTok is spending $1.5 billion on a joint venture to solve the problem of Indonesia’s surprise social media shopping ban

Just two months ago, ByteDance-owned TikTok abruptly closed its shopping platform in Indonesia to comply with surprise regulations from the Southeast Asian country’s government. Jakarta ordered social media companies like TikTok and Facebook to stop selling goods on their platforms, demanding a separation of social media and e-commerce services.

TikTok now seems to have found a way to revive its e-commerce dreams in Indonesia by spending billions to start a joint venture with Indonesian tech giant GoTo. On Monday, the two companies announced that TikTok Shop will now be available on GoTo’s Tokopedia platform.

“Tokopedia and TikTok Shop Indonesia’s businesses will be combined under the existing PT Tokopedia entity in which TikTok will take a controlling stake. The shopping features within the TikTok app in Indonesia will be operated and maintained by the enlarged entity,” TikTok said in a statement Monday.

TikTok will invest over $1.5 billion into Tokopedia, taking a 75% stake in the platform. GoTo will remain an ecosystem partner to Tokopedia and receive an “ongoing revenue stream from Tokopedia commensurate with its scale and growth,” but will not be required to continue funding the platform. Further funding from TikTok also won’t reduce GoTo’s remaining 25% stake.

Getting back into the Indonesian ecommerce market will be a win for TikTok. Indonesia, which is the platform’s largest market outside of the U.S., is key to Tiktok’s online shopping aspirations. In June, CEO Shou Zi Chew pledged to “invest billions in Indonesia and Southeast Asia over the next few years.”

ByteDance wants to replicate its Chinese e-commerce successaround the globe. Last year, consumers spent in China 1.41 trillion yuan ($196 billion) on products sold on Douyin, the version of TikTok for the Chinese market, The Information reported in January. ByteDance, through TikTok, is expanding its online shopping services in both Southeast Asia and the U.S. Yet the company is struggling to win over American consumers: The Information reported in August that U.S. shoppers are spending just $4 million a day, equivalent to $1.4 billion over a whole year, on goods sold on the social media platform. (TikTok officially launched TikTok Shop in the U.S. in September, though sellers have complained about a flood of low-quality products on the platform).

Before Indonesia imposed its ban in October, the country’s president, Joko Widodo, complained that social media platforms were threatening local micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises. Government officials also accused TikTok of engaging in predatory pricing.

GoTo’s deal with TikTok means the Indonesian tech giant is giving up its majority ownership of Tokopedia . Tokopedia started in 2008 and grew to be one of Indonesia’s largest e-commerce platforms. The company merged with ride-hailing startup GoJek in 2021, becoming GoTo Group. The company debuted on Jakarta’s stock exchange in April last year.

Yet the company has struggled to wow investors since then. GoTo has yet to make a profit since becoming a public company. The tech firm reported 2.4 trillion Indonesian rupiah ($147 million) in net losses last quarter, significantly less than the 6.7 trillion rupiah ($428 million) it lost this time last year.

Investors do not appear to be thrilled by the news of GoTo’s TikTok partnership. Shares fell by over 19% by 2:30pm Indonesia time on Monday, erasing gains made late last week as rumors began to build of the new partnership.

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