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Whether you’re in a hurry to go somewhere or need a bite or two, help is in the palm of your hands.
Smartphone application-based motorcycle taxi companies have sprung up in Indonesia since last year, taking advantage of the growing use of mobile internet.
They followed the success of Go-jek, a ride-sharing service similar to Uber, but with bikes as the means of transport.
Worsening traffic in major cities and a lack of efficient mass transport has prompted many Indonesians to switch to motorcycles, triggering the growth of bike taxis, or ojek.
Jakarta, a city of 10 million people, has the worst traffic in the world, with about 33,240 stop-starts per year, according to an index released last year by lubricants company Castrol. Istanbul came second with 32,520 stop-starts.
The index gathers data from TomTom navigation users to calculate the number of stops and starts made per kilometer, multiplying that figure by the average distance driven every year in 78 countries.
A Jakarta resident spends about two hours in traffic each trip on average, according to a study by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
The Transport Ministry last month declared such taxi services illegal. The ban was lifted hours later after President Joko Widodo stepped in, responding to a public outcry.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of app-based motorcycle taxi services in Indonesia:
LadyJek, an app-based motorcycle taxi service for females, began operating in October.
“We noticed there was a lack of comfortable public transport for women,” founder Brian Mulyadi said.
Recent cases of late-night rape in public minivans have caused worries for women travelling at night.
Rider Mutia said she sometimes received orders from men.
“When I found out the person who ordered was a man, I refused to take him,” said Mutia, a 30-year-old mother of two, wiping her sweat with a scarf on a stifling hot day.
She said her husband did not object to her job.
“I’m free. I can even come home very late at night and he doesn’t mind,” said Mutia, who is from Aceh, a conservative Muslim province where women are required to wear headscarves.
LadyJek has about 2,500 drivers, who wear black-and-pink jackets and pink helmets, and its application has been downloaded 10,000 times on Android.
UberJek – no business relation with global ride-sharing service Uber – wants to make sure its customers don’t have to put up with body odour during their trips, so they only hire smell-free motorcycle drivers.
Applicants are tested for body odour by professional smell sniffers.
“Many ojek users have complained of drivers’ body odour,” founder Aris Wahyudi said. “We want to provide customers with the best service.”
Unlike those of other ojek services, UberJek drivers do not wear a uniform.
“Most customers don’t like their ojek driver to wear a uniform because they want to be seen as riding with a friend or relative,” Aris said.
In one of those recruitment sessions, each applicant was made to spread his arms in front of a fan, simulating motorcycle riding, while a person behind him who acted as a passenger sniffed his body odour.
Another applicant, Baskoro, said the body odour was a surprise for him.
“I didn’t expect to be tested for body odour, but luckly I always wear perfume when I go outside,” the mustachioed 49-year-old former drug salesman said.
One of those who passed the tests, David Kuswanto, said he did not use any fragrance to chase the stinkies away.
“I was confident because before I applied I asked my wife and kids if I had a body odour issue and they said I was fine,” said David, who works freelance as a wallpaper salesman.
3. Ojek Syari Indonesia (Ojesy)
Ojek Syari (Ojesy) hires only female drivers who wear Muslim headscarves, but accepts female customers regardless of religion.
Drivers must have the permission of their husbands or parents to join the service, Ojesy business developement manager Agus Edy said.
They are not allowed to roam streets without a passenger, but stay at home waiting for orders from the mobile application.
“Some women don’t feel comfortable riding a motorcycle with a man,” Agus said.
Ojesy driver Indari Santika, a mother of one, said she only takes orders when she is not taking care of her child or cooking.
“I often have to cancel orders in the mornings because as a housewife I’m also busy at home,” she said.
She said many of her fellow drivers are single mothers.
“For them this is their only source of income,” she said.
Ojek Syari operates in Surabaya, Jakarta and other cities on Java.
Go-Jek was founded in 2011 by internet entrepreneur Nadim Makarim.
Faced with the daily traffic gridlock in Jakarta, Makarim decided to start a motorcycle taxi company, taking advantage of Twitter and Facebook to create buzz for his innovative project.
“The traffic problem in Jakarta is becoming a real crisis,” Makarim said. “We interviewed a bunch of ojek drivers and I learnt they spent about 75 per cent of their day staying idle, waiting for customers to come to them.”
More than 200,000 motorcycle owners in major Indonesian cities have joined Go-jek, making it the most popular bike-taxi service in the country.
Its drivers are easily recognizable with a bright green jacket and helmet emblazoned with the company name.
Go-Jek has also expanded its business to include package and food delivery, shopping and house-cleaning services.
Formerly known as GrabTaxi, Grab was first launched as a taxi-hailing company in 2011, now operating in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
In May, it launch its motorbike taxi service in Indonesia, GrabBike.
“Ojek is a popular mode of transport here in Indonesia, so it was only time before we transformed it,” said Grab marketing vice President Cheryl Goh.
GrabBike offers medical insurance for all its passengers and drivers, a scheme the company described as the first of its kind.
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Indriaty Octarina was enraged when she found out that her favorite mode of transport, the popular Uber-style motorcycle taxi service Go-Jek, was declared illegal by Indonesian transport minister Ignasius Jonan on Friday last week.
As a worker who must go through the traffic hell from her home to office located in the Jakarta Stock Exchange building in South Jakarta every day, the news struck her like a thunderbolt, she said.
“I use Go-Jek every day because it is faster and cheaper to go anywhere with it. Taxi fare is just too expensive, and public transportation is just not safe or comfortable. What should we do now?” she asked The Parrot.
The news that Jonan had announced a ban on app-based transportation in any form – including Go-Jek, Grabbike and Uber – shocked not only Indriaty but most of the Indonesian public. Although the minister indicated that the ban had legal standing, nobody could understand why a ban was suddenly put in place on ojeks, or private motorcycles being used as public transportation, after millions of people, especially those in big cities, have used them for years.
But the new app-based transport, especially Go-Jek, with its vetted and uniformed operators, who are trained to be polite, is cutting dramatically into traditional taxi and motorcycle services.
“Calling on the National Police and regional governments to enforce the law on public transportation, under which the massively popular vehicle-hailing services like Uber and Go-Jek strictly speaking are illegal,” Jonan’s directive to the police said in announcing the ban.
In this case, the popularity of the app-based services won out in dramatic fashion. Users and supporters vented their anger through social media and within hours the uproar had become so loud that Jokowi had to intervene. A few hours after Jonan announced the ban, the president reversed it.
“Don’t let the people be burdened because of regulations,” Joko said on his official Twitter account, adding that regulations “need to be managed” and that he would “immediately” summon Jonan for talks.
“Innovation by the younger generation should not be restrained and applications such as Go-Jek exist because they are needed by society,” Jokowi told reporters at the state palace only a few hours after the ban.
“I don’t know what has just happened. Such a strange day,” Indriaty Octarina the Go-Jek user told The Parrot.
Go-Jek’s founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim—one of the business people in Jokowi ‘s entourage during his recent visit to the United States – expressed his gratitude, calling it a victory for the democratic process and the people.
“Dear GO-JEK users, President ‘Jokowi’ just answered our prayers by cancelling the Transportation Minister’s circular regarding the prohibition of app-based ojek and online taxi services. Thank you very much for your support on social media,” Nadiem wrote in an e-mail sent to all Go-jek users, saying that he was touched by the enormous public support.
Nadiem added that the withdrawal also guaranteed the welfare of the families of around 200,000 drivers in several provinces in Indonesia who make a living as Go-Jek operators.
Go-Jek isn’t Alone
Nonetheless, the confusion regarding changes in public policy is not new under the Jokowi administration, with political analysts often saying it shows evidence of lack of coordination and that Joko is “unable to fully control his ministers.”
Earlier in January this year, for instance, Manpower Minister Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri announced that the government would require existing and prospective foreign workers to pass Indonesian language tests to be eligible for a work permit, a move seen by many foreign investors as protectionist.
The language proficiency requirement is mentioned in Manpower Minister Regulation No. 12/2013 on procedures for the employment of foreign workers. The regulation stipulates a number of requirements for foreign workers to obtain work permits, including the ability to communicate in Indonesian. However, the regulation excludes commissioners, directors and those in temporary employment.
However the plan was scratched in early March after Korean, Japanese, American and European business chambers objected to the latest manifestation economic nationalism from Indonesia’s establishment.
The plan was regarded as putting barriers in place for foreign investment at the same time the president has repeatedly said he wants to deregulate and speed up the process for obtaining permits to boost investment amid three years of declining pace in economic growth.
The previous coordinating minister for economics Sofyan Djalil told media in April that the business community basically “don’t want and don’t need” this kind of regulatory cleanup, raising more questions whether Joko Widodo is really in charge. It has led to a constant battle on the president’s part to try to keep the deregulation process moving. Go-Jek and its app-based partners are just one of many examples of the difficulty.