Ride-hailing apps run Indonesia’s tuk-tuks off road

A three-wheeled bajaj taxi loaded with a passenger’s goods in Jakarta. Tech advances have left many traditional taxi drivers struggling to earn an income. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2018
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Ride-hailing apps run Indonesia’s tuk-tuks off road

JAKARTA: Auto-rickshaw driver Zainuddin used to make decent money navigating Jakarta’s congested roads and narrow alleyways.
But now US-based Uber, Google-backed Go-Jek and Singapore’s Grab are locked in a race for ride-hailing app supremacy in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, denting the fortunes of traditional three-wheeled bajaj taxis that once ruled Indonesia’s roads.
“Our income has fallen between 70 and 80 percent since ride-hailing apps came on the scene,” said Zainuddin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
There were about 14,000 bajaj on Indonesia’s roads by 2015, according to the latest official figures.
By contrast, Go-Jek alone claims 900,000 drivers and about 15 million weekly active users. It launched in 2010.
Google and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek have announced investments in Go-Jek, which has been valued at as much as $5 billion, although it is little known outside Asia.
Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing market more than doubled in two years to about $5 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $20 billion by 2025, with Indonesia set to account for 40 percent of the
figure, according to research by Google and Temasek.
Go-Jek, which also reportedly won funding from Chinese
Internet giant Tencent, has said it is considering an initial public offering as it looks to grow in Indonesia and beyond.
That could inflate its army of motorcycle taxis, private cars and other services — from massage and house cleaning to
grocery shopping and package deliveries — all available at users’ fingertips.
Dragging behind its regional rivals, Uber is reportedly selling parts of its Southeast Asian operations to rival Grab in exchange for a stake in the Singaporean company.
The ride-hailing trio offers fixed-price rides that take haggling out of the equation, a welcome change for former bajaj customer Tetty Iskandar.
“I haven’t taken a bajaj in years,” said the 35-year-old housewife, who used to ride the three-wheelers to go grocery shopping.
“You had to bargain with the drivers to get cheap fares. And you would already have done bargaining a lot in the market. Sometimes I felt so tired and just wanted to get home.”
The vast archipelago of about 260 million people has a relatively low per-capita car ownership rate.
Vehicle owners often choose to leave their ride at home, opting instead for a fixed-price motor-cycle that can zip through Jakarta’s epic traffic congestion — at bargain-basement prices.
That is threatening bajaj — not to mention standard cabs and ubiquitous motorbike taxis known as ojek — which arrived in Indonesia during the 1970s.
The motorized rickshaw quickly made inroads under its namesake company, which hailed from India.
The name bajaj is now part of Jakarta’s lexicon after supplanting traditional bicycle taxis.
A distinctive blue model of the vehicle is still a common sight, and while pollution-spewing older models are outlawed, some still ply the narrow alleyways of Indonesia’s sprawling capital.
Government efforts to reduce traffic by reintroducing bicycle taxis could further chip away at the market share of bajaj, which cannot operate on highways.
Bajaj backers say the tiny tuk-tuks are safer than motorcycles, which have higher injury and fatality rates.
“They are still a very useful means of transport when you have to go through small alleys and roads in Jakarta,” said Danang Parikesit, president of the think tank Indonesia Trans-portation Society.
For some, sitting in a tuk-tuk as it teeters and rumbles over Jakarta’s roads offers a connection to an older way of life.
“Riding bajaj has a unique sensation, a nostalgic feeling,” said long-time customer Budiyanto.
In central Jakarta, bajaj line a curb, their drivers smoking or sleeping as swarms of motorbike drivers sporting Go-Jek or Grab windbreakers zip by on their way to collect customers.
Even if they wanted to switch to ride-hailing apps, it is too late for some older drivers.
“I cannot shift to an app-based motorcycle taxi because of my age,” said driver Sutardi.
“Companies require that their drivers not be over 60.”
Despite the threat of technology, some insist bajaj have a future, especially among customers who don’t want to get soaked on the back of a motorbike or while waiting for a hired car during the months-long rainy season.
“Customers don’t like to
get wet,” tuk-tuk driver Zainuddin said.
“It’s not good for people when the rain comes, but bajaj drivers will be happy.”


Iraq seeks to exchange food for Iranian gas

Updated 12 sec ago
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Iraq seeks to exchange food for Iranian gas

BAGHDAD: Iraq has agreed with Iran to exchange Iraqi food items for Iranian gas and energy supplies, two Iraqi government officials said on Wednesday.
Baghdad is now seeking US approval to allow it to import Iranian gas, which is used in its power stations, and needs more time to find an alternative source, they said. The sources are a senior government official and a member of Iraq’s ministerial energy committee.
“The American deadline of 45 days to stop importing Iranian gas is not enough at all for Iraq to find an alternative source,” the first official said. “Stopping Iranian gas after the deadline will create a real power crisis. We need more time ... the Americans are completely aware of how desperately we need Iranian gas.”
Washington granted Iraq a waiver to be able to import Iranian gas and energy supplies as well as food items when US sanctions were restored against Iran’s oil sector last week.
But the US has said the exemption will last only 45 days. Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas to feed its power stations.
The second official said that Iraq would will submit a request to the US to allow it to import beyond the 45-day deadline.
In exchange for the gas, Iraq is to “pay food and humanitarian items for Iran ... Iran accepted this proposal,” the official said.