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.”


Infectious diseases are set to become as great a risk for global business as climate change

Updated 19 January 2019
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Infectious diseases are set to become as great a risk for global business as climate change

LONDON: The Global Risks Report 2019 jointly compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Harvard Global Heath Institute describes a world that is woefully ill-prepared to detect and respond to disease outbreaks.
In fact, the world is becoming more vulnerable to pandemics, despite advances in medicine and public health.
Global GDP will fall by an average of 0.7 percent or $570 billion because of pandemics — a threat that is “in the same order of magnitude” to the losses estimated to be caused by climate change in the coming decades.
“Outbreaks are a top global economic risk and — like the case for climate change — large companies can no longer afford to stay on the sidelines,” said Vanessa Candeias, who heads the committee on future health and health care at the WEF.
Potential catastrophic outbreaks of disease occur only every few decades but regional and local epidemics are becoming more common. There have been nearly 200 a year in recent times and outbreaks of diseases such as influenza, Ebola, zika, yellow fever, SARS, and MERS have become more frequent over the last 30 years.
At the same time antibiotics have become less effective against bacteria.
The impact of influenza pandemics is estimated at $60 billion, according to a report by the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future — more than double previous estimates.
The trend is expected to get worse as populations increase and become more mobile due to travel, trade or displacement. Deforestation and climate change are also factors.
Businesses need to bone up on the risk of infectious diseases and how to manage them if the overall economy is to remain resilient.
Peter Sands, research fellow at the Harvard Global Health Institute and executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, “When business leaders are more aware of what’s at stake, maybe there will be a different dialogue about global health, from being a topic that rarely touches the radar screen of business leaders to being a subject worthy of attention, investment and advocacy.”
Predicting where and when the next outbreak will come is an evolving science but it is possible to identify certain factors that would leave companies vulnerable to financial losses, such as the nature of the business, geographical location of the workforce, the customer base and supply chain.
Disease is not the only threat. There is also fear uninformed panic. Past epidemics have shown that misinformation spreads as fast as the infection itself and can undermine and disrupt medical response.
The report advises planning for such emergencies by “trusted public-private partnerships” so that “businesses can help mitigate the potentially devastating human and economic impacts of epidemics while protecting the interests of their employees and commercial operations.”
It is estimated that the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014-2016 cost $53 billion in lost commercial income and the 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea cost $8.5 billion. According to the World Bank, disease accounts for only 30 percent of economic losses. The rest is largely down to healthy people changing their behavior as they seek to avoid becoming infected themselves.
The authors of the report will make recommendations next week at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.