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.”


Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

Hussain Sajwani
Updated 18 March 2019
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Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

  • Brexit a “concern” for UK property market says Sajwani
  • Developer mulls investing “up to £500 million” on London project

LONDON: The Dubai-listed developer Damac says it is scouting for additional plots of land in Saudi Arabia, both in established cities and the Kingdom’s emerging giga-projects such as Neom.
Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, also said the company would look to invest up to £500 million ($660 million) on a second development in the UK, and that it is on track to deliver a record 7,000 or more units this year.
Amid a slowing property market in Dubai, Damac’s base, the developer is eying Saudi Arabia as a potential ground for expansion for its high-spec residential projects.
Damac has one development in Jeddah, and a twin-tower project in Riyadh — and Sajwani said it is looking for additional plots in the Kingdom.
“It’s a big market. It is changing, it is opening up, so we see a potential there … We are looking,” he said.
“In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy … They have some very ambitious projects, like the Neom city and other large projects. We’re watching those and studying them very carefully.”
The $500 billion Neom project, which was announced in 2017, is set to be a huge economic zone with residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Red Sea coast.
Sajwani said doing business in Saudi Arabia was “a bit more difficult or complicated” that the UAE, but said the country is opening up, citing moves to allow women to drive and reopen cinemas.
He was speaking to Arab News in Damac’s London sales office, opposite the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The office, kitted out in plush Versace furnishings, is selling units at Damac’s first development in the UK, the Damac Tower Nine Elms London.
The 50-storey development is in a new urban district south of the River Thames, which is also home to the US Embassy and the famous Battersea Power Station, which is being redeveloped as a residential and commercial property.
Work on Damac's tower is underway and is due to complete in late 2020 or early 2021, Sajwani said.
“We have sold more than 60 percent of the project,” he said. “It’s very mixed, we have (buyers) from the UK, from Asia, the Middle East.”
Damac’s first London project was launched in 2015, the year before the referendum on the UK exiting the EU — the result of which has had a knock-on effect on the London property market.
“Definitely Brexit has cause a lot of concern, people are not clear where the situation will go. Overall, the market has suffered because of Brexit,” Sajwani said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the coming two years at least … unless (the UK decides) to stay in the EU.”
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, Sajwani said Damac was looking for additional plots of land in London, both in the “golden triangle” — the pricey areas of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which are popular with Gulf investors — and new residential districts like Nine Elms.
Sajwani is considering an investment of “up to £500 million” on a new project in the UK capital.
“We are looking aggressively, and spending a lot of time … finding other opportunities,” he said. “Our appetite for London is there.”
Damac is also considering other international property markets for expansion, including parts of Europe and North American cities like Toronto, Boston, New York and Miami, Sajwani said.
The international drive by Damac comes, however, amid a tough property market in the developer’s home market of Dubai.
Damac in February reported that its 2018 profits fell by nearly 60 percent, with its fourth-quarter profit tumbling by 87 percent, according to Reuters calculations.
Sajwani — whose company attracted headlines for its partnership with the Trump Organization for two golf courses in Dubai — does not see any immediate recovery in the emirate’s property market, or Damac’s financial results.
“(With) the market being soft, prices being under pressure, we are part of the market — we are not going to do better than last year,” he said. “This year and next year are going to be difficult years. But it’s a great opportunity for the buyers.”
But the developer said Dubai was “very strong fundamentally,” citing factors like its advanced infrastructure, safety and security, and low taxes.
In 2018, Damac delivered over 4,100 units — a record for the company — and this year, despite the difficult market, it plans to hand over even more.
“We’re expecting north of 7,000,” Sajwani said. “This year will be another record.”