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

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.”


Saudi-led group reinstated as builder of Bulgaria gas pipeline

Updated 16 September 2019

Saudi-led group reinstated as builder of Bulgaria gas pipeline

  • Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court announced that the Saudi-led group’s main competitors for the project had dropped a legal challenge relating to the award
  • Bulgaria’s state gas operator Bulgartransgaz had initially chosen the Saudi-led group — made up of Saudi Arabia’s Arkad Engineering and a joint venture including Switzerland’s ABB

SOFIA: A Saudi-led consortium was definitively reinstated on Monday as the builder of a new gas pipeline through Bulgaria, intended to hook up to Gazprom’s TurkStream project.
Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court announced Monday that the Saudi-led group’s main competitors for the project had dropped a legal challenge relating to the award.
The latest development brings to an end a long-running tussle between the Saudi-led consortium and its competitors for the project, a consortium of Luxembourg-based Completions Development, Italy’s Bonatti and Germany’s Max Streicher.
Bulgaria’s state gas operator Bulgartransgaz had initially chosen the Saudi-led group — made up of Saudi Arabia’s Arkad Engineering and a joint venture including Switzerland’s ABB — to build the 474-kilometer (294-mile) pipeline.
But Bulgartransgaz later decided to strike the winner off the tender for failing to supply documents needed to sign off the contract.
Instead it accepted the offer of the second-placed consortium led by Completions Development.
However, Bulgaria’s competition watchdog ruled in July that the operator should honor its previous commitments and sign a contract with the Saudi-led group.
The watchdog’s verdict was subject to a final appeal in the courts but the Supreme Administrative Court announced Monday that the appeal had been withdrawn, meaning that the Arkad-led group has now been definitively reinstated.
Bulgartransgaz is in a hurry to complete the pipeline as soon as possible in a bid to enable Russian gas giant Gazprom to hook it up to its TurkStream pipeline after it becomes operational at the end of this year.
Bulgaria, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas for its domestic needs, has been repeatedly criticized by both the EU and the United States for failing to diversify both its gas sources and its delivery routes.
The Balkan country hopes to start receiving Caspian Sea gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field as well as liquefied natural gas from various sources via terminals in Greece through a 182-kilometer (113-mile) interconnector expected to be ready by the end of 2020.