Blue Bird oh Blue Bird ...

It is heartbreaking to see the chaos on Jakarta main streets today. A group of mass transportation drivers, especially conventional taxis, are united to protest against application-based services such as Uber, Grab, and Gojek. As if blocking the roads is not enough, they also do vandalism. They attacked not only Uber and Gojek drivers, but even worse: fellow taxi drivers that were still serving customers. Many evidence recorded in photos and amateur videos that has gone viral all over social media channels. 


My heart sank especially for Blue Bird Group. The only taxi company that I used to trust and rely on. The only taxi company that my husband allows me to ride. The only taxi company that returned my sister’s IDR 2 million that was left on the back seat. The only taxi company that saved a bag full of souvenirs that my niece’s left on the luggage. The only taxi company that covered not only cost of treatment, but also send people to accompany patient in hopsital who get hit on the road while riding the taxi. 

I used to be happy with their reputation. When I was almost scammed by a taxi driver in KLIA airport 3 years ago, my Malaysian friend told me that he never trust ANY taxi company in his country. I proudly told him that thankfully in Indonesia, we have Blue Bird Group. I told him that Blue Bird is the face of Indonesian hospitality: polite and honest. They set the bar high for other players to compete. Back then, they were even the disruptor of the business, that many local players protested their expansion

But now, they positioned themselves as the victim of disruptive competition. Instead of launching better apps to compete with Uber or Grab, they demand the competitors to legalize the service. When Uber and Grab has fully done the legalisation; i.e. set up a company in Indonesia, they are not satisfied yet. The drivers want the government to shut down those applications. And people were like, hello, do you guys mean that you would also shut down your own apps and tell your customers to get back on the road to wait for you in the rain in the middle of the night?

I used to be proud that Blue Bird Group was the first taxi company in the world that built mobile reservations since 2011. Unfortunately, the apps doesn’t show any significant update within 5 years. Just last month I told my friend Ollie in Ritz Carlton, that if only Blue Bird service and application was upgraded to be as good as Uber, I would love to stick to Blue Bird. Ironically, in just a few minutes after that, I got bad experience from Blue Bird driver. He drove like crazy, spoke impolitely, and the taxi was smelly. I reported it to their official twitter account, got a reply, but no follow up. 


I already uttered my aspirations directly to Pak Teguh, Head of PR Blue Bird Group and Pak Suhartono, Labor Union Chairman of Blue Bird Group last year. While others were enjoying bonfire in Hulu Cai Bogor during Blogger Camp, three of us discussed about Blue Bird apps and its rooms for improvements. Rating system for the drivers, tracking system on the apps, sharing ETA, and most importantly: cashless method of payment. They said just wait, they’re building the new system. Almost 6 months has passed, and nothing changed (yet). Rumor from my developer friends: it’s all about the money. 

But the number says different. In the first 9 months of 2015, Blue Bird Group has gained IDR 625 billion NETT revenue. That means 16% growth compared to 2014. Their President Director clearly stated that even though competition affects the way they work, it doesn’t affect their financials. If only they would invest at least 1% of their nett revenue to upgrade their mobile reservation system, which is urgently needed to win back the competition… 

In press conference held today, Blue Bird management stated they are not held responsible for what happened today. They released a statement 2 days ago that they DON’T encourage their drivers to join mass demonstration. But no one can push aside the fact that the demonstration today was dominated by taxi drivers wearing their uniform, driving their fleets. The polite, honest, reliable taxi drivers has transformed into “hangry” people. Hangry is a special term made by my 8 year old daughter to describe someone who is “hang” (read: error) because s/he is hungry and angry at the same time. The 24-hour free ride offer didn’t get good sympathy from netizens. On contrary, Gojek did better PR & crisis management move

44 years effort of building reputation and integrity, gone in just one day… Come on, Blue Bird, you are much better than this! 

PS: Hats off to the real Blue Bird drivers who still serve customers and declined to join the vandalism. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016 

Nuniek Tirta Sari

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