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Blue Bird spreads its wings

Article - April 4, 2012
Just as New York has its yellow cabs so Jakarta and other Indonesian cities have their blue taxis. Indonesia's best-known cab firm is part of a group with diversified interests
Among the most common sights on the crowded streets of Jakarta are the distinctive sky-blue vehicles of the Blue Bird taxi company. 

The largest and most instantly recognizable taxi firm in the country, Blue Bird has an excellent reputation among both Indonesians and foreign visitors, and a plethora of awards for the quality of the service it provides.

Its uniformed taxi drivers are seen as trustworthy and well trained, and they always operate with a meter to guarantee the fares charged are fair.

“We try to create a sense of belonging amongst the employees and the drivers. An honest culture within the company itself means that all of the company stakeholders try to maintain these values in their own lives, and use this to better serve our customers.”

Bayu Djokosoetono, Commissioner of Blue Bird Group

Indeed, such is Blue Bird’s good name and reliability that fraudsters pretend to be Blue Bird drivers, picking up passengers in blue vehicles very similar to the firm’s taxis.

Bayu Djokosoetono, Blue Bird’s Commissioner, says it has been a problem. He recommends visitors book a cab through their hotel or online, use the firm’s credit voucher scheme, or, if flagging a taxi down in the street, check it has a Blue Bird sunscreen before getting in. Recently, customers have also been able to make a reservation on their smart phones.

The high standards and reliability Blue Bird expects from its drivers comes from its origins as a family firm.

From what was initially a small car rental firm, the taxi business was started by Bayu Djokosoetono’s grandmother, Mutiara, in 1992. In those less enlightened times, she had to persuade the authorities that a woman was capable of running such a business. In the early days, when there were just 25 cabs, the drivers would take meals with the family.

Today, in the firm’s 40th anniversary year, the now diversified, and still expanding, Blue Bird Group has retained the same values it started with.

“We try to create a sense of belonging amongst the employees and the drivers,” says Bayu Djokosoetono. “An honest culture within the company itself means that all of the company stakeholders try to maintain these values in their own lives, and use this to better serve our customers.”

Blue Bird now has a fleet of more than 21,000 taxis and serves approximately 8.5 million passengers per month all over Indonesia. Its 24-hour call center receives up to 24,000 calls a day.

Mr. Djokosoetono says that for the regular taxi service, the potential in Indonesia is still high. In addition to Jakarta, Blue Bird taxis ply their trade in Bali, Bandung, Banten, Manado, Medan, Lombok, Semarang, Surabaya, and Yogyakarta. The service is being extended to other parts of Indonesia as their local economies improve.

“Once the economy reaches a certain level in a city, we enter the market there. There are many cities in Indonesia which are growing well economically, but they are not supported by a good transportation service.”

Last year Blue Bird opened a branch in Palembang to support the Southeast Asian Games. Further branches are opening in Bandung and Sumatra.

Blue Bird also runs a luxury Silver Bird sedan service for the well-heeled customer. “We are not the only taxi service here in Indonesia offering a premium or luxury service, but we have established our position as the best and most reliable luxury taxi provider through a partnership with Mercedes Benz.” 

Golden Bird provides limousine and car rental, and Big Bird chartered buses.

More than 40,000 people work in the Blue Bird Group, whose business interests range from transportation and logistics, to property, manufacturing and services.

“Our ability to manage that huge number of people is a testament to our professionalism,” says Bayu Djokosoetono.
He says the logistics business is one the group is particularly focused on expanding. “The potential for the logistics service is also limitless because it is a growing business. Indonesia is a resource-based nation and we need to move our goods all around the world. This takes good logistics infrastructure.”

Blue Bird already operates Iron Bird Trucking and Iron Bird Transport, the official agent for Japan’s Sumitomo Warehouse company; OceanAir, a supply chain management service; and Ritra Konnas, a warehouse and container depot. The group sees opportunities for foreign partnerships, and serving as the Indonesian agent for multi-national logistics companies.

Looking ahead, Mr. Djokosoetono says one of the ways to secure the company’s future is by an initial public offering (IPO).

“As the third generation, we have to prove that we are capable of running the family business, not because we are the owners, but because we are professionals in our own right,” he says.