Ride with Style
    Category: Entrepreneurs By : Ardian Wibisono Read : 1612 Date : Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 21:28:22

    To publicize its entry into Jakarta in August, Uber Technologies offered the media a free ride to its launch party at the Cloud lounge in Plaza Indonesia. A typical car could be a new Toyota Camry that arrives ten minutes after placing an order during a busy lunch hour. “We are told to make our passenger as comfortable as possible,” says one driver. The trip from the Senayan area to Plaza Indonesia costs about Rp 30,000, similar to a licensed taxi. With its competitive prices, speedy service and quality cars, Uber presents a serious challenge to traditional taxi companies.

    Opening shop in Jakarta, one of the world’s largest and most congested cities, with more than 45,000 taxis, should be an ideal market for Uber, which is based out of San Francisco. “We want to give people more options to move around the city,” says Mike Brown, Uber’s regional general manager for Southeast Asia.

    Uber is transforming the global taxi industry. Established in 2010, Uber is now available in more than 160 cities in the world. The company recently raised $1.2 billion fund to finance its expansion, and its latest round valued the company at $17 billion, putting it ahead of hot tech firm Dropbox.

    All great—except for roadblocks set up by the Jakarta city government in late August. The city said Uber was an illegal service because it did not have a taxi permit, and asked Uber to clarify the issue (Karun Arya, Uber’s spokesperson based in Singapore, declined to discuss Uber’s response to this challenge). However, Uber says on its company blog that it always complies with local rules and regulations.

    Another issue raised by the city was the safety of drivers and passengers using the service (Karun also declined to discuss). But the Uber blog says safety is a prime consideration. In fact, Uber officials argue that its service should be safer for both driver and passenger because both are tracked by the Uber system—both must be registered before joining the Uber network. Whenever a ride is booked, the driver’s name, plate number and vehicle type will pop up on the rider’s smartphone, along an estimated time of arrival. With a regular taxi, drivers pick up complete strangers and also passengers know nothing about the driver, which is one reason why many Jakartans take only Blue Bird, Express or other known taxi brands because they have higher standards than “no name” taxis.