Blue Bird Director Adrianto Djokosoetono tells Ajeng G. Anindita that he hopes the family-owned business will go international within the next five years.
It is in Blue Bird’s swanky new office that Prestige meets with Adrianto Djokosoetono, or Andre, as he likes to be called, for our interview. Still located in Mampang, South Jakarta, just next to the old offices, the two-year-old building oozes with a modern feel. What first catches your eye is the very first Blue Bird taxi displayed in the lobby: a Holden Torana 1972.
“The marketing, PR and IT departments have come here, but there’s still a lot of empty space,” Andre says. He’s dressed in a black suit and white shirt, always a smile on his face. “Our call center also moved here.”
Andre has a Bachelor of (Industrial) Engineering degree from the Institute Technology Bandung. He also possesses an MBA, majoring in management information systems, from Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts. Now he is Director of PT Blue Bird Tbk.
Even after so many years of working for the family business, Andre is still insatiably eager to learn and experience new things. Mentored and guided directly by his father when he was a management trainee, he remembers, “The most important lesson from him is the experience. He drove a Blue Bird cab himself when the company had just started. He always said: ‘Experience it yourself, as far as you can’.
“I noticed in meetings that he was very aware of the plight of the driver, because he had been there. Then I decided that I needed to drive a cab as well. After my hands-on experience, I encouraged the entire operations management team to learn themselves – to go out there and drive our own taxis.”
His mother also taught him a lot of valuable lessons. “She passionately taught us lessons beyond what our schools could offer. That we had to stay humble and that we should learn from others. My guided my personal development.”
The award-winning Blue Bird taxi company is known for its service, security and reliability. Andre tells us how the company has stayed strong through the years. “The true core of our business is service. We stay true to the fact that we are a service company, so we look into ways of serving customers based on their needs. It’s not based on what we are capable of providing. That’s actually the challenge: how to transform what we’re capable of to match the customer’s needs. We need to listen to our passengers, and also to our employees, our drivers. It’s important that we serve them with honesty.
“Adaptability is also important. But we need to transform. Fortunately, we are a large company, geographically speaking. We operate in 18 cities. We need that capability and the agility to adapt. We might be successful one day, but the next day it’s passed! How we continue to adapt is the key.”
Adapting seems to be a very important word to any company in the digital age, where everything can be done on a mobile phone. “Technology has always been a big part of the company,” Andre says. “Something as simple as air conditioner. In the 70s and 80s, it was uncommon, but that was the new technology we knew needed to have it in our cars.
“In the 80s and 90s, radio communication was the new technology, so we installed it in our cars. As the company grew, we adopted more and more technologies into our system, back-end and front-end. Later, we implemented the GPS system. We were the first taxi company here to use the Blackberry for reservations. What we’ve learned is to continually upgrade our technological capabilities to meet the new expectations of the customers. We’ve learned a lot the past three years, most especially.”
Not everyone is eager to accept change, of course. “We have had people who were not accustomed to technology, the very ones who had been delivering our signature quality service. They had been working with us for a long time, so we took them through a journey in stages on how to embrace the new technology, new apps, new interactions. We needed time, obviously, because we had 32,000 drivers that needed to shift to the new norms. More and more, I believe they are becoming accustomed, and hopefully it will be a smooth sail as we move forward.
“The new system does not only connect the driver and passenger, but also communicates with us, the company, directly. We used to do it manually, with paper. Now it’s all digital. They’re using their mobiles to register themselves to get the permit, to get their assigned cars. It applies to their daily life as well. It’s not only the passenger side, but our drivers, too. We’re also focusing on how to train them faster for this new era.”
Blue Bird has been around for 46 years. There have been a lot of changes in the company – the system, the people and the vehicles – but one thing stays the same. “We always say that we are a big Blue Bird family. We treat everyone as a family. We think and put ourselves in their position, the customer’s pain points, driver pain points. We provide free medicals for all our drivers. We also have a scholarship programme, so we have our support system that creates this familial feeling. I believe that’s one of our strengths.
“We have a women empowerment programme where the spouses of our drivers (our drivers are 99 percent male, 120 drivers are female) get schooled on how to earn extra income. The way we support the wives and their children creates a ‘family ecosystem’ that’s the soul of our company.”
Blue Bird has its own application, My Blue Bird. The app can be used to book a cab, from a regular vehicle to a Silver Bird van. You can choose your own mode of payment, by cash or credit card. It has introduced EasyRide, where you can hop into a Blue Bird taxi anywhere and pay using the app.
A smooth ride is something that Blue Bird provides, but it’s not always the case when leading a company, “When you’re leading a team, you need to expect that things will not always go right. We have to expect that some decisions might not be the best decisions. We decide what we think is the best thing, at that moment. But time changes, the decision might no longer be correct. So that is something we need to adapt to. We have our vision, we have our goals, but the target might change because the situation changes.
“I like to work in teams. I don’t believe I can do it alone. I need my whole team working together to achieve great things. We come up with ideas, solutions, and decisions together. I believe that creates a better result for the company. In our group, making mistakes is not something we fear, as long as we learn from it.”
So how do you motivate your teams, so they can achieve better? He answers: “I think one of the core characters is to know what motivates your people. If you know what it is, if you know what the company is for, what you believe in – which is delivering great service – I think the motivation will come by itself. I like to be honest with my team about what are we facing, what we need to accomplish. I try to give them acknowledgement, to stay transparent and be open. What’s more important is listening to what they aspire to do, their goals. Give them enough training and give them opportunities.”
The 41-year-old senior executive married actress and musician Titi Rajo Bintang in November 2016. An admirer of the leadership style of Barack Obama, Andre enjoys diving and biking as part of his busy life. His face lights up when talking about his hobbies.
“I’m lucky that the business has expanded geographically because I enjoy travel. I like to explore new cultures. Indonesia has a very diverse culture. You fly for one hour, it gives you a different perspective. That’s what I like to include in my business travel, to get exposed to new things. I have dived overseas, but lately only in Indonesia. If you’re living in Indonesia and you don’t dive, you’re missing a lot!”
Diving helps him focus “It’s about self-control. It’s about managing the unexpected environment. It has taught me a lot about how to stay focused on what we do. It helps me calm down, because you can’t panic when you dive, otherwise you’ll get hurt. And the scenery underwater is beautiful, to say the least.”
At the end of the interview, he declares: “We’re really in a big transformation period now. My wish is for us to adapt faster, transform faster while staying true to our brand DNA – that’s delivering excellent service, creating a safe and friendly environment for our people and customers, as if it’s our own family.
“Within five years I’d like to see us expand internationally. We are well known regionally, but we don’t have a presence outside Indonesia yet. It will be great if we can deliver it and have the opportunity to bring a 100 percent Indonesian company overseas.”