Indonesia’s largest taxi operator sees demand rebound

JAKARTA • PT Blue Bird Tbk, Indonesia’s largest taxi operator, has seen a sharp rebound in demand for its services since authorities began easing social distancing rules to revive the nation’s economy, according to president director Noni Purnomo.

About half of the company’s 20,000 taxis have returned to service, prompting the operator to call for more drivers to rejoin duty, Purnomo said. Demand for Blue Bird’s taxi services had plunged 80% at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in capital Jakarta in April, she said.

For Purnomo, who took over the helm of the Jakarta-based company a year ago, the challenge from the pandemic is far from over as Indonesia continues to see a surge in new virus cases with authorities ramping up testing. While Jakarta began unwinding some social distancing rules, much of the archipelago still has some kind of curbs on mobility, hurting demand for transport services.

Blue Bird is bracing for a slow reboot to Indonesia’s economy that’s been ravaged by the outbreak. South-East Asia’s largest economy may start recovering only from August, Purnomo said.

“Under such scenario, by middle of next year only we can go back to the level that we have seen in January or February this year,” Purnomo said in an interview yesterday.

The slump in its core business has forced Blue Bird to rework its capital spending strategy, Purnomo said, adding that it has decided to postpone the expansion of its electric vehicle fleet by adding electric cars made by Tesla Inc and BYD Co Ltd until demand recovers and the company’s financial conditions improve.

“We had a number of electric cars ready to be delivered in March but we decided against that as we don’t want to deploy the resources there for time being,” Purnomo said.

Blue Bird shares gained 1.4% yesterday, trimming losses this year to 56%. That compares to a 21% decline in the benchmark Jakarta Composite Index this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. — Bloomberg