Pak Yudi, Parking Attendant / Pak Yudi, Tukang parkir

Pak Yudi

This morning I met Pak Yudi, who used to help people park in front of a petrol station near one of Jakarta’s major universities. He was a friendly guy and happy to chat about his work.

“It was great: the manager of the petrol station let me have the spot and didn’t ask for anything. I was busy all day with cars coming and going: lecturers and dentistry students mainly. I earned pretty well – they’d give two, or five, or even twenty thousand each time. I could make more than three-hundred thousand rupiah on a good day, and at least a hundred-and-fifty if it was slow. That’s about the same as the guys that direct traffic on street junctions, but I was relaxed – people always pay for parking, right?

“I used to pay a guy from the Department of Transport – every week I’d buy a book of parking tickets for eighty-thousand, which I never used. The tickets were only fifteen hundred rupiah, and if I’d used them, that was all I’d get!

“The police would come by a few times a day but they were fine and didn’t ask for money. From time to time they’d stop and hoot and I’d take them a cigarette or two, maybe a cup of coffee. There was no-one else to pay – no gangsters.

The Price of Progress

“But I don’t work there anymore – I’ve been unemployed for six months. Things are changing – the Transport Department has tightened up, and cars that park there get towed. There was a boss from Shell too – a Dutchman – who banned parking on their petrol stations. That’s how it goes – if there isn’t any work, I can’t work.”

Pak Yudi

Tadi siang saya ketemu Pak Yudi, mantan tukang parkir di depan SPBU dekat ke salah satu universitas terbesar di Jakarta. Orangnya ramah, senang bercerita tentang pekerjaannya di situ.

“Enak di situ – dikasih sama manajer pompa bensin, orangnya baik, tidak minta apa-apa. Saya sibuuuk, sibuk sepanjang hari, ada mobil keluar masuk, ada dosen, ada mahasiswa dokter gigi. Dapatnya lumayan – bisa kasih dua ribu, tapi biasa lima ribu, sampai ada yang kasih dua puluh. Dalam satu hari bisa sampai tiga ratusan lebih, kalau kurang, paling seratus lima puluhan. Kira-kira sama dengan yang Pak Ogah, tapi saya santai – selalu dibayar, kan, kalau buat parkiran.

“Saya bayar ke petugas DISHUB – setiap minggu delapan puluh ribu untuk membeli satu buku karcis, tapi saya tidak pakai: karcisnya seribu lima ratus doang, kalau dipakai yang kami dapat hanya segitu.

“Ada juga polisi yang datang setiap hari beberapa kali. Mereka baik-baik saja, tidak minta duit. Paling sewaktu-waktu kalau lewat, ‘iiiiiiii’ diklakson, ada pemahaman, saya datang kasih rokok sebatang dua batang, kasih kopi. Tidak ada preman yang harus dibayar.

Pengangguran

“Sekarang mah, saya tidak di situ lagi – sudah enam bulan menganggur. Zaman ini berbeda, DISHUB jadi tegas, mobil yang diparkir disitu diderek, dan juga ada boss dari Shell – orang Belanda – yang bilang tidak boleh lagi parkir mobil di situ. Ya udahlah, kalau tidak ada pekerjaan, saya tidak bekerja lagi.”

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Right at his cutest / Masa lucu-lucunya

We didn’t know

Pak Iwan said, “I have four children. My youngest died, so three are left – two girls, and one boy. My youngest was a boy too.

“The oldest has already married – she’s given me two grandchildren. The second has just finished high-school – she’s looking for work. The third is in junior high.

“My youngest was two years and two months old when he died – right at his cutest. He’d caught dengue fever, and we didn’t know.”

Tidak ketahuan

Kata Pak Iwan, “Anak saya empat. Yang satu yang paling kecil tidak ada lagi. Tinggal tiga – dua cewek, satu lelaki. Yang paling kecil lelaki juga.

“Anak saya yang paling besar sudah menikah, dapat cucu dua. Yang kedua baru lulus SMA, cari kerja. Yang ketiga SMP.

Yang paling kecil ketika meninggal, usianya dua tahun dua bulan, masa lucu-lucunya. Kena demam berdarah – tidak ketahuan.”

The Great Escape / Tanah Menjadi Marmer – tiga rahasia menjadi kaya

Lihat ke bawah untuk membaca versi Bahasa Indonesia

Starting Small

Pak Andi grew up in a Jakarta slum, in a house with a dirt floor and walls of woven bamboo. His mum made their living sewing garments in a small factory, and he barely knew his dad.

“I’d peek through the gaps in the walls and watch our neighbours making love,” – Pak Andi throws his head back and laughs at the memory – “If they saw me they’d throw things and hit the walls and yell ‘Go to hell, China!'”

Pak Andi and his friends were born poor, and most of them still are. He tells stories of the guys who became gangsters and drug-dealers. The friends who went to prison. The friends who are dead.

Pak Andi is the one that got away. He built a business from nothing, selling cigarettes and other essentials on Indonesia’s outer islands, and now he owns a shopping mall in Jakarta, lives in a marbled mansion in an exclusive gated community.

Three Steps to the Epiphany

How did he do it? As he tells it, it was simple, really: he watched TV.

“My success all came from the films I used to watch as a kid. I’d watch American movies and see how rich people lived. They’d come home to beautiful houses with servants who opened the door for them and bought them drinks,  and I thought, ‘I’d like someone to open the door for me when I come home.’ So I decided I wanted to get rich, and I was ready to work hard to do it.

“I used to watch old Japanese war films and I learned from the fighting spirit of the Japanese soldiers – they achieve their mission, or they die trying. Failure is not an option for them. So I took this attitude in life and in business. If you want something, you’ve got to make it happen – no excuses, you have to succeed. Tidak boleh tidak – not allowed to not.

“And I loved MacGuyver! He taught me creativity – whatever problem he was facing, he found a way around it – McGuyver could get out of anywhere by building something from paperclips and bits of old rubbish.”

Like building a mansion from dirt and bamboo.

 

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Tanah menjadi marmer

Pak Andi besar di permukiman kumuh di DKI Jakarta. Rumah keluarganya berlantai tanah, berdinding anyaman bambu. Ibunya bekerja di konveksi, dan ayahnya tidak ada dari waktu Pak Andi kecil.

“Kami miskin benar saat itu. Pada malam hari saya mengintip tetangga saya bersetubuh melalui celah-celah anyaman rumah,” tutur Andi, sambil tertawa berbahak-bahak. “Kalau terlihat, marahlah mereka – saya dilempari barang dan diteriaki ‘Hai Cina! Enyahlah!'”

Pak Andi dan temannya sekampung terlahir dalam kemiskinan, dan kebanyakan dari mereka tetap miskin. Dia bercerita tentang temannya yang menjadi preman dan pedagang narkoba. Teman yang dipenjarakan. Teman yang mati.

Pak Andi satu-satunya yang lepas dari latar belakangnya. Sedikit demi sedikit dia membangun bisnisnya, mulai dengan jual-beli barang di Jakarta, dan setelah itu dia menjual rokok dan barang elektronik di pulau-pulau lain, sehingga menjadi kaya. Sekarang Pak Andi memiliki sebuah mall di Jakarta, dan rumah berlantai tanah itu ditukar dengan sebuah istana berlantai marmer di perumahan elit.

Tiga rahasia menjadi kaya

Apa sih, rahasianya menjadi kaya? Menurut Pak Andi, rahasia menjadi kaya adalah… menonton TV.

“Cikal bakal kesuksesan saya dari film yang saya tonton pada masa kecilku. Saya doyan nonton film Amerika yang tokohnya orang kaya. Saya kagum dengan gaya hidup mereka – pulang malam ke rumah yang mewah-mewah, dilayani pembantu yang menyiapkan minuman bagi bossnya. Dan saya pikir, ‘Betapa indahnya kalau nanti saya punya pembantu yang membuka pintu rumah bagi saya ketika saya pulang kerja.’ Jadi saya putuskan – saya akan menjadi kaya, dan saya siap berjuang untuk menjadi orang sukses.

“Saya juga suka nonton film Jepang yang lama, film perang. Saya belajar dari jiwa prajurit tentara jepang, yang tidak pernah mengalah. Bagi tentara Jepang, hanya ada dua pilihan: sukses, atau mati. Tidak boleh gagal. Saya ambil sikap ini dalam kehidupan saya, dan khususnya dalam bisnis. Kalau kita ingin sukses, kita harus berjuang mati-matian. Jangan kasih alasan kenapa kamu gagal. Harus sukses – tidak boleh tidak.

“Dan pengaruh terakhir… MacGuyverI love MacGuyver. Orangnya hebat – dari dia saya belajar kreatifitas untuk mengatasi masalah. Seburuk apapun situasi yang dia hadapi, MacGuyver bisa menanganinya dengan kreativitas dan kecerdasannya yang luar biasa. Menggunakan penjepit kertas dan sampah pun, apa saja dia bisa.”

Ibarat membangun istana dari tanah dan anyaman bambu.

Pak Tomo’s Tub / Bak mandinya Pak Tomo

Plumbing Business

I asked Pak Tomo how business was at his cafe.

Alhamdulillah.” (Praise God)

“So it’s busy in the warung? Lots of people eating?”

He smiled gently, shook his head. “Not busy, really, but it’s like filling a bak mandi (the tub that holds water for bathing). The tap drips all day, and by evening – alhamdulillah – it’s full.”

Ibarat bak mandi

Saya bertanya kepada Pak Tomo bagaimana bisnis di warungnya.

“Alhamdulillah.”

“Syukurlah Pak, kalau lagi ramai, ” jawabku.

“Ramai sih, nggak,” kata Pak Tomo dengan senyum pelan-pelan sambil menggelengkan kepalanya.

“Ibarat air mengisi bak mandi. Sepanjang hari mengalir dikit… Nanti magrib – alhamdulillah – baknya penuh.”

Guerrilla taxis and the revolution in your pocket / Ojek gerilya dan revolusi dalam kantongmu

Lihat ke bawah untuk versi Bahasa Indonesia

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Guerillas in our midst

It took a phone call and a short walk to find Mas Fauzy. He’d responded to my order for a Grabbike on arriving at Bandung station, but when I got to the street there was no sign of him. In fact, there no green helmets at all, and no branded jackets, despite a fair amount of traffic on the streets.  Eventually I spotted him, waving gingerly from the side of the road, and jumped onto the back of his bike.

“Why aren’t you wearing your jacket?” I asked, half grumpy from the effort of finding him, half concerned I’d been picked up by the wrong bike.

“We don’t use them here, Mas,” he replied, grinning as he shook his head. “Online taxis aren’t really accepted here yet, so we don’t wear the branding – we work guerrilla style.”

As we wove across Bandung Mas Fauzy told me a couple of stories – about ojek online being attacked by old style motorbike taxi drivers, having their smart phones or branded helmets taken and vandalised, and some getting beaten up.

“That’s why I wear my bag on my front like this,” he told me, gesturing to his open backpack. “So that I look like a commuter – and I can check the app on my phone inside it. We need to be careful – I’ve heard of people putting in fake orders to try and trap ojek online.”

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The revolution in our pockets

There’s a lot to say about the benefits of ojek (motorbike taxi) online. Because of GRUBERJEK (Grab, Uber and Gojek, the Big Three online taxi firms in Indonesia), consumers are far more likely to use an ojek: partly because it’s so much easier to find and order one (and all from the comfort of your home); partly because they’re cheaper than old-style ojek, and there’s a clear price system; partly because the quality of service is guaranteed (okay, almost guaranteed) by the training provided to drivers working for the Big Three, and because of the built-in feedback system that means that poor drivers must improve, or lose access to the service.

In the old days two or three years ago, a customer looking for an ojek late at night might get passed from driver to driver, looking for someone who’d give them a lift while the prices went up and up… I was put off ojek by a driver who turned out to be drunk, and drove like a madman through traffic jams and flooded roads until we finally crashed, leaving me to limp home with a bloody foot.

But to my mind by far the biggest and most important change in this new era of online transportation happens in the pockets of the drivers. The old-style ojeks in Bandung resist change because their income has dropped for single journeys – and they’re right, for single journeys. But without exception ojek online tell me that they make a lot more money since they’ve joined one of the Big Three. From 15,000 (US$1.15) to 50,000 rupiah ($3.75) a day operating independently on a street corner to 150, 200, 250 thousand rupiah per day – their average income has increased five fold. From 450 thousand rupiah a month to 4.5 million, to as much as seven-and-a-half million. Minimum wage in Jakarta is about 3.4 million rupiah per month ($260, give or take).

From waiting at coffee stalls on street corners all day, dependent on who might pass by, a driver can have customers all day, everyday. From living below the poverty line – like my neighbour, who often came home to his wife and kids with 15,000 rupiah in his hand after twelve hours waiting – I’ve met tukang ojek who are not only able to feed their families and pay the rent, but are putting their daughters through university.

Playing monopoly

So who loses? Of course, if a person can’t use a smartphone (like Pak Enjon, here), they’re left behind by this opportunity. Apart from that – it’s clear from the news that the owners and workers in other modes of transportation are feeling the competition. Angkot, buses, and especially the taxi companies, who have long profited from the paucity of good public transport services in Jakarta – are all losing out. Some take political steps to defend their monopolies, agitating for online taxis to be outlawed, or for unrealistic constraints to be imposed on their operations… while others bring their opposition violently to the streets, so that ojek online in Bandung and Jogjakarta and Surabaya fear conceal their identities, guerrilla style, and fight for their survival.

Points of friction as an economy shifts gears.

 

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Ojek Gerilya

“Kok tidak pakai jasnya?” saya tanya ke Mas Fauzy, jengkel karena dia susah ditemukan di Jalan Kebun Kawung, dekat ke Stasiun Bandung. Anehnya, helm hijau dan jas berlogo ojek online tidak kelihatan sama sekali di jalanan, walaupun lalu lintas ramai. Akhirnya kami ketemu setelah dia telepon, dan saya melihatnya, diam-diam melambai dari pinggiran jalan.

“Nggak pakai, mas,” dia tangkis, cengar-cengir. “Online masih kurang diterima di sini, jadi nggak pakai branding – harus gerilya.”

Mas Fauzy menceritakan perlawanan dari opang (ojek pangkalan), yang pernah mengeroyok ojek online yang masuk wilayah pangkalan, merusak HP dan memukul orangnya.

“Makanya saya pakai ransel di depan, gaya pegawai kantor, biar ngak kelihatan mengecek app di HP di dalamnya. Harus hati-hati. Kadang juga ada panggilan tapi itu tipuan buat menjebak ojek online.

Tidak jauh dari Jakarta, tapi beda jauh juga.

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Revolusi di Kantong Kita

Banyak yang bisa dikatakan tentang kelebihan sistem ojek online. Berkat GRUBERJEK, konsumen jauh lebih sering memakai ojek karena mudahnya mencari transportasi lewat app, karena lebih murah, dengan sistem harga yang jelas (information problem telah dipecahkan), dan karena mutu pelayanan juga terjamin (okey, hampir terjamin) dari training perusahaan online dan sistem umpan balik (ranking).

Zaman dulu, bisa jadi pelanggan dioper dari ojek ke ojek pada malam hari, mencari pengemudi yang siap membawanya pulang, bertanya-tanya apakah ada yang mau, seketika harga yang diminta ojek dimahalin terus. Pernah juga saya naik ojek dengan pengemudi yang ternyata mabuk – ngebut gila-gilaan, selap-selip di jalan sehingga akhirnya kami kecelakaan, jatuh di jalan, dan saya pulang dengan kaki berdarah.

Tetapi perubahan terpenting dari zaman online ini terjadi di kantong pengemudi. Opang di daerah melawan karena pendapatan mereka turun kalau sekali jalan. Benar itu, buat satu kali jalan. Tetapi tanpa pengecualian ojek online bilang ke saya, pendapatan mereka naik drastis setelah mulai memakai app. Dari 15 sampai 50 ribu rupiah per hari menjadi 150, 200, 250 ribu rupiah per hari, bahkan bisa di atas itu. Dari 450 ribu sampai 1,5 juta per bulan menjadi …. 4,5 sampai 7,5 juta. Bayangkan, seorang ojek online bisa dapat dua kali UMR.

Dari opang yang menunggu di warung sepanjang hari, bergantung pada siapa saja yang lewat, sekarang seorang pengemudi dengan Gojek, Grab atau Uber bisa proaktif mendapatkan pelanggan sepanjang hari. Dari keadaan susah – seperti tetangga saya yang dulu sering kali pulang malu, menghadapi anak isteri dengan 15 ribu di tangannya… sekarang ada tukang ojek yang tidak hanya bisa menafkahi keluarga, tetapi mampu juga membiayai kuliah putrinya.

Yuk, main Monopoli

Jadi siapa yang rugi? Kalau sesorang tidak tahu cara mengunakan smartphone (seperti Pak Enjon, di artikel ini), mereka tidak bisa memanfaatkan peluang ini, ketinggalan zaman. Selain itu – jelas dari berita bahwa pemilik perusahaan jenis transportasi lain rugi. Angkot, bis, dan secara khusus taksi, yang sudah lama diperkaya oleh karena buruknya transportasi umum di Jakarta  – semua rugi karena saingan yang baru ini. Ada yang ambil tindakan politik untuk mempertahan monopoli mereka, berusaha supaya taxi online dilarang, atau dipersusah… dan ada juga yang memakai kekerasan di jalan, sehingga ojek online di Bandung dan kota lain tidak pakai branding perusahaan online

Demikianlah, gesekan dari perUBERan zaman.

UberX: Pak Ade and the new economy / Pak Ade dan ekonomi baru

Scroll down for Indonesian / Lihat ke bawah untuk membaca versi Bahasa Indonesia

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A steady job? UBERrated

From a tale of two Bluebird Taxi drivers, to the experience of an old-style ojek left behind by the new economy, to this: the story of a brand new Uber driver.

Yesterday I took an UberX (a car, rather than motorbike taxi) driven by Pak Ade. He was a friendly guy, enjoying his day and happy to chat about his experience since becoming an Uber driver a short time ago. He told me:

“I’ve been online for four months, and alhamdulillah (praise God), it’s been good so far. Before, I worked in a bank. The work was fine, but to be honest, the salary wasn’t much. I got about three million rupiah a month, plus a few allowances and some overtime. My wife earned more than I did selling mobile phone accessories at Roxy – just for minding a kiosk! Yeah, even though it was a ‘good job’  I sometimes felt ashamed, earning less than my wife.

“So it’s like this: I’d heard about online taxis – people said you could make good money driving for them, but I wasn’t sure that I believed it. Then one of my friends at the bank quit his job, and took the risk of borrowing money to buy a Toyota Avanza and go online. He seemed happy enough, but what convinced me was when he came back after three or four months with another new car. He put someone to work in the old one and kept the new one to drive himself. I’ve got a wife and kids, and usually I avoid risk – but that was the day I decided that I’d leave the bank and go online.

“Alhamdulillah, so far it looks like the right decision. After paying for my loan on the car – six million rupiah per month – I have ten million left, gross. After petrol – a hundred and fifty thousand rupiah per day – after my family’s needs, jajan (snacks) for my kid and my own food, I have about two million a month, net, to save.”

Several of Pak Ade’s colleagues left the bank at the same time after seeing the success of that same friend. Now they make about five times what they made as employees – although Pak Ade is quick to remind me that “you have to stay focused and work hard.” At the moment he’s working far longer hours than he did at the bank: about fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. “It’s my choice. I’m my own boss, and I’m the one who profits from my hard work. I might slow down a bit later once I’ve paid off the car.”

In the last few years the competition between online ojek and taxi services and non-connected public transport has been in and out of the news.  Plenty of bus, taxi, angkot and ojek drivers feel they’re losing out because of competition from the online model. I compare the impact of GRUBERJEK to the introduction of Bluebird Taxi in the seventies: it’s easy to imagine the complaints of other taxi drivers angry at losing out because of Bluebird‘s ‘unfair’ technological and organisational advantages – radios, reliable meters and consistently good service.

For me, the interesting thing about the story of Pak Ade and his former colleagues is this: these aren’t taxi drivers moving from one business model to another, but bank employees with what are usually regarded as good, ‘middle class’ jobs leaving stable employment for greater rewards as online taxi drivers. How big is the exodus, and will it be felt across Jakarta’s labour market? Is it too much to hope that before long employees who stay in their jobs will not only benefit directly from the services of online taxis, but also enjoy rising salaries and retention bonuses – an unexpected blessing of efek GRUBERJEK.

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Zaman perUBERan

Dari kisah dua orang sopir Bluebird Taxi, ke pengalaman seorang Ojek tradisional, ke sini: pengalaman seorang sopir Uber.

Kemarin saya sempat naik Uber(yang pakai mobil), dikemudi Pak Ade. Orangnya ramah, dan senang bercerita tentang pengalaman dia sejak bergabung dengan Uber tidak lama yang lalu. Kata Pak Ade:

“Saya baru tiga bulan ini menjadi online… bagus juga selama ini, alhamdulillah. Dulu saya pegawai bank – pekerjaannya okey, tapi sebenarnya gaji tidak begitu bagus – dapat tiga jutaan, tambah tunjuangan sedikit, kadang tambah lembur. Isteri saya jualan asesoris HP di Roxy, jaga kios saja, dapatnya lebih banyak daripada saya di bank. Kadang malu sendiri, kalah sama isteri.

“Nah, begini ceritanya: saya pernah dengar tentang online, orang bilang dapatnya lumayan, cuman saya nggak begitu percaya, takut nggak benar itu. Tapi salah satu rekan saya di bank berani memundurkan diri, meminjam uang dan beli mobil Avanza, jadi online. Kayaknya dia senang juga, tapi saya jadi yakin ketika habis tiga, empat bulan dia kembali dengan mobil baru lagi. Mobil pertama dia kasih ke orang, dan dia beli lagi. Saya punya anak, punya isteri, bisanya nggak berani ambil risiko, tetapi saat itu saya putuskan daripada tetap di bank saya coba juga masuk online.

“Alhamdulillah, sejauh ini saya lihat keputusan itu benar. Sekarang setelah nyicil buat mobil – setoran enam juta setiap bulan –  masih tinggal sepuluh juta, kotor. Habis bensin – seratus lima puluh ribu rupiah per hari – habis harian keluarga, jajan anak saya dan harian saya buat makan, tinggal dua juta per bulan, bersih, buat tabungan.”

Kata Pak Ade, beberapa di antara mantan rekan dia di bank juga keluar setelah melihat teman mereka yang terlebih dahulu keluar dan berhasil. Pendapatan bulanan mereka kurang lebih lima kali lebih besar daripada gaji di bank dulu, walaupun memang menurut Pak Ade “Harus fokus, harus rajin,” – dia mengakui jam kerjanya sekarang lebih lama, kira-kira empat belas jam per hari, tujuh hari per minggu. “Tetapi enaknya, saya menjadi bos sendiri, dan saya sendiri yang dapat hasilnya dari kerja keras saya. Mungkin nanti saya bekerja lebih sedikit kalau mobil sudah lunas.”

Selama ini saingan ojek dan taxi online dengan angkutan umum biasa cukup nyata. Banyak pengemudi taxi, bis, angkot dan ojek merasa rugi oleh karena adanya yang online. Saya rasa dampak GRUBERJEK bisa dibandingkan dengan dampak Bluebird Taxi ketika baru mulai pada tahun 70an. Gampang dibayangkan saat itu juga ada taxi biasa yang naik pitam merasa rugi karena Bluebird memanfaatkan teknologi dan budaya perusahaan (radio, argo, standar pelayanan yang unggul dan konsisten) yang dianggap ‘tidak adil’ terhadap taxi lain.

Yang menarik dari kisahnya Pak Ade dan mantan rekannya ialah: dulu mereka bukan sopir taxi biasa, tetapi pegawai bank dengan pekerjaan ‘kelas menengah’ yang selama ini dianggap bagus. Walaupun demikian, mereka rela keluar dari pekerjaan yang stabil untuk mendapat keuntungan lebih besar di dunia taxi online. Pertanyaan saya, apakah dampak kecenderungan ini akan terasa di pasar pekerjaan secara umum?

Ada kemungkinan pegawai biasa tidak hanya akan merasa manfaat secara langsung dari jasa taxi online, tetapi nanti dapat juga menikmati kenaikan gaji ketika perusahaan terpaksa menaikkan gaji untuk mempertahankan tenaga kerja mereka. Demikianlah efek tak terduga GRUBERJEK.

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On inequality: Drivers of Progress / Kisah dua orang sopir

Scroll down for Indonesian / Lihat ke bawah untuk versi Bahasa Indonesia

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Once upon a time…

Cast your mind back to Jakarta’s distant past, two or three years ago, when Go-Jek, Grab and Uber were novelties and Bluebird Taxi was really the only show in town. Sometime back then I happened to have two long chats with Bluebird drivers within the space of a week. These two men, both in their fifties, told me about their lives – stories that started a mere breath apart, but ended with miles between them.

Pak Yusuf

The first driver, Pak Yusuf, came to Jakarta fresh out of middle-school 30 years ago. He left his village in central Java, and arrived in the capital with nothing in his pockets but holes. He slept under bridges, working as an unskilled buruh on building sites, doing anything he could to earn money for food.

Pak Yusuf transitioned to working on local buses as a kenek, a cross between bus conductor and ticket-tout. The kenek is a Jakarta institution – hanging in the bus doorway, shouting for trade, running along beside the bus as they whisk passengers in and out of the doorway, communicating with the driver by rapping morse-code on the windows with a fistful of coins… They’re tough, sipping alternately on cigarettes and diesel fumes. And they’re tired –  I’ve seen keneks asleep on their perches in the doorways of their buses as their drivers wove maniacally through the traffic…

Slowly, Pak Yusuf built a life. Eventually he learned to drive and started working an angkot (minibus) route, which he did for years before switching to taxis and ending up with Bluebird. I asked him how he found it.

“It’s hard, Pak. I take home sixty-, ninety-, a hundred and fifty thousand rupiah (US$11) on a good day – it’s like minimum wage, and it’s not enough. I earn enough for rent and cigarettes, sure, but I’ve got three kids in school and it’s expensive. Money is always tight. Maybe it’ll be better when my oldest finishes high-school and starts working, but for now – continuous work.”

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Construction labourers today – the equipment changes, but not the story…

Om Hendra

The second Bluebird driver, Om Hendra, started out the same way. He, too, arrived from his village with an old t-shirt and a pair of jeans to his name, slept under flyovers and started off as a day-labourer. He would sit at the roadside waiting for someone to call him to jump into the back of a truck and go along to dig a foundation, or to carry bricks, cement and steel barefoot and bareheaded to wherever they were needed.

Slowly, he built a life. He drove a becak (bicycle-taxi) for a while – but as he did, he saved up money and sent it back to his brother in the kampung. The brother bought some goats, then sold them, and they bought a cow. When they sold the cow, Om Hendra used the money to learn to drive, and with his new wages they did it again, in time selling their cows to buy a bit of land. Eventually he got married, and his wife ran a little warung while they built a house, laid out with a spare room at the side that they rent out. He told me:

“Praise God, things are comfortable now. Bluebird pays a good wage. One of my kids has just graduated from university our youngest is studying for a degree in mathematics. We have the house, and land in our kampung. With this job I’m my own boss – I can work when I want, and I always meet interesting people. I like driving – the only downside is a sore backside!”

Both Pak Yusuf and Om Hendra have struggled up from zero, and if we visited them in their communities, I suspect we might not see a huge difference between their lifestyles – but one has relative comfort and security while the other remains just one shock from real poverty. Om Hendra’s kids will probably be middle class, while Pak Yusuf’s children – leaving school at 16 or 18 – are likely to get low-paid jobs and struggle on in their father’s footsteps.

It seems to me that the difference between these two men is the thirty-years-in-the-making fruit of a difference in vision and will, the presence or absence of the “first sight and second thoughts” that allowed Om Hendra to really see what he had, imagine a better future, work out how to get there and work steadily to build it.

Look: here are people. Here is inequality.

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“New Resident: there are no words as beautiful as prayer”

 

Pada masa silam…

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Melayangkan pikiranmu, mengingat masa silam Ibu Kota, entah dua apa tiga tahun yang lalu… Saat Go-Jek, Grab dan Uber baru mulai populer, dan Bluebird Taxi tetap berjabat sebagai mode transportasi umum unggulan. Pada masa itu, dalam jangka waktu satu minggu kebetulan saya ngobrol lama dengan dua orang sopir Bluebird. Kedua laki-laki ini, dua-duanya berumur lima puluhan, menceritakan pengalaman hidupnya – dua kisah nyata yang pada mulanya sangat mirip – beda kumis doang – tetapi berakhir terpisah jauh.

Pak Yusuf

Sopir pertama, Pak Yusuf, berasal dari Jawa Tengah, dan datang ke Jakarta saat baru lulus SMP, tiga puluh tahun yang lalu. Dia sampai ke Jakarta dengan kantong kering, terpaksa tidur di kolong jembatan dan bekerja sebagai buruh bangunan, apa saja asal dapat uang buat makan.

Lama-lama, Pak Yusuf menjadi kenek – hinggap di pintu metromini, berseru-seru merayu penumpang, lari di samping bis sambil menaikkan dan menurunkan orang dan barang, mengetuk sandi morse di jendela dengan gengaman uang logam – ketok magicnya sang Kenek! Mereka kuat, para kenek – menghisap asap dari rokok, dari knalpot. Mereka juga capek – saya pernah melihat bis-bis selip-selap melaju di jalan raya, membawa kenek berdiri di pintu ketiduran, bergoyang pelan-pelan ke kanan, ke kiri…

Langkah demi langkah, Pak Yusuf membangun hidup yang lebih makmur. Dia belajar menyetir dan membawa angkot selama beberapa tahun dan akhirnya menjadi sopir Bluebird. Saya bertanya kepada dia tentang pengalamannya.

“Susah, Pak. Sehari dapatnya enam puluh-, sembilan puluh-, seratus lima puluh rupiah per hari. Iya, kaya UMR doang, ngak cukup. Uang kontrakkan bisa, rokok bisa, tapi anak saya tiga, lagi di sekolah semua! Sekolah itu mahal – tapi mau gimana lagi? Selalu susah. Mudah-mudahan nanti, setelah yang pertama lulus SMA, dia bekerja, Insyallah lebih gampang jadinya.”

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Pekerja bangunan – perlengkapan lebih maju, kisahnya tetap sama…

Om Hendra

Sopir Bluebird yang kedua, Om Hendra, pada mulanya sama ceritanya. Dia datang dari kampung hanya membawa kaos luntur dan celana jeans, tidur di kolong flyover dan bekerja sebagai buruh lepas. Setiap hari dia jongkok di pinggir jalan menunggu panggilan untuk naik truk nyeker, dan pergi untuk menggali fondasi bangunan, angkat batu bata, semen dan besi.

Langkah demi langkah, Om Hendra membangun hidup yang lebih makmur. Dia menjadi tukang becak, dan setiap bulan dia mengirim uang kepada adiknya di kampung. Adik itu beli kambing, lalu menjualnya untuk beli sapi. Ketika sapi itu dijual, Om Hendra memakai uangnya untuk belajar mengemudi. Dia terus mengirim sebagian dari gaji ke adik: mereka beli sapi lagi, tapi kali ini sapi di jual untuk membeli tanah. Lama-lama Om Hendra menikah, dan istrinya jaga warung selama mereka membangun rumah – dengan kamar sebelah yang bisa disewakan kepada orang. Kata dia:

“Alhamdulillah, sekarang kami nyaman. Gaji dari Bluebird lumayan, sih. Anak pertama saya baru lulus kuliah, dan yang paling kecil sekarang kuliah matematika di UI. Kami punya rumah, punya tanah juga di kampung. Saya sopir, jadi bos sendiri – kerja semaunya, kalau capek ngak usah masuk. Setiap hari ketemu dengan orang baru. Saya suka mengemudi – masalahnya hanya pantat doang yang sakit…”

Pak Yusuf dan Om Hendra sama-sama memperjuangkan hidup mereka dari nol, dan kalau kita mampir ke rumah mereka, mungkin tidak ada perbedaan yang begitu nyata – padahal yang satu lumayan makmur, dan yang kedua selalu rawan jatuh miskin lagi. Kemungkinan besar, anak-anak Om Hendra akan masuk kelas menengah, jadi lebih makmur lagi dari orang tuanya. Anaknya Pak Yusuf, yang keluar dari dunia pendikan saat lulus SMA atau SMP, jauh lebih mungkin mengikuti jejak langkah ayah mereka, dan mengalami perjuangan – dan kesulitan – yang sama.

Menurut saya, perbedaan di antara kedua laki-laki ini merupakan buah dari perbedaan visi dan kehendak, yang bertumbuh besar selama tiga puluh tahun. Om Hendra memiliki kemampuan untuk melihat keadaan dia, membayangkan masa depan yang lebih cerah, membuat rencana untuk mencapai visinya, dan bekerja dengan gigih sehingga visi itu diwujudkan.

Lihatlah: di sini ada manusia. Di sini ketidaksetaraan.

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Pull’s Ferry: Jakarta, Norwich / Geteknya Pak Tarik: Jakarta, Norwich

Jakarta time machine

“You know this, then” – the branch, which she drew out
From her clothes’ folds… neither spoke.
The hallowed gift amazed him,
The branch of fate – so long since he had seen it!

A sybil pays Charon, ferryman of the Styx
Virgil, Aeneid, 6.406-9

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Pak Tarik’s Ferry, West Jakarta flood canal, and Temple

Open your mouth and pay the ferryman. Two thousand rupiah – a little less than twenty U.S. cents, a trifle more than ten U.K. pence – will see you safely across.

Pak Tarik’s been working this stretch of the canal for eighteen years, using current and cable to guide his ferry. Every time I see him – and the others like him across Jakarta’s rivers and canals – I’m reminded of Pull’s Ferry, Norwich, and I wonder how much longer they’ll be around.

Pull’s Ferry is named for John Pull, who lived and worked here carrying people and goods across the river Wensum from 1796 to 1841. The last of the ferrymen retired in 1943.

Pull’s Ferry, Norwich, and Cathedral

Time Travel di Jakarta

“Inilah, kamu kenal”- sebuah ranting, yang dia keluarkan
dari lipatan jubahnya… keduanya diam.
Persembahan suci itu membuat dia takjub,
Rantai Pohon Nasib – betapa lama sejak dia melihatnya!

Seorang sybil membayar Charon, tukang getek di sungai Styx
Virgil, Aeneid, 6.406-9

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Pull’s Ferry, Norwich, c.1890

Bukalah mulutmu; membayar sang tukang getik. Dua ribu perak buat menyeberang.

Pak Tarik telah bekerja di sini selama delapan belas tahun, memakai arus air dan kabel baja untuk mengemudikan geteknya. Setiap kali saya melihatnya – dan tukang getek lain di sungai dan kanal Jakarta – saya teringat akan Pull’s Ferry, di kota Norwich, Inggris. Dan saya bertanya dalam hati – berapa lama lagi akan ada tukang getek seperti ini di Jakarta?

Pull’s Ferry dinamai untuk John Pull, yang mengangkut barang dan orang menyeberangi sungai Wensum selama empat puluh lima tahun dari tahun 1796 sampai tahun 1841, tukang getek atau ferryman yang paling lama karirnya. Dia bukan yang terakhir – Ferryman terakhir di Norwich pensiun pada tahun 1943 – baru sekejap mata yang lalu.

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Job done

A tale of two farmers / Kisah dua orang petani

Take… the instance of two farmers engaged in cultivating farms as like as possible. The one had never done asserting that agriculture has been his ruin, and is in the depth of despair; the other has all he needs in abundance and of the best, and how acquired?—by this same agriculture.

Socrates in Xenophon, The Economist, Book 1.3 (US/UK)

On inequality

What makes the difference between those who start and stay poor, and those who prosper? I suppose people asked this question before Socrates, and I ask myself the same thing on the streets of Jakarta all the time.

I know a guy who’s been working the same real estate – a strip of land by a railway line – for 25 years. He’s ‘bought’ this land, developed houses, sold them, rinsed and repeated – and stayed exactly where he was when he started out, earning most of his living singing in the doorways of city buses with his wife and kids, bringing in a few dollars day.

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Railside real estate

A few weeks ago I met another man about the same age, raised by a single mother in a rough area of Jakarta, with a dirt floor and walls of bamboo-weave anyaman. He started small, got into property and now owns a shopping mall, lives in a baroque palace in a gated community. I’m not sure he’s happier, but one thing is beyond doubt: in material terms at least, you’ve come a long way, baby.

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A still from a hastily grabbed video of life in another Jakarta

Some go up, while others just about get along. I don’t know if it’s fair, but the city is woven from lives like these.

Tentang ketidaksetaraan

Sebagai contoh, ambil… dua orang petani yang sedang bercocok tanam, yang dua-duanya mempunyai ladang yang hampir sama, sama luasnya, sama subur. Petani yang satu tidak berhenti mengeluhkan susahnya bercocok tanah di ladang itu, penyebab kemiskinannya, dan sudah putus asa; petani yang kedua bisa menemuhi segala kebutuhannya, hidup makmur sentosa, penuh dengan yang terbaik. Dan dari manakah dia mendapat itu semua? Dari usaha pertanian yang sama persis.

Socrates dalam Xenophon, The Economist, Buku 1.3 (US/UK)

Apa sebabnya ada orang yang miskin dari lahir sampai mati, dan ada juga yang lahir dalam kemiskinan tetapi menjadi kaya? Saya yakin hal ini sudah dipertimbangkan orang sebelum Socrates, dan saya bergumul dengan pertanyaan yang sama hampir setiap hari di pinggir jalan ibu kota Jakarta.

Saya mengenal seorang bapak yang telah main properti selama 25 tahun – yaitu, properti yang dimilki PTKA di pinggiran rel kereta api. Sudah berkali-kali dia ‘membeli’ properti tersebut dari pihak berwenang, membangun rumah kecil, menjualnya demi keuntungan. Tetapi bapak ini – yang sudah jelas orang berakal – masih tinggal di tempat yang sama di pinggir rel, mengamen dengan anak-isteri untuk mencari nafkah, menghasilkan beberapa puluh ribu rupiah per hari saja.

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Beberapa minggu yang lalu saya sempat ketemu dengan seorang bapak lain, yang sama usianya dengan bapak pertama itu. Dia lahir di tempat kumuh di Jakarta, rumah berlantai tanah, berdinding anyaman bambu. Bapaknya kabur saat dia masih bayi. Mulai dari kecil, dia berbisnis dan juga masuk dunia properti, sehingga sekarang dia memiliki mal besar di Jakarta dan tinggal di sebuah istana di perumahan ekslusif. Saya tidak tahu apakah hatinya lebih senang daripada bapak yang satu di atas, tapi ada hal yang tak boleh diragukan – kalau memandang harta kekayaan, you’ve come along way baby.

Ada yang naik daun, ada yang terjebak pada musim gugur. Dikatakan adil, dikatakan tidak, inilah tenunan hidup di ibu kota.

Ibu Y

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An actual house

I first met Ibu Y four years ago, when she was living under canvas beside a railway line in Jakarta with her husband and this cat.

Since then, she’s moved house twice, once to a plywood room next to a flood canal, and more recently to another plywood partition inside an actual house nearby. An actual house.

To me, this looked like the progress I’d been hoping for on her behalf. She still has no bathroom or cooking facilities, but her new place is rainproof, more secure, and easier to keep clean than the mud-and-litter surroundings of her old shelter by the railway. It’s relatively free from the smoke of burning plastic.

It seems so clear that this is a better place to live, a step forward and upwards on the long climb to what I think of as a better life. But as we were chatting, she told me how she felt: her new place was okay, but really Ibu Y longs for those days – only a year or so ago – when she lived under canvas by the side of those tracks.

“Friends could come any time, we could get together and do what we wanted. And if someone needed a place to sleep for the night, they could stay as long as they wanted. There was family feeling with our neighbours, we looked out for each other but had our own patches and didn’t interfere in each other’s lives.”

Now that she and her husband live in a legal neighbourhood, it’s harder for Ibu Y’s friends to come and go. They have to report overnight guests, and neighbours complain to the local leader if there are too many visitors.

“Here, they tell us to send people away, to keep quiet, and to tidy up. By the railway, it was ‘You, you; me, me.’ We were free. And when the train company cleared our houses, we flew away – like birds.”

Rumah sejati

Saya bertemu dengan Ibu Y empat tahun yang lalu. Pada saat itu dia tinggal di bawah terpal bersama suami dan kucingnya. Rumahnya sebuah gubuk di pinggiran rel kereta api di Jakarta.

Sejak saat itu dia sudah pindah dua kali, yang pertama kali ke “apartemen tripleks” (bukan duplex) di tanggul kali banjir. Tidak lama yang lalu dia pindah lagi ke tempat yang sekarang, yang juga merupakan sekamar tripleks, tetapi terletak di dalam sebuah rumah tua. Sebuah rumah sejati.

Bagi saya, ini kemajuan yang nyata, yang sudah lama diharapkan – Ibu Y sudah naik satu jenjang menuju taraf hidup yang lebih baik. Rumah dia sekarang lebih aman, tidak bocor, lebih mudah dibersihkan dibandingkan tanah dan sampah di sekitar tempat tinggal dia yang lama. Rumah ini pun ruangan bebas asap dari pembakaran plastik.

Tetapi makin lama kami ngobrol, makin jelas: tumpangan yang sekarang lumayan sih, tetapi Ibu Y sangat merindukan tempat tinggalnya yang dulu, tidak lama yang lalu, yang atapnya sehelai terpal tipis.

“Di sana orang bisa datang kapan saja, kami bisa berkumpul, kalau ada teman mau nginap, semalam, seminggu, tidak apa-apa. Kami kan saudara, punya tempat masing-masing tapi saling menghargai, memperhatikan. Tapi bebas juga, kalau lo mau begitu, aku mau begini tidak apa-apa, namanya lu lu gue gue, kan?”

“Sekarang mah, orang bikin susah, kalau ada tamu harus lapor, ngak boleh yang banyak, ngak boleh berisik. Kalau ada sampah, orang bilang sama Pak RT, disuruh bersiin. Lebih enak di rel. Kami orang yang… maunya bebas. Setelah digusir sama PTKA, kami bubar, pergi ke mana-mana – seperti burung.”