(VOA) — The Indonesian capital’s reputation as one of the most congested cities is typically not an advantage with investors. But one company has become the country’s most visible technology success with an app that relieves some of the pain of its maddening traffic.
The ride-hailing apps that are now part of daily life from New York to New Delhi and London are usually used to summon cars. Jakarta, the world’s sixth-largest urban sprawl and by some measures the most car-clogged, needed something different.
The Go-Jek mobile app hails rides on motorcycles, to dodge and weave through traffic. But its sudden success over the past two years took even its founder by surprise. The app’s name is a play on “ojek,” the Indonesian word for motorcycle taxis, now a rare sight in Jakarta after many drivers joined Go-Jek’s green-jacketed, GPS-coordinated ranks.
“We really had no idea it would be adopted so widely and so quickly,” said Nadiem Makarim, who admits the company and its app struggled to keep pace when tens of thousands began downloading it.
“Smartphone penetration was at an all-time high in Jakarta, traffic was at an all-time high,” he said.
Indonesia also has attracted companies Uber and Go-Jek’s fiercest competitor, Malaysia’s Grab, which is headed by Makarim’s Harvard classmate Anthony Tan.
Go-Jek has built on the usual strategy of providing rides to introduce a slew of additional Go- services to the app, including delivering food, groceries, cleaners, massage therapists and beauticians to homes.
Gearing up for Ramadan
— GO-JEK (@gojekindonesia) June 13, 2016
During Ramadan, Go-Jek changed its driver icon into a traditional ketupat dumpling, rice in a woven palm leaf, and draped a curtain over its Go-Food icon to reflect restaurant windows during the monthlong fast.
Makarim dreamed up Go-Jek while at Harvard Business School and started it when he returned to Indonesia. It became a mobile app after Makarim turned his attention to it full time in mid-2014.
Go-Jek has more than 200,000 drivers around Indonesia. The apps have proven useful to people in a city where congestion causes losses of $3 billion a year.
“We want to make Indonesia proud that this is a uniquely Indonesian company that was started here,” Makarim said.
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This article also draws on reports from the Associated Press.