Blue Birds are a common sight in Indonesia. From Jakarta to Bali, close to 40,000 drivers sit behind the wheels of the taxi company's distinctive blue cars. The family-owned business, which was founded more than four decades ago, runs everything from limousines to logistics -- and it's become a national icon in the process.
But the arrival of foreign ride-hailing companies three years ago threatened to knock it off its perch. So Noni Purnomo -- its kickboxing and knife-collecting president -- set about whipping the taxi operator into shape. She is succeeding: Blue Bird Group is now a modern, tech-savvy service provider. Changes have ranged from a new workplace to a partnership with domestic ride-hailing company Go-Jek.
"We are moving upwards again and the worst is over, provided we keep transforming," says Purnomo. This includes exploring parcel delivery opportunities that combine its taxi and logistics businesses.
Blue Bird was founded by Purnomo's grandmother in the 1970s and has been kept in the family ever since. But that might change. "We want to be as open as possible about the next CEO and not limit it to a family member. What's most important is the 40,000 people who are working with us and their families."
Purnomo is not scared of change. The company's new Jakarta headquarters, a 12-story glass building with a free-form facade she helped design, is based on the structure of single-cell organisms. "Amoebas represent
our future: They have a strong core yet are very flexible. Being around for 46 years gives us strength, but the way we do things has to be different."
This report first appeared in Monocle magazine. To find out more about the magazine and to subscribe, visit monocle.com.