Smell test for Indonesia's motorcycle taxi candidates

Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:17am EST
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By Heru Asprihanto and Nicholas Owen

JAKARTA (Reuters) - So stiff is competition between Indonesia's motorcycle taxis app companies that new entrants are going to extreme lengths to stand out.

Aris Wahyudi, the founder of the newest motorcycle-sharing company, reckons he has found a unique way to win business: not-so-smelly drivers.

"We took the decision to do an odor test for our customers' satisfaction," Wahyudi said, speaking in a sweltering basement car park, where prospective drivers are lining up to have their armpits sniffed as part of a selection test.

Dozens of companies have set up in Indonesia in the past year or so, seeking to emulate the success of Go-Jek, the first local firm to use smart phones to tap into the country's millions of traditional motorcycle taxis, known locally as ojeks.

There are now nearly 40 such firms operating in Indonesia, including Malaysia's GrabBike, and local firms Ojeks Syari, which advertises the Islamic credentials of its jilbab-wearing, women-only drivers, and Limobike, which offer a deluxe service with Vespa-style scooters.

Endang Ahmad, 37, takes his job as a professional armpit-sniffer very seriously.

"I have already found many types of body odor smell," he says, clutching a clipboard which he uses to score candidates as they stand, arms outstretched, in front of a fan meant to simulate the headwind of a motorcycle ride.

"The ones who have sweat smell and armpit smell mixed we don't give a pass."   Continued...

A motorcycle-taxi driver candidate sits on his motorcycle during a test at a basement car park in Jakarta, January 9, 2016. REUTERS/ Garry Lotulung