The sky’s the limit - Issue 120 - Magazine | Monocle

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Blue Birds are a common sight in Indonesia. From Jakarta to Bali, close to 40,000 drivers sit behind the wheels of the taxi firm’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 firms 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 HQ, a 12-storey glass building with a free-form façade 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.”

Founded: 1972
Headquarters: Jakarta
Employees: 3,671 employees and 37,000 partners (drivers)
Vehicles: 29,001
2017 revenue: €258m



“They are the main reason I wake up every single day and go to work. My vision of life is very simple: I want to be a good mother, a good daughter and a good partner.”


Taxi card

“To understand what’s going on out there, I drive a taxi for one day every year. I want to hear firsthand from our customers and hang out with the drivers at lunchtime.”


Survival kit

“I never leave home without this bag. Lipstick, lip balm, a hair band, antibacterial wipes, plasters and painkillers.”


Cutting it fine

“When I cook for my kids I want to cut my carrots, celery, onions and garlic in the same size. For that I need a good knife. I like perfection in things because you can’t have that in business.”


Lucky bamboo tree

“This was a gift. It represents my love of nurturing people through business. Blue Bird is about people, not cars.”


Step up

“I wear heels every day but I always have my flats in case I need to run somewhere. They’re black and skin colour so they go with everything.”


Boxing clever

“This is my kickboxing exercise but it’s also very useful whenever I get stressed out. I need to punch him about once a month.”


High time

“Eating meals at the same time every single day is the first form of discipline. Being on time is how you respect people.”


Looking the part

“Drivers have to earn the right to wear this uniform so that’s why we always wear it with pride. I got involved in the design. The rice and cotton flowers illustrate the company philosophy: rice is a staple food and we provide your basic needs; the plants represent prosperity.”



“I drink detoxing juice every day. It contains beetroot, lime, apple and celery. Beetroot is good for diabetics, like my mother.”

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