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Go-Jek Delivery Dilemma: Why the Unicorn Was Banned From a Jakarta School’s Cafeteria

Dozens of Go-Jek drivers all lined-up to deliver students’ lunch, but the school cafeteria was not too happy about it

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BY Pauline Mendoza - 15 Dec 2017

Go-Jek Delivery Dilemma: Why the Unicorn Was Banned From a Jakarta School’s Cafeteria

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

As one of Jakarta’s fastest-growing tech start-ups, Go-Jek has had its share of rough paths — being banned by the local government in 2015, for instance. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as any start-up that attempts to disrupt an industry won’t be excluded from any sort of struggle.

Now Indonesia’s first billion-dollar start-up hits another unexpected bump. When green-jacketed Go-Jek drivers started to fill the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) during lunchtime to deliver students’ meals, the school cafeteria’s management was not too happy about it. As a result, Go-Jek was banned from all four of JIS campuses since August 2017. Its cafeteria, which serves the school’s 2,400 students, is run by F&B services giant Sodexo.

Delivery meals are a source of more unwanted waste, and it is unhealthy because it has a lot of salt and sugar, says school spokeswoman Dyah Lestarina in a Bloomberg report. The school’s decision to ban Go-Jek as well as other food delivery services is part of the administration’s nutrition and environmental wellness guidelines set up at the JIS Wellness Summit.

Meanwhile, the students are calling on the management to give them the freedom to choose their meals. In an article on Naga Talk, the student-run website of JIS, student Nicky Hancock says, “I think that the Go-Jek ban is unjustified. Students should be given freedom to choose what type of food [to] eat, and sometimes they might feel like the Sodexo and Booster Hut foods don't fit their needs.”

Another student, Emily Hellam, adds that she has more options for vegetarian food when she uses Go-Jek delivery. For her, even if there are vegetarian food options in the cafeteria, they lack variety, and it’s hard to eat almost the same food for the entire school year.

A parent of a JIS student, who refused to be named, says in a statement published on Naga Talk, “The school should teach the children to control their intake habits, not to absolutely deprive the students of outside-school food. Although the school provides health classes and sports programs to touch this subject, students rarely recognize the importance of control and sugar intake.”

A microcosm of the global business battlefield

As tech start-ups disrupt various industries, the big traditional players are naturally affected. For instance, Go-Jek, valued around $3 billion after its recent capital infusion, has changed the way Jakarta’s ten million residents commute, order food, and get beauty products and services.

“You have to believe that every single transaction that a customer will do in the next three to four years will go through their smartphone,” says CEO Nadiem Makarim in Inc. Southeast Asia’s June cover story.

“If you believe that, you reverse calculate what are the things that will move from offline to online. It doesn’t just include ridesharing, food, logistics, it also includes payment and other services.”

Go-Jek’s app has been downloaded 7.5 million times and its rider network has 250,000 drivers in 25 Indonesian cities.

Similar situations happen across start-ups in Asia. A few months ago, the Philippine government banned ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab because of an issue in operating licenses. Another app operating in the Philippines, motorcycle ride-hailing app Angkas is banned as of this writing because of a conflict in the local government’s transportation code. Meanwhile, in the field of fintech, China cracks down online micro-lending firms with new regulations.

In the June cover story, Makarim notes the rivalry of businesses in the start-up ecosystem, “Competition is fierce, but also one of the reasons we got so big,” he says. “Learning to love your enemy is a very important trait in any business.”

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