Enemies no longer, Uber strikes partnership with Indonesia’s second largest taxi firm

Uber is the scourge of taxi drivers worldwide, but sometimes the two can pull in the same direction. Like in Indonesia today, for example, where Uber inked a partnership with the country’s second largest taxi cab provider, Express Group, to allow its drivers to use the on-demand service to boost their income.

The deal is a three-month trial, to be clear, but it is an interestingly rare example of Uber and a taxi company working in tandem for mutual benefit. A selected number of Express drivers — neither side is saying how many — will be allowed to join the UberX service in Jakarta. So drivers gain the potential for more business while Uber increases its pool of cars in a fiercely competitive market.

That’s a big change on a few months ago, when thousands of Express drivers were among a group of Indonesia cabbies who staged a protest demanding a ban on Uber and other apps that they felt were robbing them of customers.

A union with the taxi firm brings Uber into direct competition with two rivals in Indonesia, which is heating up as the major battlefield in Southeast Asia, where the internet economy is tipped to reach $200 billion per year by 2020. Indonesia is the region’s largest economy and capital Jakarta is a mega city with more than 10 million residents and hectic traffic demands and jams.

Grab, Uber’s chief rival in Southeast Asia, started out as a booking platform for licensed taxis before expanding into private cars and motorcycles on-demand. Go-Jek, a newer challenger that recently reached a $1 billion valuation, is a motorbike on-demand service, but it formed a partnership with Indonesia’s largest taxi firm — Blue Bird — to offer four-wheeled taxis through its app.

Uber also offers licensed taxis in South Korea, but that arrangement is due to local regulations.