We’re looking at you, Go-Jek, we’re looking at you
On Thursday, Go-Jek launched a new driver recruitment programme called “Kembali ke Merah Putih” (‘Back to the Merah Putih’, the name of the Indonesian flag) by posting a video on its Youtube channel. In the video, CEO Nadiem Makarim was seen sitting and addressing potential drivers.
He stated that “All GrabBike and uberMOTOR drivers who are willing to move from the companies will be directly accepted into the Go-Jek family,” adding that if these drivers have a strong sense of nationalism, then they would be working with Go-Jek instead.
“We expect those who move to Go-Jek to have a strong sense of nationalism, and want to prove to the world that Indonesia can be a winner. Whatever your decision is, you are already a hero in the streets of Jakarta, you must never forget that. But if you are willing to defend this nation, if you have a burning spirit of patriotism, then you should join ‘Karya Anak Bangsa’,” Makarim said.
He also added that the company is going to hold a recruitment event at Lapangan Cilandak KKO, South Jakarta, from April 21 to May 5, 2016.
Any GrabBike or uberMOTOR driver who wishes to apply should just come to the venue, bringing their smartphone and old uniform “to be replaced by a Go-Jek uniform plus a bonus cash of IDR150,000 (US$11).”
The Internet went ballistic.
The company were forced to make the video private after a flood of ‘dislikes’ and negative comments.
Many questioned whether such campaign — which borders on negative advertising— was ethical or not.
A user in Kompas Tekno’s comment section Raymond Sebastian wrote, “Does Go-Jek CEO even know about ethics in advertising, when they are not allowed to speak negatively of other companies or products? If this is what he meant by being nationalistic, then it’s a shame to be an Indonesian.”
Many others on the forum were quick to point out about the company’s hypocrisy such as user Chandra Putra Wijaya, who wrote “Go home bro, you’re drunk. There’s no point in talking about nationalism if all of your investors are foreign.”
The queen of startup sass Startupwati was quick to respond to comments bashing Go-Jek’s choice of investors on Twitter (though she herself did not share any specific opinion on the issue).
Go-Jek boasts the company tagline “Karya Anak Bangsa” (‘Made by Sons’ of the Nation’). In February, it acquired two Indian software developer companies C42 Engineering and CodeIgnition, sparking off debate about the quality of Indonesian developers and whether local companies should make more effort in hiring local engineers.
(The controversial move later led to the birth of the hashtag #KaryaAnakBangalore — ‘Made by the Sons of Bangalore’– on Twitter.)
Other netizens offered a different take on the issue, such as Twitter user Lynda Ibrahim (@lyndaibrahim).
Though she also considered the campaign ‘cowardly and tacky’, she suggests that Makarim might have done it on purpose.
(Okay, now we’re listening.)
“Many said Go-Jek’s latest ad had become a boomerang. Nope. I think Nadiem knew exactly WHOM he was addressing,” she wrote.
“He wasn’t addressing us (who condemned him). The audience he was addressing to were potentially receptive towards nationalistic messages,” she added, referring to the potential drivers.
Fair points, but then again we would still question why it is even necessary for a CEO to ruin his own company’s brand reputation for the sake of targeting a specific few.
It feels offensive if a company assume that ojek (motorbike taxi) drivers are naïve, easy-to-please bunch whom you can easily woo with romanticised ideals, especially when Go-Jek drivers themselves seem to be aware of the strength and weakness of the sharing economy.
Making empty promises of being ‘made by the sons of the nation’ also may not cut it when the public already knows that part of its development team is made up of foreign nationals.
This publicity stunt is also a desperate move because it highlights the only difference that sets Go-Jek apart from Grab and Uber: It was founded by an Indonesian.
Why desperate? Because out there in the streets of Jakarta, it is no longer relevant whether a ride-hailing app is local-made or not.
Do people care about taxi company Blue Bird being local after their drivers ruthlessly kicked and punched a helpless Go-Jek driver during recent violent demonstration? Nay. All that matters is which abang* will show up first when we summon them through one of the apps: Go-Jek, Uber, or Grab.
Perhaps, like Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump, Go-Jek sees any publicity as good publicity.
* How locals in Jakarta address male motorbike taxi drivers or street vendors.
Image Credit: Gratisography
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