The Jakarta MRT is a point of pride for residents

Indonesia market research agency Cimigo reviews Jakarta’s new MRT

Indonesia market research agency Cimigo spoke to residents of Greater Jakarta in May 2019 to determine what do the public think about the MRT so far? How is the riding experience? How is the MRT serving commuters?

12 minute read.

Phase 1 of the Jakarta MRT (Mass Rapid Transit (Moda Raya Terpadu), the long-awaited public transport solution for Jakarta’s notorious traffic gridlock, was officially launched on 24 March 2019 after construction over 5+ years. By May, the system carried 70,000-80,000 passengers per day on weekdays and 90,000 or more per day on weekends and holidays.

Public opinion towards the MRT

With a relatively smooth and incident-free start, almost all had something good to say about the Jakarta MRT. The overwhelming public sentiment sees the MRT as a great time-saving solution to beat and reduce Jakarta’s traffic congestion. It is a point of pride for Jakarta and Indonesia as it introduces a modern, safe and reliable public transit system in the footsteps of other developed cities in the region.

Many also praised the MRT train’s modern design and comfortable interior, and how the stations are modern and located near many of Jakarta’s landmarks and “hotspots”.

The MRT is symbolic of how far Jakarta (and by proxy, Indonesia) has progressed and its arrival both supports and embodies the city’s prolific growth.  Indonesia market research agency Cimigo, provided a glowing review and is highly encouraging even in this “honeymoon” period for such a high profile public project.


Key stations see the most rider traffic

The initial phase consists of 13 stations serving one of the city’s main thoroughfares, from the iconic Bundaran HI in Central Jakarta, to Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta. The four end-line stations – Bundaran HI and Dukuh Atas in Central Jakarta, and Fatmawati and Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta – are currently the most frequent departure stations by MRT riders. Indonesia market research agency Cimigo expect this to remain the case at least in the near future, with riders taking advantage of the MRT’s relative speed and reliability to traverse the maximum distance possible and bypass road traffic in either direction.

The four most popular arrival or alighting stations tend to be “strategic” stations serving key destinations. Bundaran HI station is located at the heart of Jakarta and is close to several popular shopping malls; Senayan station serves the Senayan sports complex which houses a stadium and convention centre; Blok M station is connected to another shopping mall and is also an important transfer point to the Blok M bus terminal; Lebak Bulus is currently the closest station for commuters living in Jakarta’s southernmost suburbs.


Jakarta MRT passengers are highly pleased

Indonesia market research agency Cimigo asked riders about their experience with the MRT. Passengers are highly pleased. The stations, being in pristine condition, received high marks for cleanliness and comfort. The newly operational trains were the high point of their experience, with half or more stating they were “very satisfied” with the trains’ punctuality, comfort, and speed in reaching its destination. We can safely say that Phase 1 of the Jakarta MRT has achieved its objective of being a speedy and reliable way to beat Jakarta’s traffic, at least along its current operational line.

Currently over 9 in 10 riders stated they are “satisfied” overall with the MRT and complaints are relatively few. As far as new launches go, the MRT is riding high and impressing the public, with 2 in 5 riders giving their strong approval by saying they are “very satisfied” with the experience.


Building infrastructure projects at a rapid pace and opening them with great fanfare seems to be Indonesia’s signature feature under the current government. Ensuring that these projects are maintained and kept viable over the long run is a different issue altogether. For an example, one needs to look no further than at Jakarta’s “busway” or TransJakarta bus service, with its buses and bus stops in various states of ill repair. It will be interesting to see whether the MRT authorities and commuters can work together to keep the MRT stations and trains in good working condition in the coming years, which will be a positive precedent for Indonesian public transport systems.

New system, new riders

Trends come and go quickly in Jakarta and a revealing yet unsurprising finding is that many MRT riders are riding the MRT for the novelty and to partake in a “trending” experience. In many ways, the MRT is THE hot new attraction in Jakarta.

Indonesia market research agency Cimigo found 3 segments of MRT riders, each with unique riding behaviors and motivations.

Only slightly less than half of the MRT riders we spoke to were what we can call commuters who use the MRT regularly: 18% of MRT riders are Heavy Users – they are likely to be most well-served by the existing line and rely on the MRT for their daily transport for a variety of purposes including work and recreation; 27% are Weekday Warriors, the truest commuters who ride the MRT exclusively on weekdays to get to work or school.

55% of MRT riders we spoke to fall into the Fun Seekers segment. These are occasional MRT riders who mostly ride the MRT for recreational or novelty purposes mainly on weekends. It’s no surprise that half of Fun Seekers expressly ride the MRT to show off their experience on social media!


Ojek Online provide 1st and last mile MRT access

Jakarta is an extremely dense  urban area that literally sprawled over centuries. Even as the Jakarta administration works to fulfill its plans of an integrated public transport system, no public transport network can cover all of Jakarta’s little nooks and alleys. This is where motorcycle taxis come in.

Indonesia market research agency Cimigo first covered the then-rapid rise of online app-based motorcycle taxis in 2016, read more here. These “Ojol” or Ojek Online have since become ubiquitous in Jakarta and other major cities in Indonesia.  Not surprisingly Cimigo find that they are a crucial first-mile and last-mile transport option for MRT riders.

Indonesia market research agency Cimigo anticipate that they will continue to play an important role for MRT commuters and the MRT administrators seem to acknowledge this as well by designating Ojek Online drop-off and pick-up areas in most stations.


Minor gripes, points for improvement

Despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews and sentiments towards the Jakarta MRT, nothing is perfect and a few issues were raised by a small minority of MRT riders who have experienced them firsthand. Indonesia market research agency Cimigo expect some of these issues to be fixed over time, such as lack of station facilities (garbage cans, parking areas) and limited MRT network coverage. It remains to be seen if other issues such as difficult station access (steep stairs, lack of escalators), disorderly passengers, and ticket transaction problems (payment machines not working, single use ticket difficult to use) will be picked up and actioned by MRT authorities.

Cimigo on Jakarta MRT

MRT future

In the short term, the Jakarta MRT is likely to continue drawing interest and riders. Trial intention for the MRT is near universal, 97% of non-riders claim they want to try the MRT at some point in the near future, although we think many of these will be novelty seekers and not necessarily future commuters. We also note that enthusiasm for the MRT is very high, with 2 in 5 (43%) of non riders claiming they will “definitely try” riding the MRT.

Indonesia market research agency Cimigo see a bright future ahead for Jakarta’s MRT. It has been proven to deliver its promise as a transport solution and usage is likely to rise as its network expands to cover a bigger portion of Jakarta commuters and destinations.

Chopsticks and Asian cultures

Vietnamese differs greatly from their neighbours in South East Asia.  Unlike Thais, Malays and Indonesians, the Vietnamese dine with the help of chopsticks. Yes chopsticks. Chopsticks help define Asian cultures in many ways. Vietnamese are culturally closer to their northern neighbour in China and other chopstick wielding Asians in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Chopstick nations produce  Asian cultures that are far more;

  1. Assertive – chopstick cultures are far more assertive in the desire to get ahead of their peers
  2. Confucianism – chopstick cultures are heavily influenced by Chinese Confucianism; respect for;  parents especially, elders generally and teachers specifically.
  3. Nuanced – the difference between public and private facades are more extreme.  Values and behaviour in public are far removed from private behaviour and opinions.  A great challenge for market research.

The influence of chopsticks on Asian cultures is visibly stark in Vietnam, with those in Hanoi being far more assertive, pious even and most certainly nuanced compared to those in HCMC, which is 1,500 kilometres further south of historical Sino influences, albeit a mere two hour flight today.

I recently read Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map. An insightful book I sooooo wish I had read on arrival in Asia 25 years ago.   The constructs of Erin’s Culture Map help us understand how to interpret different cultures’ behaviours relative to our own. So together with my Vietnamese team at Cimigo, we debated where Vietnamese sit on the maps relative to the US and Japan.

Vietnam on the Culture Map
Vietnam on the Culture Map

When communicating with the Vietnamese, the nuance certainly requires some listening to the air. Not to the extremes of Japan, but close. Providing feedback to the team is subtle and indirect. A debate and formal presentation is not theory first, nor commercial application first.  It is far more holistic and to me (a UK national) rather long winded.

My own early attempts at being egalitarian have never born fruit and are completely irrelevant in a culture that respects a top down hierarchical leadership style. Decision making in Vietnam is the polar opposite of Japan’s consensual style. The Japanese concept of nemawashi consensus building ahead of important meetings is completely alien here.

In Vietnam relationships are absolutely key to building credentials and trust. Conflicts are largely avoided, this was a construct that the team and I most struggled to reach a clear conclusion.  So much depends on the relative status of the person with whom the conflict exists.  In general conflict is avoided but not to the same extent as in Indonesia nor Japan.  Finally in Vietnam meeting times are rather flexible, not as flexible as Indonesia, but leeway certainly exists.

For anyone working across Asian cultures, read The Culture Map and save yourself a great deal of pain!






Indonesia food and snack habits

Indonesia food culture habits

Food and culture cannot be separated since they are closely related to each other. We cannot talk about culture thoroughly without delving into the food and eating habits of the people in that culture. Understanding Indonesia food habits is essential to understanding Indonesia’s culture.

Nowhere is this more true than in Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world, an archipelago consisting of more than 17,000 islands, spanning one-eighth of the globe and occupied by around 490 ethnic groups. Here tremendous ethnic diversity coupled with wave upon wave of cultural influence adds up to a world of pleasure for the culinary adventurer. This post is one of two in a series exploring some of the popular culinary delights Indonesia has to offer.

Indonesian is a rich culture concerning in the types of food and the way of eating. Every sub-culture in Indonesia has their own types of regional food, as well as their unique way of eating including the menus and the meal times. Throughout her early history Indonesia experienced the arrival of numerous foods from nearby regions, most of which arrived via Southeast Asia and the Malay Peninsula, as well as far off lands such as India, China and even the Middle East.

Indonesian is influenced by food and eating habits from outside the country such as Western culture to eat bread or cereal in the morning.  As time passes and peoples come and go, their influence on Indonesian culture shifts.

The diversity in Indonesia food habits matches its culture

Indonesia food habits

Indonesian cuisine is one of the most diverse, vibrant, colourful and flavourful cuisines. It reflects the country’s diverse cultures and traditions.  Indonesian food is rich in spices. The indigenous cooking techniques and ingredients have benefited from trade influences originating in places as far away as India, China, the Middle East and Europe.

What defines Indonesian cuisine? There is no simple answer since Indonesia boasts wealth and variety in regional ingredients, tastes and culinary styles.  Each region offers a range of distinctive ingredients as well as a story about each dish hence each region has its own ‘regional cuisine’.  If you ask any Indonesian to name an “Indonesian cuisine,” they will find difficulty to name a single dish. The replies will almost always refer to the ethnic group or the region from which the food originated.

Indonesia food habits

Indonesia consists of about 17,000 islands with around 490 ethnic groups. Hence the image of Indonesian cuisine is amazingly diverse, depending on what kind of foods are the subject of discussion.

Indonesia food habits with a hot spicy Sambal sauce

Indonesia food habits

Sambal is the cornerstone of Indonesian cuisine and this chili-based condiment is either freshly made or store-bought. Sambal has become an essential element in enjoying the complete experience of Indonesian cuisine — the spicier the better. For many Indonesians, no food tastes right without sambal.

Across different areas and islands, there are so many unique traditional sambal recipes. You can just eat the small green chili or pestled red chilies mixed with onions and other spices.

Indonesia food habits for a savoury snack

Indonesia food habit

Indonesians, whether rich or poor, love the savoury cracker that comes in many different shapes, big, small, curly, round or square. It also comes in different colors such as light red, orange, yellow, baby blue, light green and white. Eating is less savory and exciting, if there is no favourite Kerupuk crackers.

Kerupuk can also enjoyed on its own or as a snack. Some enjoy dipping it in sambal (chili sauce), broth or other dipping sauces.

Indonesia food habits Kecap Manis ubiquitous sauce

Indonesia food habits

Kecap Manis is  a thick, dark and sweet soy sauce. It is an ubiquitous cooking ingredient in Indonesia especially on the largest island, Java.  Many meals in Indonesia are incomplete without the addition of kecap manis. It is also used as dipping sauce where Indonesian’s love mixing kecap manis with chilies, sliced shallot and a touch of lime juice. Beyond cooking, there is one important use of kecap manis which may sound rather strange to some people  – kecap manis is mixed with and lime for a cough remedy, making for a very tasty cough remedy.

Tempeh keeps Indonesia food habits healthy and nutritious

Indonesia food habits

Tempeh is the most unique among major traditional soy-foods asit did not originate in China or Japan. Originating in Indonesia, it is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities.

Tempeh is delicious, healthy and economical. It is a favorite in Indonesian kitchens because it is easy to cook and quickly serve. Tempeh is now becoming popular around the world as many cultures seek for healthier lifestyles and healthier food choices.

Chicken leads meats amongst Indonesia food habits

Indonesia food habits

As the majority of the population is Muslim, one thing to keep in mind is the prevalence of Halal Foods. Most meat dishes will be chicken (ayam) followed by beef or seafood. Don’t expect to find pork on menus outside of Western or some Chinese restaurants. Indonesia has many different chicken dishes across different regions in the archipelago.

Array of fruits for Indonesia food habits

Indonesia food habits

Indonesia has so many varieties of fruit. Beside the usual fruits like apples, watermelon and tropical fruits like mango, banana, pineapple, guava and papaya, you’ll be confronted by rambutan, duku, manggis, salak, the famous durian and all kinds of things you’ve never heard of. Some are always in season (papaya, coconut, banana), others are available at particular times of the year (rambutan, mango, duku). In contrast for Indonesian’s; peaches, plums and cherries, are considered wildly exotic and few people have tried them.

In Indonesia, you may find fruits that have been used for cooking ingredients. Besides pineapple, some dishes use mango, young jack-fruit, banana and even the King of Fruit, durian.

Indonesia food habits

In West Java there is Sambal Mangga (mango chili). In Central Java there is Gudeg (young jack-fruit sweet stew). In West Sumatra there is Nangko (jack-fruit curry). The most unique is in South Sumatra, where you will find Sambal Tempoyak (fermented durian chili), one of the most famous traditional dishes in Sumatra.

Snacks are adored within Indonesia food habits

Indonesia food habits

Snacks are commonly eaten in between meals such as mid-morning, mid-afternoon and before bed, they are often purchased from wandering street vendors. There is an endless list of snacks that you can sample in between main meals, as Indonesian’s adore a good snack.  Indonesian snacks can include savory dishes like; saté (skewered grilled meat with various sauces), martabak telur (stuffed pan-fried bread), lemper (rolled glutinous rice filled with seasoned shredded chicken/ fish/meat floss) and sweets such as pisang goreng (banana fritters) and martabak manis (sweet pancake).

Comfort food within Indonesia food habits

Indonesia food habits

Aside from sweet & savory snacks, Indonesia also has sweet & savory bubur (literally porridge). This porridge can be considered as a snack or as a breakfast delight. Bubur is the signature comfort food, eaten by old and young alike, is found on streets and in homes and restaurants across the archipelago. From savory to sweet, from breakfast all the way through the day to a post-dinner treat, bubur feeds the masses.

Savory bubur ayam (chicken porridge) is a slow cooked rice in chicken broth and served with condiments such as shredded chicken, chopped celery and crispy fried shallot slices. Sweet varieties abound such as; bubur sumsum made from rice flour and coconut milk, served with a sauce of thick melted brown sugar; bubur kacang hijau has slow cooked mung beans in water, with brown sugar and served with coconut milk; bubur ketan hitam is a black rice pudding and there are many more varieties to delve into.

Indonesia food habits will include 16 billion instant noodle packs in 2016

Indonesia food habits 2016 Indomie

Indomie is the dominant instant noodle brand in Indonesia from Indofood. Indomie is synonymous with instant noodles becoming the generic name for the massive instant noodle category. A category expected to sell 16 billion packs in 2016.

Indomie is an instant noodle that permeates all strata of Indonesian society. Be they blue-collar or white-collar, Indonesians turn to Indomie either as main meal for lunch or as an afternoon or evening snack. People can eat Indomie at any time of the day at home, in the office or at a warung (street food stall).

Stayed tuned for part two in these series on Indonesia’s food and snack habits.

More hot consumer market research trends Indonesia Asia

Cimigo, a market research agency Indonesia, Asia presents the latest consumer trends