Noni Sri Aryati Purnomo: Employees Make Us What We Are

NONI Sri Aryanti Purnomo has been involved in the Blue Bird Group ever since she was a little girl when the business was established in the garage of the family home on Jl. Cokroaminoto, Central Jakarta.

When Blue Bird was established, Noni was just three years old. “When I was six, I started helping my parents fold the paper into envelopes into which drivers’ commissions would be inserted. When I was in high school, I worked part time whenever I had a holiday. I entered data and earned Rp 75,000,” said Noni, who was born in Jakarta on June 20, 1969, when met at her office on the fourth floor of the Blue Bird Group building at Jl. Mampang Prapatan Raya No. 60, South Jakarta.

After graduating from high school, Noni studied industrial engineering at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Every time she had an end of term break, she would return to Indonesia and work at the Blue Bird Group.”School holidays abroad are longer than they are in Indonesia. (The end of year holidays) are usually two months. When I returned to Indonesia, I did not have a holiday but worked in the workshop. As a result, I became more closely acquainted with the business of Blue Bird,” said Noni, who is of the third generation in the Blue Bird Group family.

After completing her lectures in Australia, Noni worked at the Jakarta Convention and Exhibition Bureau as a market researcher, where she learned a lot about marketing. “Market research is something I never learned about in my industrial engineering studies or at Blue Bird. I thought Blue Bird would need marketing very much. At that time, I worked at two places. Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. I worked at the Jakarta Convention and Exhibition Bureau and at night, between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. I worked at Blue Bird,” Noni said, reminiscing.

After working at the Jakarta Convention and Exhibition Bureau for one year, Noni moved to Blue Bird. As one of the grandchildren of the late Mutiara Djokosutono, the founder of the Blue Bird Group, she planned to focus on how to develop Blue Bird. However, after working for the family business for only a few months, she left for the U.S. to earn her master’s degree in marketing and finance at the University of San Francisco.”My dad advised me to study finance as the financial control in a family business is usually not strong. However, I was not interested in this subject. Out of respect for my parents, I took finance and marketing,” said Noni, the third daughter of Purnomo Prawiro and Endang Basuki.

After earning her master of business administration, Noni intended to work in the U.S. but her father asked her to return to Indonesia to help develop the Blue Bird Group, which includes Blue Bird, Silver Bird, Gamya, Morante Jaya, Cendrawasih and Pusaka Nuri Utama in Jakarta plus several other taxi companies in Surabaya, Bali and Lombok. Blue Bird Group taxis enjoy the greatest public trust and the group now boasts 16,000 vehicles and 20,000 drivers.

After carefully weighing the situation, Noni decided to return to Indonesia. As soon as she returned, she set up the business development, public relations and quality control departments and improved the marketing system of the Blue Bird Group. Noni said she had enjoyed many positive things by working for the family business. For one thing, there is less bureaucracy and red tape, which makes it quite easy to develop and implement her ideas. “I usually work on a project and like fresh things. As a child, it was not easy for me to convince my dad of a particular new idea. In the eyes of a parent, a child has no experience. To convince him, I had to explain an idea in great detail and clarity so that the whole thing was clear,” Noni said.

Noni acknowledged that her father played a significant role in her development of Blue Bird. Her father taught her the philosophy of business, namely honesty, discipline and hard work. She has applied this philosophy in developing the Blue Bird Group. Noni always tells her drivers to be honest when it comes to dealing with passengers. They must return anything that a passenger leaves behind in a taxi. The Blue Bird Group prides itself on being a taxi company that returns belongings left behind by passengers. When a driver is found to keep a passenger’s left behind belongings, he is rebuked. In addition, Noni also tells her drivers how to work properly and well.

Married to Klaas Redmer Schukken, Noni said that the transportation business, particularly the taxi business, was quite promising. Therefore it is natural that this particular business has been mushrooming and there are many taxis on the road. Still, Noni is optimistic and says that the Blue Bird Group is still in the forefront. For her, competition is a good thing. When there is competition, you work harder and stay on guard.

“If you are caught off guard, you could collapse. Compared to other taxis, Blue Bird is superior in terms of comfort, security and good services. We are focusing on these things: how to provide greater comfort, better security and better services so that customers feel satisfied. We do not follow the entertainment trend by providing televisions in our taxis. In fact, it all depends on the situation and is seasonal,” said Noni, who once taught in the tourism department at the University of Indonesia’s School of Social and Political Sciences.

Her other strategy in facing her competitors and developing her business is to improve the quality of the employees. The Blue Bird Group does not dismiss an employee because he cannot do something, but it will dismiss someone who does not want to learn. The management of Blue Bird teaches people to change together. With competition, internal consolidation will be more solid. “In managing the company, I have never acted discriminatory toward the employees. My grandmother taught me to respect other people. I should not feel I am the boss. In our family, it is a great sin to think of oneself as the boss. We realize this company has become big because of the employees and the drivers. In addition, I thank God for all that I have and always aim to improve myself. At the same time, we must look not only upward but also downward,” she said.

Besides managing the Blue Bird Group, Noni has also been appointed to manage the Pusaka Group, one of the subsidiaries of the Blue Bird Group. She said she was happy to do so because she could create things along with dynamic young personnel. The Pusaka Group is where people are groomed before they manage Blue Bird. If she is successful in Pusaka, perhaps her father, the president director of Blue Bird, will ask her to manage Blue Bird. “I want Pusaka to be a national transportation company,” said Noni.

As a successful businesswoman, Noni, formerly the secretary of the Association of Indonesian Students in the U.S. (Permias), always makes time for her family. Sunday is precious to her as it is a day for the whole family. Although she is very busy, Noni always tries to take her three children to school. At night, she makes the time to put her children to bed. “Before they fall asleep, my kids always ask me to tell them a story, which I do every night,” she said, chuckling.

Noni, who chairs the public relations division of the central board of the Indonesian Transportation Society, loves swimming. She also plays golf and goes to the movies every Sunday with her family. At one time she thought she could treat herself to skin and body treatments at least twice or once a month, but her busy schedule managing the company and her family does not allow time for it. She is thankful that her husband is not fussy about her appearance and she does not need to overly worry about her appearance. “That is the price. For the company and my family I have to put aside my wants,” she said.

Besides being close to her grandmother and admiring her as a very modest hard worker, Noni admires Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister. “She’s a very cool lady. Her household is in order. She was successful as a prime minister and as a housewife.” (Faisal Chaniago)

The Jakarta Post, January 07, 2009

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