Over the last six years, a burgeoning underground market for unauthorized, third-party Gojek apps has emerged. Named after a child-like spirit in Indonesian folklore that helps his human master earn money by stealing, each tuyul app responds to specific needs of drivers to help make their jobs less miserable.
Despite Gojek’s adversarial relationship with tuyul, the company has benefited by adopting some of the features originally created by unauthorized apps. For instance, the “automatic bidding” app drivers had developed was introduced into the official Gojek app through a new feature called “autobid.” Gojek also briefly introduced the ability for drivers to filter orders, but according to drivers removed the feature when too many drivers started filtering for specific types of orders. While Gojek adopting driver-developed app features shows its responsiveness to driver needs, it also comes with the fear of drivers losing agency over how and how long they can use the features.
If there is one constant in the gig economy, it is that businesses must concede that they are actually employers rather than mere platforms for contractors. Every time they try treating workers like independent labour, they find it is an impediment to their business model.