Enough business to go around


  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 27 Jun 2017

No place for Uber and GrabCar here: Penang Taxi Associate Association (Gabungan) members and taxi drivers protesting against the ride-sharing services at the Esplanade yesterday. Star pic by: ZHAFARAN NASIB/ 29 June 2016.

I REFER to the report “Work with Uber and GrabCar, cabbies told” (The Star, June 17).

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri was spot on when she called on taxi drivers to work with Uber and Grab instead of continuing to complain that e-hailing apps have impacted their income.

Many other businesses and trades have been affected by the new economy but there’s no group more vocal in complaining about it than a section of taxi drivers.

The perennial issue could be better addressed by taking cognizance of the fact that there are five main categories of taxi drivers.

Apart from those who have migrated to driving private cars and signed up with Uber or Grab to earn higher income, many continue to drive taxis and pick up passengers who use GrabTaxi.

Others prefer one of the dozen taxi apps available but run fewer trips, as passengers using e-hailing would choose Uber or Grab that charge lower fares.

Then there are those who still use trunk radios with an operator in a radio taxi company acting as an intermediary between passengers and drivers.

The fourth category are those who prefer to cruise for passengers or wait at train stations, shopping malls, hotels or airports.

The last is the group who get bookings from regular passengers to go, for example, to the airport or for hourly use. There are good reasons why these cabbies provide the best service and earn the most among taxi drivers.

These cabbies normally run between 10 and 30 trips per day. Those who treat every passenger as a VIP could easily build up a large pool of regular customers, adding 10 to 30 per month.

Unlike normal cabbies, they are not afraid to display their phone numbers in the taxi or to dish out name cards. Those who communicate well can also act as tourist drivers and receive handsome tips from passengers and commissions from shops.

Ordinary cabbies, particularly those who feel strongly that the public must use their licensed taxis and not private cars, can earn more by shedding the entitlement attitude.

If private car drivers can accept fares and incentives offered by Uber or Grab, there is no reason why cabbies could not, as most of them are running on cheaper natural gas for vehicles.

Proliferation of radio taxi companies in the past had not only cannibalised the market but the limited number of participating taxis with one operator also quickly ran out during peak periods. Service would have been super­efficient if there was only one phone number for the public to call for radio taxis and pass the requests to all drivers. But taxi operators did not learn as evident by the mushrooming of taxi apps.

They should have taken a leaf from Grab, which started as MyTeksi app in 2012. After Uber was introduced to the local market in 2014, it quickly morphed into Grab and competed successfully with Uber.

Last September, Grab’s valuation exceeded US$3bil after it successfully raised US$750mil in a new equity financing round.

Instead of creating and operating a dozen taxi apps, taxi companies should have encouraged cabbies to migrate to Uber or Grab. Cabbies would receive just as many bookings if they accept the same fares and incentives offered to private car drivers.

The Taxi Industry Transformation Plan (TITP) announced last August allowed for dynamic fare for metered taxis using e-hailing services. The primary concern of taxi companies is for drivers to earn enough to pay for monthly instalments as contracted under the taxi rental-purchase agreement.

Unlike private car drivers, cabbies could also pick up street-hailing passengers and collect higher regulated fares, as customers are happy to pay metered charges.

Under the TITP, cabbies exiting the rental-purchase system may apply for individual taxi permits, and those who are successful would also be granted RM5,000 to purchase a new taxi.

Some cabbies have been complaining for umpteenth years on almost everything under the sun, and politicians attempting to be their champion would be making fools of themselves.

YS CHAN

Kuala Lumpur

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