Some 67,000 people in this country who make their living driving taxis are worried about their jobs.
It isn’t the the most promising profession right now as the taxi industry is faced with increasing competition, with ride sharing and e-hailing platforms becoming the new norm.
Taxi drivers also have to contend with a negative image the public has of the industry, at times, a consequence of the cabbies’ own behaviour - rude, aggressive, overcharging and defiant.
Industry veteran, Valerie Chan, hopes to change all that.
We are the only platform ‘by taxis for taxis
Through a new taxi-only application called PICKnGo, Chan - who has over 18 years experience in the industry - not only wants to bring about a ‘new image’ to the industry, she wants to help cabbies continue to earn a decent living.
“We are the only platform ‘by taxis for taxis’,” says Chan, the executive director of PICKnGO. “Our commitment is to offer better service to our customers.”
“But we also treat our drivers fairly, we provide training for them at no cost and and we provide a platform that is transparent to both sides - drivers and customers.”
We Are Fair To Both Drivers and Passengers
PICKnGo is represented by five taxi companies with operations mainly in the Klang Valley. The platform works just like any other e-hailing apps with rating systems in place which allows passengers to rate drivers, on a scale of one to five stars.
“We give drivers incentives. When they do well, with good acceptance rate, the drivers get better jobs, such as long haul journeys to locations outstation or to the airport.”
To help boost professionalism, drivers on the platform have to undergo training on driving, service and etiquette. Chan says that any driver whose rating goes below three stars will be ‘called in’, and PICKnGo will help them address their issues.
“If they have a car problem, we’ll try to help. We’ll teach them how to use the app. And if they have a language issue, need to (improve) on their English, we’ll teach them too,” says Chan.
One of the advantages of PICKnGo is that it the ride charges are based on consistent and metered rates
Some ten thousand taxi drivers nationwide are on the app right now; out of which, only 5,000 are active users. How will they compete against well-established ride hailing apps, like Grab, which already commands a dominant share of the customer base?
One of the advantages of PICKnGo is that it the ride charges are based on consistent and metered rates.
“We are different because we do not practice surcharge pricing,” says Chan of the platform’s differentiation. “The rate that has been set by the government is RM1.25 per kilometer. We feel that this rate is good enough for our drivers to earn and be sustainable,” says Chan, adding that passengers can use debit or credit cards in all PICKnGO taxis.
“Secondly, all our taxi drivers are licensed and insured,” says Chan. “We will inspect the vehicles to make sure the car is in good condition. Our drivers are required to come in every three months. We also do random checking. If they don’t come in, we will go look for them,” she adds.
We Provide Training At No Cost
PICKnGO takes a ten percent commision from every booking made on the platform - similar to a new ceiling commission rate, announced by the Ministry of Transport in July 2018.
Under the new requirements - part of the government’s broader move to regulate the e-hailing industry - the maximum commission rate of 10 percent has been set for e-hailing services that is run by cabbies and 20 per cent for services run by personal vehicle drivers.”
We want to bring a renewed look to the taxi industry. People will be surprised to see that taxis are able to be competitive like other e-hailing services
The new surcharge rate is also capped to two times the trip fare.
Additionally, all e-hailing drivers must obtain Public Service Vehicle licence, annual vehicle inspections at Puspakom and for drivers to register with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
Some consumer groups have criticised the string of new requirements - to be enforced in July 2019 - saying it could hurt both operators and drivers with additional costs and barriers.
But these moves might come as a relief for a pure taxi startup like PICKnGo, which had pushed for a more level playing field between the taxi industry and e-hailing operators for many years.
“We want to bring a renewed look to the taxi industry. People will be surprised to see that taxis are able to be competitive like other e-hailing services,” says Chan.
Cabbies Need to Buck Up
Sixty percent of drivers on the platform are aged 45 and above while 30 percent are aged between 30 to 45. Chan says that most of the drivers are already on at least three e-hailing apps. “They have no issues migrating to technology.”
“Give them a chance. Try PICKnGo. Help these drivers. Give them feedbacks, even if they are negative ones, because we will then try to help them out.”
Ultimately, the challenge for PICKnGO - like other e-hailing apps in the country - will be whether it can attract enough drivers and passengers, reach a critical mass to break Grab’s monopoly in e-hailing.