Easy Taxi: Smart phones, smarter cabs
LAHORE: The new Lahore Metro is a well-deserved feather in PML-N’s cap, and a big reason for that is that for a city the size of Lahore, the public transport system has been less than satisfactory. Inner city Lahore’s dwindling number of tongas make rickshaws the most popular choice. Taxis are hardly seen on the streets unless one has privately hired ones. The hassle and unreliability deters public transport users. But something new is now in the offing.
For stranded commuters frustrated by the long wait, a German e-commerce venture capital firm “Rocket Internet” has brought a streamlined solution in the form of an application called Easy Taxi.
Predominantly successful in South America and Asia, Easy Taxi has amassed 1,500,000 downloads and more than 45,000 taxi drivers in markets where it is active.
With the hope of attracting the expanding middle-class of smartphone-users in Pakistan – the fifth largest mobile phone market in Asia – the company has launched the application in Lahore. In the areas of Gulberg, Cantt, DHA, Model Town, Johar Town, Iqbal Town and now Wapda Town, cabs on contract with the company can be summoned via the application.
“The idea is to persuade people who do not usually take taxis,” says Adam Ghaznavi, Venture Leader for Easy Taxi, who gets a certain amount of equity after the project takes off. Drivers who come on board with the model are provided smartphones with Urdu text compatibility, he adds. “To maintain a standard and take safety measures, we have brought different taxi companies on board rather than individual drivers.”
The application can be used via smartphone to generate taxi options within a 10-minute proximity of the user. With over 30 drivers currently committed to the project, Easy Taxi uses either a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic like those belonging to the Metro Cab or Radio Cab servicers, as the mode of transport. The short-term goal is for each driver to have about three rides per day and 150 per month, with a total of 50 drivers by October.
The venture’s Offline Marketing and PR Representative Fatin Gondal describes the application as “customer friendly”. “We see which areas we get requests from and subsequently target those specific areas.”
While the taxis used by the service are regular cabs in which the driver charges clients his own rates, the rates change when an Easy Taxi client gets on board. A base charge of Rs100 is applicable, with each additional kilometer at Rs40. Thus, while a regular cab has flexible rates, the Easy Taxi charges are fixed. “Sometimes a ride from Ittefaq Hospital to Daewoo Station can cost around Rs600, even though the distance is about 3km,” says Ghaznavi. “But when the cab companies come on board with us, they earn more because of the extra orders they get through Easy Taxi.”
A practical solution?
With only a small fraction of Pakistan’s 190 million strong population using smartphones, the Easy Taxi application is out of reach for millions of other commuters who have access to mobile phones and internet. For this reason, a phone number and web options are also available.
There is also the concern that a driver’s phone may be stolen or go ‘missing’. In order to control pilfering, the management keeps a copy of the car registration and the NIC.
While the initial target audience was the upper middle class, the venture had to reassess its audience. “There is still a stigma against taking cabs when it comes to the upper middle class,” explains Ghaznavi. “Once taking a cab is the new ‘cool’ thing to do, that bracket will start using the service.”
For the time, the target population is the working middle class, university or college students and young professionals who don’t have a car of their own. “We’ll be marketing in colleges and universities because most students need to either be picked or dropped to campus. LUMS has already signed on,” he says.