When it comes to booking a ride these day, passengers are spoiled for choice - taxi, hire car or ride-share - app, phone or website, and when it comes to apps we have ingogo, goCatch, Uber, myRide, On Tap and the list goes on, as well as hundreds provided by individual taxi networks. And soon, we are told, we will see the rollout of taxi consortium app ‘ihail’ and another taxi app ‘Oiii’. No doubt more will follow. The competition for drivers and passengers, already fierce, will be a sight to behold. It will mean more money for jam for drivers from cash bonuses and other incentives and generous discounts for passengers. Whether we’ll make a living wage from fares, now that’s a different story.
by Peer Lindholdt
Where on earth is Uber super killer app ‘ihail’, invented by MTData for the Cabcharge led consortium of Australia’s major taxi networks? Its press releases and website announced it would be launching nationally this month backed by a huge advertising campaign and its sales reps have been at various airports signing up drivers. This week I tried to download its passenger app to my iPhone. Reply: No results for “ihail”! Have they got technical problems? Or is a fight amongst the shareholders stalling the rollout? Reliable sources have told us that the launch of ride-share type vehicles in Maitland and Adelaide by Cabcharge-owned 13CABS and the announcement of its intention to expand the service nationally has caused a serious rift with some of the other shareholders. It certainly has with a lot of cabbies. As for ‘Oiii’, a taxi app owned by Perth company CabNET, it announced in January it would be up and running in March. Nothing has been heard about it since. Another Perth start-up called ‘Shofer’, a play on the word ‘chauffeur’, did launch in March with 80 brand new company-owned Camrys. Like UberX at the time, they operated in breach of WA regulations. However, since 1 July both can operate legally with WA’s new low-fee licence, its so-called ‘on-demand’ licence ($572 p.a.). However, unlike Uber, Shofer charges fixed fares it claims are cheaper than UberX.
It is hard to believe it is only four and a half years since the first P2P transport booking/dispatch/payment apps were launched in Australia, taxi apps goCatch and ingogo, revolutionary here at the time. Then Uber invaded our country, December 2012, and the real revolution really kicked off. As the outcome has demonstrated yet again, ‘Big Money’ with the right lawyers and lobbyists run this country regardless of who is in office, Liberal or Labor.
So what will the legalisation of ‘ridesharing’ and the associated reforms of the traditional taxi and hire car industries really mean? How long is a piece of string? The only things we can be sure of is that it will cause progressive chaos, bankruptcies, collapsing businesses and petiful earnings for all P2P drivers due to oversupply and market saturation.
Following the announcement by goCatch in January that it was launching a ridesharing service in Sydney named goCar with a view to launch it in other states as soon as they made ‘ridesharing’ legal, I published an opinion piece in my February issue decrying the move as morally corrupt. My opinion hasn’t changed, if anything, it has manifested itself.
For the past 8 months goCatch has spent all its marketing effort in Sydney on promoting goCar at the expense of its taxi drivers. On its passenger app there are three choices – goCar, taxi and taxi van. However, if I tap ‘taxi’ up pops a small window with the message “We got a rideshare 5 minutes away”. What would most people do? Tap goCar of course? It would be a wonder if any goCatch passengers were still booking taxis on its app.
However, the company was running out of marketing dollars and had to raise $1.5 million from its shareholders to keep up the momentum. Its first big campaign since then has just been announced - the goCatch wrap. It has invited its best ride-share drivers to become ‘brand champions’ by allowing it to wrap their cars in the goCatch logo and colours for a period of three months. As a ‘thank you’, each chosen driver will receive $1,500, paid in monthly instalments over the period.
As a brand awareness campaign it’s a brilliant idea. Like the ‘Lion King’ taxi wrap in Sydney back in 2013 was. It is also a very screwed way to promote its ride-share brand goCar. Download the goCatch taxi app and learn that you can chose a goCar and ride 30% cheaper.
The problem for goCar, UberX and other wannabe ride-share booking services is that they won’t be much cheaper than taxis for that much longer.
“We started out as a dedicated taxi app and we will remain a dedicated taxi app”, ingogo founder Hamish Petrie told me not long ago.
Showing loyalty to his taxi drivers is not only the ethical thing to do, it could also be a very smart business decision. There are thousands of taxi drivers who are proud of their profession and wouldn’t be seen dead driving ride-share and hundreds who have had a go only to realise that after expenses and wear and tear they make more money driving a cab.
Ingogo is unique in many ways. For example, it is the only company left that pays its drivers commission on EFTPOS transactions on its terminal and provides a free company smartphone. Another unique feature is ‘fixed fares’ which it introduced in May. It claims to have developed algorithms, which can accurately predetermine the cost of each trip. I admit it’s a concept I can’t get my head around. I trust the fairness of the meter, however, some ingogo drivers I have spoken to think it’s terrific.
To attract more passengers ingogo has launched a new promotion. This time drivers can earn up to $20 for every passenger they refer. For every new passenger who downloads the app, enters the driver’s promo code and takes their first ingogo trip, the driver gets $10! When they take their second trip, he/she gets another $10! The new clients simultaneously will get $10 off their first two rides. It’s a win-win all around.
Drivers can pick up ingogoREFER cards from the ingogo office or write their promo code on a printed receipt at the end of the trip.
This of course is by no means a novel idea, however it can be very effective, especially if drivers are given some guidance on how to sell the service like how to start the conversation and 5 good reasons why the passenger should download the app.
When it comes to promotions, Uber can and is outspending all its competitors and as we know, money talks. However, its latest campaign isn’t about attracting passengers or drivers, it’s a campaign against the surcharge state governments propose to introduce to pay for their various P2P reform packages. Everybody objects to the surcharge! It’s a cockamamie idea, but not for the reason given by Uber, that it will make P2P travel unaffordable. That’s a load of crap. People get used to fare increases very quickly and a $1 or $2 surcharge will barely be noticed. What makes it a cockamamie idea is the difficulty government will have in collecting the money without the system being rorted. Uber is simple as all its fares go through its account, so obviously it would be required to collect and pay the money to the state. And that’s why it objects. Getting the money from taxi drivers on the other hand will be a nightmare as they use multiple fare payment systems and booking services and do rank and hail.
Another Uber’s objection is that it belives it is unfair that its riders should pay extra for industry reforms, especially to compensate taxi licence owners. Another load of crap! It is ride-share customers who benefit most from the reforms so if anything they should pay for it. Slug them 5 bucks a ride! •