Taxi service firms compete hard for Yangon’s customers

An aspect of Yangon’s modernisation is the entry and emergence of domestic and international transport operators, namely, Uber, Grab, Oway Ride and Hello Cab, to compete in the taxi service sector.

Taxis are one of the commonly used modes of transport in the region, alongside commuter trains and public buses. But taxi service in the country’s commercial capital centre is far from professional.

For one, most of the estimated 60,000 taxis plying the streets are operated by individual owners and taxi fees depend on the negotiation between the driver and the prospective passenger.

The taxis do not use fare metres so prices are basically haggled.

This process oftentimes becomes tedious and draining for passengers who just want to reach their destination as soon as possible. The situation becomes more unbearable in the monsoon season.

Moreover, most drivers are not well-trained to provide a professional service to passengers. And what is worse is that there is no system to track a taxi – via GPS – if problems arise.

At night, taxi drivers will usually opt out to undertake long-distance destinations. During rush hours, drivers will also refuse passengers if there is traffic jam. However, if they do agree to take passengers during rush hours, they charge exorbitant fares.

But for passengers who are in a hurry, they have endure all these inconveniences just to get to their destinations.

Since last year, the taxi service in Yangon has improved with the emergence of two local companies: Hello Cab and Oway Ride.

Passengers can hire these taxis through their mobile phones, Facebook accounts, or through the companies’ websites and call centres.

The Hello Cab taxi service has over 900 taxis and is quite popular among passengers. The company used to take up to 12 percent from the taxi fare as commission, depending on the routes. But now, they only take 9pc from the fare.

“Hello Cab and Oway Ride taxi services are already familiar with passengers. It has been over one year and we invested millions of dollars,” said U Aung Win, executive director of Hello Cab.

Employees must have a good personality and their cars also must also be in good condition, such as having a proper air-conditioners, added U Aung Win.

Oway Ride has some 1000 drivers employed and aims to increase their numbers to 5000 drivers by the end of 2017.

Oway Ride drivers also get a K30,000 bonus if they can drive over 20 routes within one week, according to U Kyaw Min Swe, the company’s executive director.

‘‘We mainly focus on service and polite drivers who can offer good service to passengers. Using our application, drivers can make more money and save time,” he said.

Earlier this year, two international transport service companies – Uber and Grab – began operations in Yangon.

The Malaysia-based Grab taxi service was introduced to the country in March.

Currently, Grab is only operating with a few taxis, and depending on the feedback from users, they will extend their service, said Cheryl Goh, vice president of marketing for Grab.

“We had registered as a foreign company to operate a taxi service.

“We are very glad to get the chance to help in the Yangon Region government’s plan to reduce traffic congestion,” she said.

For Grab taxis, the company took a percentage for finding passengers for taxi drivers but the company did not reveal the exact figures. Grab has plans to roll out a mobile payment system in the future but, for now, passengers pay fares with cash.

Grab is already operating in Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The San Francisco-based ride service Uber officially launched in Yangon on May 11.

“As far as I know, there were a total of 70,000 taxis in Yangon and we are sure that hundreds of taxis will cooperate with Uber. In Southeast Asia, Uber has already been providing service,” said Sam Bool, Uber’s expansion general manager in Southeast Asia.

Uber started back in 2010 in San Francisco and now operates in more than 450 cities. Myanmar has become the 76th country where the firm operates.

“Yangon is a big city and most people rely on taxis. So Yangon is a crucial market to us. Many drivers and passengers are using mobile phones and we think that they can use our application easily,” he said.

Everyone can download the firm’s app for free from either the App store or Google Play and sign up using their phone number or email.

When passengers request a ride through Uber’s app, they will receive important details, such as the contact information of the driver and the license plate number of the car.

Waiting time is usually 15 to 20 minutes, depending on a passenger’s location.

Passengers can even track the location of the driver through the app and also share details about the trip with friends and family, to let them know they are getting home safe.

Most passengers said that the Uber application is easy to navigate, but the taxi fare is expensive.

Compared with ordinary taxis – which require the skills in negotiation – it costs on average K1500 to K2000 more, a passenger observed.

“Uber is easy to use but expensive,” said Ko Myint Mo Han from North Dagon township.

In other countries, local taxis don’t like app-run taxi service because they reduce cab fares. Hence, a local taxi operation cannot compete with an international taxi service. But in Myanmar, Uber is more expensive than ordinary taxis so Uber should rethink their strategy, said Ma Ei Ei Khin from Kyauk Mayuang, Tarmwe township.

Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein said that individual taxi operators in Yangon can join any of those companies and make taxi transport service in the country’s commercial capital a much better experience for the public.

“We will allow all taxi service groups to join our market economy. We will not favour or oppress any groups. But I hope that Uber can create a safe and reliable service for passengers in our country,” he said.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) noted in its report that 20 per cent of over two million commuters in Yangon use taxis while the rest travel with public transport.

According to the Road Transport Administration Department, there are 60,000 taxis running on Yangon’s roads, but only 30,000 are needed.

Taxis create a first impression about a country because when foreigners visit, the first thing they have to deal with, once they are out of the airport, is a taxi and its driver, said U Aung Win, executive director of Hello Cab, told The Myanmar Times that taxis often provide the first impression of a country for tourists and visitors.

Unfortunately, most of the taxis in Myanmar’s commercial hub fail to provide professional service to their passengers, he added.

The maintenance of many taxi vehicles is far from satisfactory and locals and foreigners alike often complain about the lack of professionalism among taxi drivers, from their attitude towards customers to the failure to navigate properly or even read Google map.

Source: The Global New Light Of Myanmar