Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 September 2020

Apps can give taxi operators new ideas

The disruption by companies like Careem and Uber should be seen as an opportunity
Cities around the world have had to grapple with the disruption of Uber (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National)
Cities around the world have had to grapple with the disruption of Uber (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National)

Worldwide, the taxi business has been disrupted by transport apps like Uber and Careem. These allow people to hire private cars for short trips, a result which directly impacts the bottom line of taxi companies across the globe.

The industry has reacted in different ways. In some cities, such as London and New York, there have been mass protests. Some have tried to cooperate with the app companies; others have tried lawsuits to force them out of business.

The UAE is still deciding what to do. Dubai’s RTA has suggested it will issue a reminder to these companies on regulations and on minimum fares. This move, if it happens, will represent limited involvement on the part of the Dubai government – The National’s story made clear the emirate does not want to stifle innovation.

The National has long been in favour of innovation and disruptive technologies. While disruption is difficult for established industries, it is also healthy, as it pushes companies to embrace change and innovate, resulting in a better experience for customers. In the case of Uber and Careem, established taxi companies should look on the competition as an opportunity.

Transport apps are not like other apps; users are not looking for the specific app but rather for the service it provides. For most users, whether they order a taxi via Uber, Careem, the Dubai RTA app or the Abu Dhabi Trans AD app is largely irrelevant. What they are looking for is a safe, convenient, fast way to get home or other destination, with a convenient way to pay.

The established companies can simply look at what Uber and Careem do well and emulate that. In that way, they can marry the advantages of regulated taxi services – the careful vetting of drivers and standardised training – with the innovations pioneered by apps.

What are those innovations? Look at what customers like about Uber: the customer service is swift and responsive; the app is fast, functional and intuitive; it is cashless; and the app tells you information about the drivers, including ratings from other users. And most of all, Careem and Uber fill a gap, offering a taxi service when there are few cabs around.

That is the best way to respond to innovators – with more innovation. If established companies catch up with the upstart app’s experience, they won’t need to search for fares – people will be queuing up to use the app.

Updated: December 3, 2015 04:00 AM

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