Easy Taxi, one of the largest taxi-booking apps in the world, has launched its services in India, starting with Mumbai, the financial capital of the country. Sushant Kaistha has been appointed as Easy Taxi’s Managing Director for the country.
Easy Taxi has already started providing rides on the various radio cabs in the city and will be extending the service to the Black and Yellow taxis and Cool Cabs (air-conditioned cabs) soon.
Explaining why Easy Taxi chose Mumbai as its launch city, Kaistha told e27, “We picked Mumbai because this city has a great taxi and work culture. The smartphone penetration is quite high and this offers us a unique opportunity to integrate ourselves into people’s daily routine in Mumbai.”
With over 100,000 taxi drivers in this city, Easy Taxi feels that it can make a credible impact on their development and enable them to provide a better service. “With people regularly using taxis in Mumbai, we think it makes good sense for them to use our app to book a can, instead of waiting hours or hoping to find one going to their destination on the street,” he added.
Kaistha had similar thoughts for India too, which he felt “is at a very intriguing stage in its adoption of mobile apps. The number of people using smartphones is increasing every day. We feel that India is a great market for a business like ours. Our aim is to ensure that everybody in India should have a fast, safe and convenient way to book taxis.”
Easy Taxi is continuously growing in India, with a team of 15 people, besides close to 30 promoters on the field constantly speaking with drivers and customers. It is working closely with multiple stakeholders and increasing the partnerships with other ventures. “We have been grateful for the support we have received from the Taximen’s Union and the Regional Transport Office of the State of Maharashtra (Mumbai is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra). At the same time, we are always looking to leverage our existing relationships with other Rocket Internet ventures (Easy Taxi is a Rocket Internet venture) in India such as Jabong, Food Panda, Fab Furnish and so on,” the MD said.
The business of Easy Taxi in India
Given that Easy Taxi operates in markets, which are culturally and linguistically as diverse as chalk and cheese, the business and revenue models too have to be as diverse. Learnings of one market may not apply to the other market at all. In Singapore, while most drivers own a smartphone and are well-versed with its usage, India would demand a learning curve. “In Mumbai, we see that even though many drivers are willing to acquire smartphones and work with us, but a huge chunk of them is not aware of smartphone-functionalities. So the amount of time we spend in India in training and educating drivers is much more than some other markets,” Kaistha said.
The revenue model also differs depending on the market dynamics. In some countries Easy Taxi may charge a certain percentage from the driver for every ride completed using the system, in others, there could be be fixed booking fee charged to the customers.
In Mumbai, Easy Taxi has kept the service free as of now. But going ahead, it may go for an advertising based model. “Our first goal is to make sure that the Mumbai market adopts the mobile app taxi requesting space. Besides that we have many auxiliary ways of earning revenue from in-app advertisements and corporate partnerships. As we have a great taxi fleet in most markets, it offers a great opportunity to work with advertising partners to monetise the taxis’ advertising space,” Kaistha said.
Fierce competition from other players
Easy Taxi will face competition from many established organised and unorganised players in India. There are numerous online taxi-booking apps such as Bookmycab, TaxiPixi, TaxiForSure and Uber besides others. San Francisco-based Uber already has presence in India across Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad .
Kaistha said, “Mumbai is an interesting market with different kind of players. Some operate their own fleet, some provide tourist taxis, some use call centres to provide taxis. We, on the other hand see ourselves as a booking service aiming to providing you a taxi as quickly as possible. The way we achieve this is by putting an extremely strong emphasis on building lasting relationships with our drivers. When entering a market, we try our best to learn what it means to be a driver in that market, which means going to where drivers are such as parking spaces, tea stalls, gas stations and shift change areas.”
According to him, the app is global, yet local and in Mumbai, it provides an option of the various taxis customers can order here (Private fleets/Radio cabs, Black and Yellow Cabs, Cool Cabs). However, when customers fly to Singapore and use the app, the various taxis from there are automatically made available to users. The same happens in various other countries.
A bumpy ride
Hassle-free taxi booking in India is a misnomer. Long waits at the call-centre, cancellations, rescheduling, uneducated drivers and faulty meters have been the biggest problem in the country. The market is unorganised with a lot of players and it is difficult to obtain licenses from the government. Unskilled and uneducated drivers tamper the meters to overcharge the customers. Moreover, the internet and smartphone penetration is low in India therefore apps do not work successfully.
“The market is truly unorganised. However, we look at that as an opportunity, because wherever Easy Taxi operates, we do our level best in bringing some sort of uniformity and regulation to the taxi market. We make sure that the drivers that work with us only charge as per the meter. We request our passengers to not entertain drivers looking to make an extra buck. Transparency for both passengers and drivers is the best way to ensure that we maintain our trustworthy brand name in India as well,” he said.
Safety is a major issue in India and other developing markets around the world. Easy Taxi ensures that every driver that signs up to work goes through a thorough background check. It ensures that the driving capabilities are of a certain standard and that they respect the passengers. “When a driver accepts a customer’s taxi request, the customer immediately receives the driver’s mobile number, photo and car details. We have a sophisticated system that allows us to monitor every ride. At the same time, we provide the customer’s details to the driver to ensure their safety as well,” Kaistha added.
Expansion to other cities
As part of Rocket ventures, Easy Taxi believes in rapid expansion and brilliant execution. It will have to launch nation-wide to capture a larger pool of customers in India. “Owing to our operational efficiency, we excel in launching and operating multiple cities and we are already looking at other parts of India and should be able to announce more details very soon,” Kaistha said.