Update: Added a quote from Dennis Wang, head of international expansion.
Transport-related startups are trying to disrupt the scene with innovative ways to improve the travel experience and reduce stress while on-the-go. Waze — a recent billion-dollar acquisition by Google — adds a social layer to maps and traffic-based routing. Tripid encourages ride-sharing to reduce carbon footprint. Uber lets you ride to your destination in style. Meanwhile, for those looking for a cab while rushing to work, or finding it hard to flag a cab in the middle of the pouring rain, there’s also an app for that.
We earlier featured MyTaxi, which has operations in several countries in Southeast Asia. The Malaysia-based startup has recently re-branded and re-launched as GrabTaxi, in order to give the brand a more international image. Meanwhile, GrabTaxi is not alone, as online services giant Rocket Internet (which operates Lazada, Zalora and Groupon, among others) has a taxi service under is wing — Easy Taxi. And with Rocket’s wide reach, it seeks to dominate in this industry, too.
Launched in 2011 from its home base in Brazil, Easy Taxi is the Latin American world’s top taxi app, servicing 30 cities in nine countries. According to Rocket Internet, Easy Taxi now has 30,000 taxi drivers using the service, and a million or so downloads on various mobile platforms.
In a recent update, Easy Taxi has raised a fresh funding round of US$15 million from its original investor, Latin America Internet Holding. “With the recent round of funding, we want to reinforce our position as market leader and continue our global expansion,” said Dennis Wang, the company’s head of international expansion.
In Asia, Easy Taxi has operations in Malaysia and South Korea. Latin America is Easy Taxi’s home turf, helping passengers book their cabs in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.
This new funding will help the company in its efforts to expand its reach to other countries in Asia and beyond, as well. Apart from supporting its expansion efforts, the funding will also be used to build new features into the Easy Taxi application, develop new channels and improve its customer service.
Dennis cited the potential of the Asia Pacific market, particularly in terms of urban mobility and smartphone penetration.
“The Asia Pacific market is definitely an interesting market for us, as we can reach over 4 billion potential customers. Adding this to increasing smartphone penetration and space for improvement in urban mobility makes it a perfect fit for us. Our aim is to connect taxi drivers and passengers the smoothest, easiest and safest way possible. That’s how we reshape urban mobility in the short term — simply providing this great service in as many countries in the Asia Pacific region as possible.”
As with Uber, GrabTaxi and US-based Hailo, Easy Taxi enables passengers to book a cab straight and confirm pick-up and destination points right from their smartphones. The app will then show the exact location of the booked taxi, car model and plate, plus a photo of the driver. Users can also save favorite routes and ride history. Since Easy Taxi vets drivers before approving them to be part of the program, passengers are assured of driver safety and compliance.
Easy Taxi goes beyond taxi reservations, and has also included social responsibility campaigns as part of its operations. In Brazli, participating taxi cabs act as mobile libraries, in which passengers can borrow books available from “Bibliotaxi” cabs and return these in a subsequent trip.
Easy Taxi has also run an anti-drunk driving campaign. Tallis Gomes, founder and CEO of Easy Taxi’s Brazil operations says the company has gone as far as partner with bars and restaurants to persuade inebriated patrons to ride a cab back home instead of drive. “[I]n addition to simply ambitioning to make traffic better in big cities, we are now a major player in the ‘Don’t Drink And Drive’ campaigns across the markets we operate,” he said.