Vgo (1)

Lankitha Wimalarathna, CEO of Vgo

Want to take on global giant Uber at its own game? Vgo wants to help local taxi companies do just that.

Sri Lanka and US-based software firm Vesess, recently introduced Vgo which is a taxi and logistics technology platform that any logistics company can use to provide the service that Uber or Ola do.

Vesess, is a design and technology firm, with 11 years of experience building intuitive and fast software products.

“Local taxi operators are threatened by companies like Uber and Ola — mainly due to the convenience that they provide,” says Co-founder and Creative Director Prabhath Sirisena.

“Vgo has everything that a traditional taxi company needs to move on to the next level,” adds CEO Lankitha Wimalarathna.

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With Vgo, taxi companies can keep track of all vehicles and drivers in real-time, accept online bookings, and get detailed overview reports of the fleet.

Some of the operators are currently operating only on 60 per cent income mileage, which means if they do 100 km, they get only 60 per cent of that as income and the rest is wastage. For the 40 per cent, the taxis are operating without any passengers. Therefore, Vgo provides the technology to minimise the dead mileage by providing locations and booking platforms.

It can be customised for each client and offers an intuitive, easy-to-use user interface. For consumers, the solution provides quick, convenient booking — a user experience similar to that of Uber.

Vgo’s features include online dispatch, driver and booking apps, web portals to serve corporate clients, fleet and staff management, and billing and accounting.

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It has already added Airport Express, one of the leading taxi operators in Sri Lanka, to its client list and is also in talks with another Sri Lankan taxi company Kangaroo Cabs.

Vesess and a group of investors led by Just In Time Group have jointly invested US$1 million to launch Vgo.

“We will need more funding to fuel our growth; for example, we will need to expand our tech and engineering team. We are talking to some investors; we have enough money as Vesess, but for Vgo we will need more funds. We are even willing to give some share to the investor,” says Wimalarathna.

Vgo is are currently serving customers in Australia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, with plans to expand to the American and European markets next. It is also available for logistics services.

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More than taxi

“We don’t want Vgo to be just a taxi brand; it should be a technology company to build better brands,” shares Wimalarathna.

With its dispatch and tracking technology, the company is tapping into the logistics market by promising clients lower operating costs through the ability to monitor and manage their fleet and drivers better.

It already services companies such as Tasty Trucks that has a fleet of over 150 trucks throughout Australia.

For the next year, the company wants to automate the logistical requirements of the health industry as well as the courier industry, especially on the delivery side.

The trust factor

Though the prospect for taxi operators is lucrative as it promises more business and optimisation of costs, the main challenge remains to earn the trust of these taxi operators.

“They have this fear that we will sell their information and hence they are reluctant to share customer data,” reveals Wimalarathna. The operators are not familiar with the concept of cloud and therefore want servers to be located at their premises.

He explains that all Vgo accounts are SSL-encrypted, utilising the same level of security used by online banks.

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The Indian subcontinent is known for its sensitivity to price-points, which companies such as Uber and Ola have tapped into, giving consumers a cost-effective reason to take a cab.

On tackling the price-points Wimalarathna adds, “We don’t want to operate taxis; we give tools to taxi operators who can fix their own price-point. We are only the back-end operator.”

He cites the example of Sri Lankan taxi operators, who did not consider Uber to be a threat until it entered the country recently.

“We have been talking to these taxi operators; they thought they were the leaders in the market and they can operate the same way they have been for decades. But after Uber came in, whatever pre-sales we had done, the large taxi operators started calling us back inquiring about the technology,” he says.

Language barrier in the Indian sub-continent is also an issue as most of the taxi drivers are not fluent in English. However, Sirisena says that to tide over this issue, Vgo is being made available in various local languages, including Sinhalese and Tamil, and plans to bring in more local languages.