Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Uber's entry into T&T gets mixed reviews from local taxi apps

There are mixed feeling about the entry of Uber into the Trinidad and Tobago market from local apps offering a similar service.

While some believe the global brand’s presence could only benefit “Made in T&T” competitors, others think the country is making a mistake by allowing Uber to set up shop on these shores.

Wayne Bolai, founder of Quikpikup, is not a fan.

Stating that he once worked with Uber and Lyft, a similar app, he described Uber as a cold hard corporation with billions of dollars to throw around.

“They can throw wonderful, attractive incentives to get people to use the system and drive for them but as they go along, they decrease their rates so much so that we have people complaining that to make a living you have to work 16 hours a day,” he said of the Uber model where drivers basically operate as their own business.

He said Uber will put other taxi drivers, particularly those at the airport, out of jobs.

“There will be job losses but not just in the transportation industry. Uber is also getting into other areas such as food delivery, courier services will also be affected. Uber has a significant impact on the economy,” he said.

He said as a foreign company, they will be taking money out of Trinidad and Tobago, urging locals to support their own .

“We are not a cold hard corporation like Uber, we try to put a personal touch on things, we meet with drivers one on one. Our goal is to provide employment and extra income for people. I made a promise to the airport guys that we will keep our fares equivalent to theirs so when they drive for us they are not losing any money. We don’t want to be a bully and take away anyone’s jobs, ” he said.

"We have been supporting local businesses by building relationships and doing cross-promotions with them because we believe in developing local business," he added.

Dayne Thompson, founder of WeTaxi, also urges support for local efforts.

He said he has no issue with Uber coming into the market as it is a business opportunity but said with their strong brand, the company will get a better reception than the homegrown apps.

WeTaxi launched in January and Thompson said he approached a well-known car rental company to partner with him but was blanked. Now, he said, he is hearing that the same company is collaborating with Uber.

“Those things have me disgruntled,” he said, expressing disappointment with the lip service paid to the cry to support local.

Acknowledging that Uber’s presence would help to educate the market, Thompson said one of the biggest challenges would be getting people to use the app rather than making direct calls to book a taxi, which he experiences on his own service.  He said, too, cash transactions are also still necessary as many people still prefer to pay with cash.

For Robert de Gannes, founder of Reach, which is due to launch soon, Uber’s entry is a validation of the market.

His main concern, however, is their ability to maintain quality control.

“These issues are huge concerns to a travelling public especially ours. If indeed they wield the influence to get the Government to change the law to allow for anyone to ply a taxi it deregulates an industry that actually needs stricter policies to help deal with the concerns of the average Trinbagonian, It’s going to affect every business,” he said.

He said, however, that Uber’s arrival will push local app developers to up their game.

“Their arrival also will ensure that every one of us needs to meet or exceed their standard of app functionality as well as service,” he said, noting that in most markets where Uber functions, competitors do exist and make a good profit.

A co-owner of Drop, a taxi app that launched 30 days ago, is also optimistic that there is enough space for everyone to function.

“We welcome any players coming into the market; it is changing a whole culture in terms of how personal transport is done in Trinidad, we don’t have that door to door taxi service where you can call a taxi  on demand. The more players we have, the better the market is serviced and it is your job to protect your share or have a better service or experience with your customers,” he said, requesting is name be withheld.

Stating that his service is 100 percent local, he said while they have an app, they offer customers the option to call in as well and like other local apps, accommodates those who prefer to pay cash.

He said is service is also differentiated by the thoroughness with which they screen their drivers as safety and security is a major concern.


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