Hailing a Cab in Kuala Lumpur — With a Smartphone

September 28, 2013, 7:01 AM

Hailing a Cab in Kuala Lumpur — With a Smartphone

By Shie-Lynn Lim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia— Richard James, a British expat working for a multinational company, says he has found a simple solution — an app on his smartphone — to  trying to get a taxi in this city, a task that used to be a predictable headache. MyTeksi product head Aaron Gill sees technology as a solution to issues faced by both passengers and taxi drivers in Malaysia. Mr. James uses MyTeksi, a popular smartphone app that matches taxis to passengers in Kuala Lumpur. Teksi is Bahasa Malaysia for taxi. To qualify to be part of MyTeksi’s pool of vehicles, cabs have to be clean and use a meter. Meanwhile, customers rate their cab service. The goal is to create a win-win: passengers get a quicker, friendlier, safer and more reliable service, while cab drivers stay busier because they are notified of the nearest person looking for a ride.

“MyTeksi is my go-to [app] whenever I need to catch a ride in the city center,” Mr. James said. “Frankly, I’m glad I don’t need to put up with horrible cab-drivers anymore.”

The apps are appearing in a country that was named the worst among 23 countries looked at by London Cabs in 2008.

The key executives behind MyTeksi are general manager Adelene Foo and product head Aaron Gill. They launched their app here in 2012. Out of Kuala Lumpur’s 40,000 taxi drivers, they have signed up more than 2,000. Tens of thousands of people have downloaded the app. MyTeksi is now available in several states in Malaysia,  and last month, it expanded to the Philippines. The company is considering offering it in several other Southeast Asian countries, though the executives wouldn’t disclose which ones.

“How much a taxi-driver takes home and the negative encounters between the drivers and passengers in Malaysia is interrelated,” Ms. Foo said.  The app’s ability to match available drivers quickly to passengers in need cuts out the time drain of driving around in a hunt, which  ”translates into higher take -home wages for the drivers,” she added.

That pitch appeals to cab driver Mohamed Raslan, 54, who drives 14 hours a day, six-days a week in the Kuala Lumpur area to pay off his loans  and earn a living.

“On some days, if I am lucky enough, I get interstate jobs and could earn at least 200 ringgit (US$62) for a 130-kilometer trip, including tips,” said Mr. Mohamed.

Mr. Mohamed said, after hearing positive feedback from other taxi drivers who have signed up with MyTeksi, he is considering doing so as well.

Malaysia’s highly fragmented taxi system was an attractive project to tackle, said MyTeksi’s Mr. Gill. With the increased use of smartphones in Malaysia, he saw an opportunity to “address issues both passengers and taxi drivers face through technology and bring the industry to the 21st century.”

So how does the taxi-app ensure quality passenger experience is maintained?

Mr. Gill said drivers must pass a checklist – from ensuring cabs are clean to agreeing to a code of conduct– before they are become part of the system.

MyTeksi works by using the GPS on a passenger’s phone to pinpoint location. When a customer launches MyTeksi on phone, she or he automatically sees on the map where MyTeksi-connected taxis are. The pick-up takes place when passenger click “Book Now,” at which point drivers are offered the opportunity to accept booking, get the passenger’s location information and then can drive to pick them up. For added security, Mr. Gill said passengers are able to “Track and Share” their ride with their loved ones or friends anywhere in the world.

“Previously we don’t really know who are the people behind the wheels. Now, once your booking is confirmed, you will receive details of the driver and vehicle number plates, making it easier to track and trace,” Mr. Gill said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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