Third-party taxi booking apps making their way to Singapore

Third-party taxi booking apps making their way to Singapore

SINGAPORE — Third-party taxi booking apps, which have become hugely popular among commuters and cabbies in neighbouring countries including Malaysia, are making their way to the Republic.



SINGAPORE — Third-party taxi booking apps, which have become hugely popular among commuters and cabbies in neighbouring countries including Malaysia, are making their way to the Republic. And at least one major taxi operator here is feeling uneasy about it, and has instructed its drivers not to use an app that could potentially allow cabbies to bypass their companies’ dispatch system and pocket the full booking fee.For now, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has no issues with third-party booking apps — recognising the widespread use of smartphones — but it made clear that taxi drivers using these apps cannot collect fares which exceed what their companies have set.

While it is too early to say whether such apps will take off here — and even help alleviate the perennial taxi crunch by better matching demand and supply — transport experts pointed out that unlike other countries, where taxi licences can be issued to individuals and not to corporations, taxi drivers here are beholden to their companies.

Last month, Malaysia company MyTeksi launched a beta of the Singapore version of its taxi booking app called GrabTaxi, following the firm’s successful forays into Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Mr Aaron Gill, GrabTaxi’s Regional Head of Product, said the MyTeksi app in Malaysia — which charges a flat RM2 (S$0.80) booking fee for each trip that goes directly to taxi drivers — receives one booking every five seconds. He declined to reveal the number of drivers across the Causeway who have signed up to use the app, which was launched about 17 months ago.

Nevertheless, a report in June by United States technology news website TechCrunch put the figure at about 2,500. MyTeksi’s success has since led to rival apps entering the market in Malaysia.

Mr Gill said drivers can sign up for GrabTaxi as part of a free trial, and consumers do not have to pay a booking fee, although this may be introduced in the future. On the take-up so far, he said there was “very limited data to share at this moment”.

TransCab General Manager Jasmine Tan said that as soon as the company got wind of the app, it notified all its drivers not to use it. She said TransCab — the second-largest cab operator here — was concerned that passengers might complain to the LTA about booking fees set by its taxi drivers. The operator could also be penalised by the LTA under the Quality of Service (QoS) framework if its drivers are not responsive to its dispatch system, she said. Ms Tan added that TransCab will work with GrabTaxi if the app is integrated with its dispatch system.

The LTA said it will continue to monitor the situation and will make adjustments to its QoS framework where necessary.

Major taxi operators here charge a booking fee of S$3.30 during peak periods and S$2.30 for the rest of the day. About 30 cents to 50 cents of each booking fee goes to the operators.

Out of seven taxi drivers TODAY spoke to, two said they are using GrabTaxi, while the others have not heard of it. One of the users, Mr Tan Chun Seng, 58, said he wanted to expand his booking base. The other drivers said they were not keen to use the app as they were not tech savvy.

Transport experts noted that, in time to come, third-party booking apps could be hard to regulate. The LTA must exercise some control over the pricing, “otherwise market forces will dictate” and lead to overcharging, said National University of Singapore transport economist Anthony Chin.

GrabTaxi said it is in discussions with taxi operators to work out an arrangement that the latter will be happy with. ComfortDelGro, which owns the largest fleet of taxis here, said it will “definitely consider” working with third-party booking apps, which will bring in more jobs for its drivers.

The beta launch of GrabTaxi came a month after the MoobiTaxi app was made available for download. Unlike GrabTaxi, MoobiTaxi — which became one of the top five apps on iTunes within a week of its launch — integrates its booking system with those of taxi operators’.

It is understood that another third-party booking app, Easy Taxi — launched earlier this year in Malaysia — will also enter the market here by the end of the month.

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 (, 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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