How tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing the face of Yan­gon’s taxi in­dus­try

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Business - AYE NYEIN WIN Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

ayenyein­win@mm­times.com

UBER and Grab, the two lat­est en­trants to the Yan­gon taxi in­dus­try, are up­ping their game in a bat­tle for mar­ket share in Myan­mar. As they at­tempt to outdo each other in the race to dom­i­nate Yan­gon’s taxi mar­ket, it is lo­cal driv­ers and pas­sen­gers who stand to ben­e­fit.

There are ap­prox­i­mately 80,000 taxis in Yan­gon, where the pop­u­la­tion stands at around 5 mil­lion. Due to chronic traf­fic con­ges­tion, Uber and Grab must part­ner with lo­cal taxi driv­ers to pro­vide ride-hail­ing ser­vices to pas­sen­gers. This dif­fers from their strat­egy in other coun­tries, where pri­vate car driv­ers us­ing the apps com­pete di­rectly with the taxi in­dus­try.

In Yan­gon, it’s a tricky game of bal­ance. On one hand, with the mar­ket lim­ited to the num­ber of ex­ist­ing taxis, Uber and Grab must use low fares to draw pas­sen­gers. On the other hand, the fares must be high enough to at­tract more driv­ers on board.

Pas­sen­ger pro­mos Uber is play­ing the game by re­leas­ing a slew of gen­er­ous dis­counts to at­tract cus­tomers. Since launch­ing in Yan­gon in May, it has been of­fer­ing fare pro­mo­tions to raise the vol­ume of pas­sen­gers us­ing its app and cap­ture more mar­ket share.

“Look­ing at not just Yan­gon, but Myan­mar as a whole, there is a great op­por­tu­nity for us be­cause we be­lieve we can be the so­lu­tion to mov­ing all these peo­ple from point A to point B. We think that we can play a huge part in help­ing to re­lieve traf­fic con­ges­tion, in­clud­ing in Yan­gon,” said Chan Park, South East Asia Gen­eral Man­ager for Uber.

Without the pro­mo­tions how­ever, Uber’s fares are ac­tu­ally higher than stan­dard taxi fares to at­tract more driv­ers. But many pas­sen­gers have said they’ll stop us­ing the app af­ter pro­mo­tions end.

Mean­while, Uber also faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion from Grab. Since its de­but here in March, the num­ber of Grab driv­ers has risen to 5,000 from just 40 and most say they have seen a 30 per cent im­prove­ment in av­er­age monthly in­come, data pro­vided by a Grab spokesper­son shows.

Ser­vice strat­egy In that light, the chal­lenge for Uber as well as Grab boils down to re­tain­ing driv­ers and pas­sen­gers with good ser­vice. Uber’s plan is to fo­cus on pas­sen­gers.

“There are many peo­ple liv­ing in Yan­gon and our goal is to ed­u­cate and show them that our plat­form is a so­lu­tion to mak­ing their lives eas­ier. Our pri­mary goal is to fo­cus on pick­ing up pas­sen­gers at a spe­cific time and place and get them on their way as quickly as pos­si­ble,” Mr Chan said.

Pas­sen­gers can also ex­pect a cer­tain level of com­fort from Uber taxis. “In Myan­mar, you can’t rely on ev­ery taxi to have seat­belts or a func­tion­ing air con­di­tioner. We will make sure users of Uber get into ve­hi­cles that are safe and com­fort­able. Over time, we are sure we will re­ceive pos­i­tive feed­back from both pas­sen­gers and driv­ers.”

Grab’s strat­egy is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. It plans to fo­cus on em­pow­er­ing driv­ers. On July 21, Grab in­tro­duced a new app which in­cludes the Zaw­gyi and Uni­code font sys­tem for driv­ers and pas­sen­gers to com­mu­ni­cate eas­ily. It also launched the Grabchat mes­sage sys­tem, which trans­lates English to the lo­cal lan­guage and vice versa.

That will help de­crease the num­ber of can­celled trips by pas­sen­gers ow­ing to com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­downs and help driv­ers earn more in­come.

Mean­while, all Grab driv­ers now have ac­cess to bank­ing and fi­nan­cial ser­vices through its part­ner­ships with CB Bank and Wave Money. Pas­sen­gers will also en­joy safe, high-qual­ity fixed fare taxi rides, said Hooi Ling Tan, Co­founder of Grab.

Con­nec­tiv­ity is also key. ‘’At first, our driv­ers faced prob­lems with mo­bile phone con­nec­tiv­ity. So we co­op­er­ated with Te­lenor to pro­vide suf­fi­cient data to our driv­ers,” Grab spokeper­son Zay Yar Min said.

“Our next phase of ex­pan­sion in Myan­mar in­cludes in­vest­ments in mak­ing the Grab app more user­friendly and a new Driver Care Pro­gramme to grow driver in­comes in a sus­tain­able man­ner while up-skilling them,” a Grab spokesper­son said.

What’s clear is the ride-hail­ing tech­nol­ogy will ben­e­fit the lifestyles of both pas­sen­gers and taxi driv­ers in Yan­gon. And as both Uber and Grab as well as lo­cal ride-hail­ing apps Oway and Hello Cab up their game in the race for mar­ket share, the taxi in­dus­try in Yan­gon should evolve for the bet­ter.

Tech­nol­ogy and com­pe­ti­tion will change the face of Yan­gon’s taxi in­dus­try af­ter the ar­rival of Uber and Grab this year.

Ride-hail­ing tech­nolo­gies will im­prove Yan­gon’s taxi in­dus­try. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

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