THOUGH THE TAXI-HAILING service is still a relatively new concept in Myanmar, Grab, the leading ride-hailing firm in Southeast Asia, has revealed its ambitious target of attracting everyday taxi users in Yangon to book taxis through their app.
Cheryl Goh, group vice president of marketing at Grab, said in an exclusive interview that there is a huge opportunity to introduce technology that can solve the problem of unreliable public transport.
“Public transport infrastructure is still developing, and there can be more safe and reliable public transport options. At the same time, Myanmar is young and we believe open to sharing economy services,” she said.
The firm launched its beta trial of taxi-hailing service in Myanmar on March 21.
Goh said that they are now focusing on their trial to ensure that its taxi service is running smoothly, once they are ready to launch fully to the public.
“We are currently working with a small group of taxi drivers. The beta trial will scale up gradually to allow Grab to test and improve the GrabTaxi service in Yangon, based on driver and passenger feedback,” she said.
“At this time, we are gathering feedback from our drivers and passengers. We will focus on improving the quality of the vehicles, driver service and safety standards for taxis in Yangon.”
According to the statistics, the number of taxis in Yangon has surpassed 90,000, including the ones that operate illegally. The Japan International Cooperation Agency noted in one of its reports that 20 per cent of over two million commuters in Yangon use taxis while the rest rely on public transport.
Goh believes in cooperation with local counterparts – taxi drivers and other transport stakeholders. She said customers could be assured of safer rides in more comfortable vehicles.
She hopes to attract customers by their safety standards and trust building. She is proud to say that eight in 10 women surveyed said it was safer to take a taxi with Grab. She said the app has been downloaded onto over 38 million mobile devices regionally, and is the largest land transport fleet in Southeast Asia with over 780,000 drivers.
“We take a tailored approach to every city we operate in. We have local teams in every country, who understand the unique set of complex challenges of their home country. Generally speaking, we are focused on providing more affordable and safer transport options, and also continuously aim to collaborate and align with local public agendas and understand how we can best serve cities,” she said.
Goh said the firm aims to make it easier for passengers to choose to book a taxi and for taxi drivers to drive around looking for passengers, and reduce traffic congestion by providing a more efficient taxi booking platform. Additionally, it aims to improve driver service and safety standards for taxis in Yangon, and enable taxi drivers to get more bookings and earn more.
She said that the app would improve the livelihoods and productivity of taxi drivers in Myanmar. A driver survey done across Southeast Asia showed that drivers had an average increase of 35 per cent in daily incomes when driving for the firm.
She said Grab entered Myanmar, given market need and opportunity. She promised to bring the firm’s best practices from other countries to Myanmar. As the world’s first ride-hailing firm to get ISO certification, its service will include quality management systems such as handling of passenger enquiries, internal governance, driver screening and onboarding processes.
“We will continue to invest in technology to make the app experience more seamless – and more localised for Myanmar. Using Indonesia as an example, we are improving our mapping, which is essential in a city like Jakarta where some street shops are not on the map – so regular maps often do not work. Our mapping technology knows this and routes accordingly,” she said.
Goh said the firm would offer a more efficient taxi booking platform by using data in a significant way to map real-time customer demand and alert available drivers to head to locations. By localising mapping, the app can improve pick-up times, recommend pick-up and drop-off locations to passengers, and make it easy for passengers to search and select destination.
“We will focus on improving the quality of the vehicles, driver service and safety standards for taxis in Yangon. Our driver partners are trained to provide the best service, including training on using our app and online maps to choose the fastest travel route, and in-person taxi inspection to ensure that taxis are comfortable and well-maintained. For example, all our drivers will offer air-conditioning in their taxis,” she said.
Goh is heartened that the Myanmar government is supportive of Grab’s plans to trial its taxi booking service in Yangon, and hopes to cooperate further by making the city’s transport system more efficient.
“As vehicle ownership grows and mass transit systems are still being developed, solving traffic congestion will require a long-term commitment. We wish to help solve the local transportation challenges in Yangon. We are privileged to support the government’s plans to reform the public transport network, with a focus on taxis,” she said.