GrabTaxi enters carpooling game with GrabHitch service
By Benjamin Cher November 11, 2015
- Users have to login via Facebook, register a credit card
- Drivers limited to 2 trips a day, fare will only cover variable costs
SINGAPORE-headquartered startup GrabTaxi has announced a new ride-sharing service in the Lion City called GrabHitch, which will allow drivers with extra space to pick up passengers heading the same way.
GrabHitch is “carpooling on steroids,” cofounder Tan Hooi Ling told a media briefing today (Nov 11).
“We are seeking to fill a gap in the market between public transport and taxis,” she added.
The new offering expands the number of services GrabTaxi has to five: Its GrabTaxi taxi-hailing app that gave birth to the company as MyTeksi in its home market of Malaysia; the GrabBike service, as well as the GrabCar ride-sharing service; and the GrabCar+ luxury car-booking service.
With GrabHitch, drivers can now offset the cost of their journey via ride-sharing, GrabTaxi said.
Riders will have to use the service by logging in with their Facebook accounts, which would allow both riders and drivers to see each other’s profiles. They can also indicate if they only want to travel with someone of the same gender.
Riders will also have to register one of their credit cards with the service to prove that they have the financial means to pay for their rides.
Drivers will have to register their driver’s licence, car registration and insurance details with GrabHitch, and they will be screened for major traffic offences before being approved, the company said.
Drivers will have the last say in approving a passenger, including indicating if they would want to travel with someone of the same gender. They can only make two trips a day.
GrabTaxi will be absorbing the credit card transaction costs for drivers and passengers.
GrabTaxi said in a statement that it hopes to create a ridesharing community in Singapore.
The fare for a GrabHitch ride will be pre-calculated for both riders and drivers based on the cost guidelines released by the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) on carpooling announced earlier this year.
The LTA framework around carpooling makes Singapore an attractive location to launch GrabHitch, Hooi Ling (pic above) argued.
“LTA’s framework on carpooling is a good construct, giving a clear definition of what it is and what we can do to go above and beyond that,” she said.
“Singapore is also a great contained demographic where supply is contained within the island,” she added.
While carpooling apps and websites sprouted up in Singapore after LTA’s approval, none of them have really taken off.
Hooi Ling is confident that GrabHitch will be different. “It is about getting scale and liquidity on both sides of the equation.
“We have that scale and liquidity – we are building off of that instead of from scratch,” she added.
GrabHitch will be up to 50% cheaper than taking a taxi, according to Hooi Lin, who expects the bulk of demand to come from people on their morning commutes.
Peak period demand is easily triple off-peak demand, according to GrabTaxi chief executive officer and cofounder Anthony Tan.
“Think about all these neighbours you finally could be saying ‘hi’ to,” Hooi Ling quipped. “They could become lunch buddies you have at work.”
GrabHitch rides have to be pre-booked from seven days to 15 minutes before the trip. Drivers can schedule more than one route and set a time for pick up. In that, there are similarities with Beeline, a crowdsourced premium bus service app.
GrabHitch riders will rely on the driver’s existing personal car insurance, and GrabTaxi will also be providing a 24/7 safety hotline for users to call in, according to Hooi Ling.
When asked about the recourse a user can get from GrabTaxi, she “that it would be on a case-by-case basis.”
Safety is still the top priority for GrabTaxi, Anthony (pic) argued.
“Everyone has their own standards for safety, that’s why we created a customer hotline as we felt it should not be an automated process,” he said.
“Safety is nuanced and it is about embracing the nuances and finding ways to make sure users feel safer,” he declared.
GrabTaxi’s investors include Didi Kuadi, a taxi-hailing startup from China, and it is now part of an alliance with Didi Kuadi and Ola, a similar startup from India.
Interactions with its various partners in the different regions have benefited GrabTaxi in launching GrabHitch, according to Hooi Ling.
“Anthony calls them ‘very good friends’ and we are all mutually learning together – we are all in markets that are unique but also very similar,” she said.
“It is a good ecosystem of mutual support,” she added.
Meanwhile, registration for GrabHitch drivers opens today via Hitch.grabtaxi.com or via the GrabTaxi app.
The consumer service for Singapore will be launched at the end of the year, according to Hooi Ling, with other countries to follow in 2016.
However, she declined to give specifics on which country will be next.
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