Taxi-booking app space heats up; Sunlight to launch its own
By Karamjit Singh February 4, 2013
- Sunlight first off the blocks with its own; others chose to partner with start-ups
- Winner will be the one to offer best experience to customers
THE official launch of Sunlight Unicablink’s (pic) Book-a-Cab taxi booking app on Feb 6 cannot come too early for me. Having just got ripped off in the northern Malaysian state of Penang by three modern-day pirates who go around by the description ‘taxi drivers,’ I am ready for revenge.
I am sure many more suffering Penangites, resigned to their fate, are waiting too. And I am about to head back to Penang for work. I sure do not want to deal with the poor taxi drivers they have there again.
It is unfortunate that the app is unlikely to be launched in Penang soon. Neither is there any sign that MyTeksi and TaxiMonger will be ready to launch services in Penang in the immediate future. That is one city that surely needs a taxi service that does what all taxis are supposed to: Take you from A to B for the price on the meter and fixed upon extras (i.e. use of booth space, midnight charges, etc.).
Speaking of TaxiMonger though, Singapore-based e27.com reported that TaxiMonger has tied up with AirAsia to power the airlines’ cab booking service. The service is only applicable for those using a Chrome browser (http://chrome.airasia.com/) and for flights outbound from Kuala Lumpur only. Taxi bookings made from now until Feb 28 will be accepted with fulfilment until April 30.
This is what its chief executive officer Nizran Noordin was talking about “moving upstream to the source of the bookings” when I spoke to him last month. When contacted by Digital News Asia (DNA), Nizran could not share much as this was a pilot, but did express his excitement at the possibilities if AirAsia liked the outcome of the trial.
“I hope that it will lead to bigger opportunities for TaxiMonger, including to serve more AirAsia's passengers not only those flying from the LCCT (low-cost carrier terminal) in Sepang but also those in other major cities in Malaysia and the region.”
Nizran is also banking on some of Tan Sri Tony Fenandes’ gold dust to rub off on him.
“If you've studied Fernandes’ background, he has always been revolutionizing the way things were since his days in the music industry, and now in growing his business empire. We hope he sees our young start-up as the next revolution in this space not only for Malaysia but also for the region.
“To make this happen, we have to work hard to ensure a successful completion of the pilot project,” he says.
Nizran welcomes the launch of Sunlight’s app, saying consumers should have options. “The rest of us in the space just have to keep enhancing our service to deliver a better experience to customers,” he says.
Indeed with other cab companies also looking into launching apps, the winners will be the ones who deliver the best service to customers.
The start-ups will have their work cut out for them, says Bikesh L, chief executive officer of 1337 Ventures Sdn Bhd.
Having taken cabs for over 15 years in Kuala Lumpur, “I’ve evolved from hailing them down at the street in front of my house to calling my favorite cab companies that know me by name due to years using them,” he says.
“I have tried the new taxi apps recently and I have removed them from my phones. If you book a taxi the expectation is that you get a taxi. After many failed attempts you rather stick with a proven method,” he adds.
Ominously for the start-ups in the space, Bikesh has tried and likes the Sunlight app.
“I’ve had nothing but a pleasant experience using it due to the nature of it being owned by a cab company and integrated to its existing fleet. Albeit it was in beta this time and only selected number of cabs had those GPS units installed, I’ve never had a moment I couldn’t get a cab and didn’t have to resort to tipping extra on a meter for them to show up,” he adds.
Bikesh has been a fan since his first experience with the Sunlight app and uses its service all the time, “Well until I got my kick ass GTI!” he adds.
On a more serious note, he feels the current taxi apps have their work cut out for them. There’s still a market to address as Sunlight isn’t the only cab company in town. “It’ll be great to see them tie up with a cab partner itself, [as TaxiMonger has done] or possibly pivot to some other cab-related service,” he says.
Coincidently a cab app was pitched to 1337 Ventures recently during its inaugural pitch session, and the mentors thought it had potential. I wonder if they are from Penang?