Premium GrabCar service sits on same platform as MyTeksi app
Industry pundits believe local startup has edge over global player Uber
MALAYSIAN startup MyTeksi, known as GrabTaxi regionally, has launched its premium car ride service GrabCar in its home market, positioning it as a complementary product to its core taxi-booking service.
Currently in beta mode, GrabCar operates on the same mobile application platform as MyTeksi, and is intended to offer customers the choice of booking taxis or limousine services.
During the launch event held in Kuala Lumpur on May 16, MyTeksi founder and group chief executive officer Anthony Tan claimed the company’s regional success was due to its ability to “adapt and evolve to meet users' needs.”
“That’s why we are introducing GrabCar. We see an opportunity to ﬁll a gap in the industry without taking away business from our core user base of taxis. GrabCar will give our passengers that upmarket personalised experience, while at the same time, ensure safe and reliable rides,” he said.
Tan said the company found that there are times throughout the day when it is almost impossible for its customers to get taxis, adding that there was also a ceiling on the number of taxi permits issued in the region.
The new service is intended to provide more cars on the road, especially during peak hours, offering customers access to a wider network of taxis, as well as limousine fleets.
In addition, the move is a bid at increasing its current base of users, with Tan noting there are many potential passengers who refuse to use a taxi.
“With GrabCar, new passengers who wouldn’t have considered us before will try the app,” he declared.
The female market remains a crucial segment for the company, with Tan pointing to MyTeksi's core pillars of safety, certainty and speed as key value propositions, claiming that the majority of its current customers were women.
GrabCar general manager Nina Teng said that the company “thoroughly screened all drivers,” taking care to “choose the absolute best and safest drivers” when recruiting to meet MyTeksi's safety promise.
To emphasise the point, the launch event also featured Malaysian personalities BFM89.9 producer and presenter Freda Liu and Kakiseni president Low Ngai Yuen sharing their experiences using the MyTeksi and GrabCar services.
The company is also banking on its service being the more affordable option, with a sample 15km journey between Bangsar and the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) estimated to cost around RM19 (US$5.80) during off-peak hours, and RM27 (US$8.40) during peak periods.
At launch, GrabCar had limousine service Mayflower on board. The company is wholly owned by Warisan TC Holdings Berhad, a holding company that was established following the reorganisation of Tan Chong Motor Holdings in 1999.
Tan admitted that the company “did not go too far” when it came to seeking trusted partners to launch the service with, adding that the team is working with several fleet partners to provide a network of cars within the next several months.
A challenge to Uber?
Asked how confident he was with GrabCar garnering a significant slice of the market, given the presence of premium car service Uber, Tan said MyTeksi's focus was "solely on solving a real problem in the market.”
“If you are one of two guys chasing a girl, you don’t look at the guy, you look at the girl and think about what she would want,” he said.
Tan said he was confident MyTeksi’s longer standing as a homegrown service would serve as a strong enough pull for users to try out GrabCar.
“I’m just going to be blatant about it -- people know MyTeksi. We’re local, and we’re relevant. If you do a survey, even amongst friends, most won’t know what Uber is,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, when asked how GrabCar differentiates itself from services such as Uber, Teng said that GrabCar’s payment method of cash on delivery is one.
“As it is a cash service, it opens up the market to potential users who would prefer this payment method over credit cards,” she said.
The GrabCar launch was the first major announcement from GrabTaxi following its successful Series A funding round with existing investor Vertex Venture Holdings as lead investor, in early April.
The actual investment sum was not disclosed but a previous media report in a Malaysian English-language daily put the investment at US$10 million (RM32.6 million), a figure that GrabTaxi executives insist is not accurate.
According to Tan, since its debut in 2012, the MyTeksi app has had 1.2 million app downloads and the service is currently available in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines under the GrabTaxi brand. He claims that 250,000 people use the app at least once a month across the region.
In contrast, Uber, which spent 2013 rapidly expanding its presence in Asia, is now available in 20 cities across the region. It launched its service in Kuala Lumpur in January.
The service currently offered in Malaysia and other cities in Asia is Uber Black, which is the company’s main premium offering. UberX, its lower cost service, has only been launched in two Asian cities to date, Taipei and Singapore.
For UberX, the company works with commercially licensed drivers who pick up customers from commercially licensed vehicles. In a few other markets such as San Francisco, the model is a 'ride-sharing' one.
When contacted by Digital News Asia (DNA), Tiger Fang, a member of Uber’s international expansion team, said that in addition to its operations in Kuala Lumpur, the team is constantly “gauging demand and customer needs in other major cities across Asia ... and cities around the world, for that matter.”
“Our local homegrown operations team is very focused on delivering cost-effective, high quality service for our customers here,” he added.
A Bloomberg report stated the San Francisco-based startup, is currently in talks to raise financing in a new round that may value it at more than US$10 billion, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
In an AP report carried by The Globe and Mail, Uber said that it is taking a two-pronged strategy to compete against local lookalikes.
“First, partner with local players who can tailor their business to demand, whether for fast no-frills rides or luxury cars on call. Second, target Asia’s upwardly mobile business travellers who will appreciate having one service they can use in dozens of cities worldwide,” the report stated.
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