Taxi-booking startups, say ‘Hailo’ to more competition
By Gabey Goh October 31, 2014
- London-based startup founded by 3 taxi drivers and 3 Internet entrepreneurs
- Believes in ‘constructive disruption’ and working with fleets, drivers and passengers
CONSUMERS in Singapore now have another taxi-booking app vying for their attention with the official debut of Hailo on Oct 29.
The London-based startup enters a crowded marketplace populated by players such as EasyTaxi, GrabTaxi and Uber – with its UberTaxi service – on top of booking systems already in place by established fleet operators.
Founder and chairman Ron Zeghibe expressed excitement over introducing the three-year-old company’s “unique solutions and collaborative approach” to the island-nation.
Hailo had been in beta in Singapore for a short while prior to its official debut, with the company having signed a partnership with transportation operator SMRT Road Holdings Ltd.
SMRT Road Holdings managing director Benny Lim said his company has “extensive knowledge” in fleet management and driver training.
“We’re excited about integrating our industry know-how with Hailo’s expertise in mobile booking and payments in order to improve personal transportation for all Singaporeans,” he told a media briefing in Singapore.
Hailo also announced that fleet operator Prime Taxi has also come onboard in support of the platform.
The company claims that on average, its Hailo driver app enables drivers to complete more jobs in less time, earning up to 30% more on every shift they work.
Asked about feedback from users and drivers during the beta phase, Hailo Singapore general manager Yu Hsiang Wong claimed that participating drivers liked the service and found it a less stressful experience not needing to fight for potential fares.
Hailo operates on an ‘allocation algorithm’ that determines which driver is the nearest to the passenger, and offers that driver the job first before moving down the list based on distance.
“Customers are also giving good feedback – they like the user interface and are reporting that they are able get a cab within two to four minutes, which is ultimately the most important piece of the puzzle,” he said.
The Hailo Singapore team currently numbers five, with the Hailo Driver Office located at Kim Yan Road in River Valley. The company said it also enjoys additional support from the SMRT team.
Launched in November 2011, Hailo was founded by three taxi drivers and three Internet entrepreneurs.
It has raised a total of US$100 million in funding from investors such as Union Square Ventures, Accel Partners, Wellington Partners, Atomico Ventures, Sir Richard Branson and Japanese mobile telecoms group KDDI.
According to figures provided by the company, a ‘hail’ is accepted around the world every two seconds from its global network of over 60,000 drivers and more than 1.4 million registered users.
The service is currently available in more than 16 cities including London, all across Ireland, Madrid, Barcelona, Osaka, and now Singapore.
In an interview with TechWorld, Hailo chief technology officer Rorie Devine said that the company transitioned from a traditional software bundle architecture known as a lamp stack, to a micro services-style architecture approximately a year ago.
The service is fully open source and based on technologies such as the Google Go programming language, as well as Google's XML equivalent Protocol Buffers, message-oriented middleware RabbitMQ, real-time message processing system NSQ, and database management system Cassandra.
The cloud-platform is powered almost entirely by Amazon Web Services, leveraging scalable architecture that allows Hailo to expand to additional cities around the world with relative ease.
Collaborative approach to market
In his introduction of the company to members of the media, Zeghibe said Hailo seeks to improve taxi services for drivers and passengers by empowering both groups with an app that complies with local regulations.
He said that in Singapore, an important fact to highlight is that the groups that the company works with are not just the drivers and passengers.
“Because of the nature and structure of the industry, there are significant stakeholders and participants in the market primarily led by the five major fleets, which are very important to success in the market here,” he said.
Zeghibe said that Hailo has “a sincere belief in constructive disruption’ – that it is not just about introducing new technology that’s going to destroy all the incumbents and sweep away everything before them.
“It’s actually to take technologies and introduce efficiencies, and allow both the incumbents and ourselves to be winners in harnessing this new technology.
“We’re really pleased – and this is not something that happened overnight – to have been able to build a fantastic relationship with SMRT which has agreed to work with us and make this thing a reality in Singapore; and we’re very grateful for that,” he said.
According to Zeghibe, Hailo is trying to build is a common platform open to all fleets to provide even better service to Singapore and its users.
“With Prime signed on, we’re hopeful that in continuing dialogue with the other fleets, that they may also see the merits of participating.
“Our view is that we’re not trying to go around the incumbents in the marketplace but to work with them,” he said.
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