Taxi-booking startups, say ‘Hailo’ to more competition: Page 2 of 2
By Gabey Goh October 31, 2014
Driver cooperation, passenger input
Hailo said it also has a particular focus on drivers, with an “open door” policy for support at its offices in every market, and getting involved in community activities that drivers care about.
“Drivers are made to feel like a part of our team, and we never forget that the quality of our service is equally due to the quality of the drivers doing the work and providing that service,” Zeghibe (pic above) said.
The company also takes a “measured approach” to passenger ratings. He said that while most apps offer a ratings system for both passengers and drivers, the company does not use it “as a stick to hold over driver’s heads.”
“We use it as a service alarm bell for us to understand that there was an issue with a particular experience and there are always two sides to every story. What we do is talk to both sides, find out what’s going on, and follow up in service recovery to help both sides,” he added.
There are no restrictions in terms of platform exclusivity, with drivers free to use as many other taxi apps as they wish.
Hailo also pays its drivers on a daily basis, depending on the constraints of the banking system in every market.
“We don’t sit there and hold the money; there’s no sticky fingers on our part. We pay them as fast as we can within the restraints of the banking system in the market,” Zeghibe said.
“But literally, at the open of every business day, we’ll be making payments to drivers – that is the basis upon which we are launching in Singapore,” he added.
Hailo is also hoping to expand by collaborating with third-party developers. In August, it released its public API (application programming interface) for on-demand transportation.
The API will enable third-party app developers to add information about the availability and estimated time of arrival of licensed cabs and cars, as well as the ability to hail a ride direct from their apps.
Navigating past the competition
Hailo made a high profile exit from the North American market earlier this month. In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, its chief executive officer and president Tom Barr said that costs to market the service in North America were “astronomical” and made “profitability for any one player almost impossible.”
The company has since reiterated its focus on its businesses in Europe and Asia, and new products, such as a planned concierge service called Hailo Hub.
Asked about the exit, Zeghibe took pains to stress that the North American market was in actuality not as big as many would presume, pointing out that even when excluding China, the entire North American market is only “a fraction of Asia.”
“And New York is a third of the entire United States market in terms of value, with peculiarities and irregularities there that prevented us from doing what we’d like to do.
“What we know works as a business model that we’ve been developing over the last three years that we’ve executed in Europe, and we believe we can leverage on for Asia,” he said.
Zeghibe said that the exit was due to a certain set of circumstances unique to that particular region, and hinted that it would not be the last North America sees of Hailo.
“All I can say is ‘watch this space’ when it comes to North America,” he added.
Given the large amounts of funding raised by competitors already active in Singapore, when asked about whether Hailo would be diving into the race to garner market share in the same fashion, Zeghibe said that it was not the company’s main focus.
He also said that there were some “misquotes” in terms of how the company’s withdrawal from North America was reported by the media, noting that it was not an issue of money, or the need to fight on marketing dollars spent to earn market share.
“We have resources, we’re well-funded – in fact, we’re one of the best funded startups to come out of the United Kingdom in a long time. Our latest round of funding had investors from Asia, which shows belief and backing in the way we approach the market here in this region,” Zeghibe said.
“My point to you is that we’re happy to fight dollar-to-dollar, Singapore dollar or otherwise, when it’s appropriate. But our view is you don’t want to waste money if you don’t have the right business metrics to allow you to succeed,” he added.
Asked about how Hailo intends to differentiate itself from the competition in Singapore, Zeghibe pointed to the level of service offered and the app’s collective set of features, which it intends to roll out in the coming weeks and months.
One of these will be Hailo Hub, which allows hotels and restaurants and other venues to book taxis on behalf of patrons.
“We’re happy via our marketing budgets to promote trials, via promo codes or other means, and believe that consumers will make a comparative choice based on what’s good for them.
“We’re confident in our service that over time, our product is something that they would want to continue to use,” he added.
The company’s latest feature Pay with Hailo, which allows users to pay for a taxi signed up with Hailo through the app even if you didn’t hail the taxi through its platform, is not yet available in Singapore.
Hailo said it is taking a phased approach to feature rollouts as it starts scaling up operations in the market.
Hailo is available to passengers as a free download from the App Store and Google Play. New customers can enter promo code HELLOSING to receive a free S$10 credit on their first ride this week.
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