SINGAPORE: About four months after its launch, ride-hailing app TADA has added taxi booking services to its platform as it seeks to keep up with competition that looks set to intensify with Indonesia-based Go-Jek’s imminent entry.
With 2,000 cabbies already on board, users will have access to metered taxi trips via its existing TADA app, as well as a separate app called TADA Taxi which was launched on Thursday (Nov 15). Both apps are operated by Singapore-based blockchain start-up Mass Vehicle Ledger (MVL) Foundation.
At a launch event for the new service, MVL founder-CEO Kay Woo said taxi drivers will not have to pay commissions. This differentiates the new entrant from other existing ride-hailing services, such as incumbent Grab, which take a cut from drivers.
MVL, which received its licence to operate a third-party taxi booking service from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) last Wednesday, also said that it will not impose additional levies on the booking fees set by respective taxi companies on their drivers.
The current booking fees set by the taxi companies apply for commuters.
Noting how some cabbies have felt "left behind" by the rise of ride-hailing apps and short-changed by flat fares that can be lower than metered rates during non-peak hours, Mr Woo said his start-up hopes to serve as an additional platform for taxi drivers to prop up their income.
Apart from having the new service on its existing TADA app, creating a standalone app will give cab drivers a ride-hailing platform "of their own" to reach more riders, he added.
The other reason to have a separate app boils down to Mr Woo’s observation of an existing gap in the market: Commuters who still prefer to take taxis only. For now, these commuters will have to either use the ComfortDelGro app or ride-hailing services that have partnerships with other taxi operators.
"We invite all taxi companies to be on our app," he said. "Drivers don't need to pay commission so they have nothing to lose by joining us."
Thus far, cab drivers that have signed up with MVL come from several local taxi operators, including Premier, ComfortDelGro, SMRT and Trans-Cab. Sign-ups are done individually and MVL does not have any formal partnerships with these taxi companies for now.
It has a target to attract 5,000 taxi drivers by the end of the year, according to Mr Woo.
At least one taxi operator has said it welcomes the new service.
Premier's managing director Lim Chong Boo said: "TADA supports our objectives to keep taxi fares affordable but yet rewarding (our taxi drivers) to work on improving their service level to meet commuter needs. The launch of TADA Taxi reinforces our efforts to serve our taxi drivers and commuters."
Since its launch in late-July, TADA has amassed about 20,000 drivers, including 2,000 cabbies, and 110,000 users.
Apart from its no-commission model, it also touts the use of blockchain technology – a first among ride-hailing services in Singapore – to track and store data of all rides, while making it available to other parties in the ecosystem.
Meanwhile, riders and drivers on its platform also stand to accumulate points that can be converted into MVL's cryptocurrency, called MVL coins.
For instance, drivers can earn points by turning on the app as they drive around. Those who receive better reviews and drive safely will also get more points.
These points can eventually be used to redeem goods and services with MVL's partners.
For cab drivers, however, this reward scheme will only begin next month when system tests are completed, said Mr Woo.
When asked if its new service was launched in anticipation of Go-Jek's entry, the founder-CEO said: “Go-Jek is a strong and powerful player. We believe that when they enter a new market, they will spend lots of money on marketing to capture market share.
"To be able to sustain ourselves (and) build our community, we need taxis."