Mon, Jun 19, 2017 - Page 15 News List

Taxify offers larger fare share to drivers

ESTONIAN UPSTART:Taxify executives believe taking a smaller share of fares can help them steal a share of the ride-hailing market away from industry giant Uber

Reuters, TALLINN

The key to success for ride-hailing providers like Uber Technologies Inc is keeping drivers happy so they run their app, ensuring that enough cars respond to passenger demand.

Estonia upstart Taxify is hoping to win over drivers and take on Uber, the industry leader, by offering a larger share of the profit.

Upstarts across the world, such as Lyft Inc and Ola, are trying to catch Uber in the on-demand car-ride market by securing brand loyalty.

However, Uber has gathered critical mass and reached a valuation of more than £60 billion (US$76.9 billion) in just eight years, despite a lack of profits. It has kept rivals at bay, partly by offering incentives to drivers to stay online.

Taxify, a minnow compared to Uber, cannot afford these perks but believes that by taking a smaller share of fares — 15 to 20 percent compared with Uber’s 20 to 25 percent — it can steal market share from its San Francisco-based rival.

It also hopes that allowing drivers to take cash as well as credit card fares will also help it attract more passengers.

“Taxify’s biggest advantage is the focus on good service by treating the drivers and riders better than other platforms. This means having higher pay for drivers, thanks to lower fees,” chief executive Markus Villig said at Taxify’s headquarters in Estonia.

“By the end of the year, I think we will be No. 1 in about 10 countries in Europe and Africa,” he said.

An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment, but the company has said it had fare revenue of about US$20 billion last year.

Villig said Taxify generated fares worth “tens of millions of euros” each month.

Taxify runs in just 25 cities in Europe and Africa, while Uber operates in nearly 600 cities worldwide. Its basic business model is identical — both hook up passengers with self-employed drivers.

Many incumbent cab companies in Europe have developed apps to operate in a similar manner, but most have focused on their domestic markets.

However, Taxify is unusual in launching in about 18 countries, mainly smaller markets in Eastern Europe and Africa, where Uber is absent or not yet dominant.

Uber usually takes market share by giving drivers money to sign on to its app, paying them even if they are not driving passengers. Then, as it becomes more popular with passengers, it withdraws the inducements.

Analysts say Uber aims to build a customer franchise and stable of drivers to dominate the market.

“The way I see it, Taxify is cheaper than Uber,” said Tumelo Malatjie, 33, a former truck driver for a logistics firm turned full-time Taxify driver in Johannesburg.

“Taxify takes 15 percent and Uber about 25 percent or 30 percent,” said Malatjie, who nonetheless is on a waiting list to become an Uber driver.

Taxify has avoided expensive head-to-head battles with its much larger rival, but its model will soon be tested as Villig plans to launch in London — Uber’s biggest European market in the coming months.

Founded three-and-a-half years ago, Taxify has 140 staff worldwide, a third of whom are based in Estonia. It says it has 2.5 million active passengers in 18 countries.

Uber says it has more than 12,000 people across the world and millions of passengers in 70 countries.

In Africa, Villig said Taxify has hired away 20 former Uber executives, helping its expansion in cities like Lagos, Cairo and Johannesburg.

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