It’s been quite a ride thus far.
It wasn’t too long ago when calling a taxi by dialling easy-to-remember, repetitive, made-for-jingles numbers was as forward thinking as one would go. You remembered one of them (whichever) and stuck to it religiously. It was too much effort to learn another one – and often of no use – there seemingly weren’t as many people waiting for a ride.
All that seems to be a distant memory today, with the high proliferation of smart phone technology marrying a digitally astute society to introduce mammoths of the likes of Uber and Grab – ride-sharing apps that have for better of worse (depends where you sit) changed the taxi industry. Or at least shaken it up violently. The adoption figures (as of 2015) are astounding.
What is of point to note within this disruption in the transportation industry – apart from the fact that the two companies have provided no excuse for able-bodied 20-somethings to be unemployed – is that a rather amusing war has developed between both of them, neither wanting to lose market share and concede. A war where riders are the main winners, at least till (if) one of the two gets ousted and the victor revisits its pricing model.
Their taxi booking function aside, it is their private car/driver services that have created much buzz as an alternative to the diesel or CNG chugging varieties. Who would have thought that society at large would trust seemingly random members of the public with limited accreditation to pick them up and send them places? It’s evidently cost and convenience that are the main drivers at play here.
The amount of bleeding that both companies have experienced in recent times has not gone unnoticed. To attract their discerning and fickle target groups, Uber and Grab have been going head-to-head in a price war that has left consumers more than happy. It is evident that the two of them are looking at the long-term business objectives, getting rid of the competition is the first step to gain market share and they have pulled no stops in their efforts. Weekly price slashing promotions. No booking fees. Dispute resolution and customer service that’s amazingly co-operative. The list goes on.
Perhaps the most pronounced of the measures that both companies have taken in the spirit of competition comes in the form of their weekly promotions. Uber recently did a ‘take one ride and enjoy the next 5 at $5 off’ while Grab joined the party with a similar ‘$8 off your second ride of the day’. Once again, riders got to enjoy the best of both worlds, choosing the provider that suited them best, often using both at different times in a carefully thought-out strategy.
The two platforms have also ventured into other business sub-units/spring-offs that have only functioned to further strengthen their brand equity. Uber launched Ubereats, a food-ordering app that delivers lunch or dinner to one’s doorstep. Although this is far from a new concept, the food-ordering app integrates with the ride-sharing one, leveraging on its large customer base for cross marketing efforts. Grab, on the other hand has its subsidiary GrabBike, which operates its motorcycles in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bangkok and Jakarta where this mode of transportation is widely preferred, often due to traffic conditions.
It is clear that with considerably deep pockets and impressive funding, both providers are in for the long haul – neither willing to go belly-up and concede defeat in our country without a fight. Competition is rife and the battle will continue – we will have to wait and see who emerges the victor. In the mean time, it’s the riders that will enjoy the spoils.