Malaysia joining the rank of other high-tech cities
Uber is a mobile app hired and transport company based in San Francisco. From its beginning in 2009, it is now in operation over 100 cities and is one of the newest kids on the block in mobile apps services in the country.
The basic business concept of Uber is much like that of any taxi or vehicle transportation of passenger services. Hire a vehicle and pay a fee. The vehicle will transport you to your desired destination.
But the feature of service which is smack of high-tech using your smartphone to hire and pay by your credit or debit card compare to the conventional taxi plying the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
For years, passengers particularly those of the low-income group who could not afford to buy a car or a foreign tourist has vented a lot of grouses that our taxi drivers have irked them tremendously. Grouses ranging from unethical taxi drivers tampering with the meters to intentional taking a longer route so as to charged more or the drivers feigning no change for the cash paid. Then there are complaints of air-condition purposely switch off to save energy in our hot and humid tropical climate, resulting in a passenger sweating profusely. In some isolated instance, passengers have even complained of taxi drivers molesting and robbing them.
Uber invasion of the country could be an answer to all these runaway grouses that an unfortunate segment of our population have to bear with.
It is not uncommon to hire a taxi at KLIA after a midnight landing and the driver switch off their meter passed 12.00 pm because the wee hours of the morning are the best time for them to make more money by charging exorbitant fare. It could be like blackmailing since other public transport like city busses have shut their services.
It may not bode well for our tourism industry if one integral section becomes rogue. Inevitably it would ripple out to the whole industry and the country image in general.
Well what about unethical Uber drivers? They can behave as bad as our taxi drivers too? Well that is for the future to tell. All mobile apps services have their drawbacks. Many social networking apps already entrenched in our consciousness today were a fad several years ago when they entered Malaysia. They were the answer to many ails associated with the traditional social agencies of bygone days. But alas, today it is common to hear that people have been cheated of their lifesaving after knowing somebody from the popular social networking apps.
At least at the present moment, Uber is the new kid on the block that would have solves many of the grouses associated with traditional taxi drivers.
You don’t have to haggle over unfair charges. Everything is prepaid at the point of purchase. And the vehicles used are all new too. You have a choice of a low price Uber X to the premium SUV and higher end LUX model of vehicles that function more like a luxury limo. GPS sync allows you plan your time more accurately. Of course it spare you the trouble of hailing a cab on the street and some taxi drivers with load would not stop, leaving you dripping wet either in the rain or hot weather that is common in the country.
Of course the cab drivers are fuming over the loss of ‘territory’. Traditional cab drivers are still important especially to the senior citizen or illiterate who do not know how to use a smartphone.
The Land Transport Department must make a balance between many competing factors. Balance in a sense that it must serve the interest of all parties, particularly those of the consumers. It should not cave in unilaterally to the vehement call of the cab drivers association. It is the consumers’ point that is most important. Or it can do the right thing by stepping aside and let the market force to dictate.
Well the government has allowed the ‘natural processes’ of globalisation to take its course in the name of modernization when it allowed the invasion of hypermarkets into the retail scene. Many retailers have been hounded into small pockets in the rural area. They reinvent themselves by becoming more personalised to their core business segment.
The cab drivers can also reinvent themselves by becoming more personalised to their core customers, the non-smartphone users.
Situation is very fluid at the moment and it would not accurately tell whether the future of mobile apps transportation company like Uber would go in the way of displacing traditional cab drivers. But we can take a cue from the scene in other countries such as United States where it was first started. The company is gaining momentum and expanding from it inception in 2009. Traditional cabbies are losing ground.
Business guru commented that it is what globalization is all about. New business model displacing old one in the name of modernization. Our cab drivers would have to live with this reality.