Taxi apps perform poorly

Three taxi apps were launched since 2017

Three online taxi booking and dispatching mobile apps were launched since 2017 with the attendant hype and marketing slogans – all promising to make taxi rides much simpler, easier and even cheaper.

A year or two down the road, these mobile apps have failed to live up to the initial hype, underused both by cabbies and commuters alike.

MyDruk Ride has over 400 plus registered taxi drivers and Oie taxi has over 700 registered taxi driver.  The Bhutan Taxi Association (BTA) has over 1,500 registered taxi drivers as of now with over 3,000 registered customers.

Passang Tshering, a taxi driver, said that though several taxi apps have been launched and he is a registered member himself, if a customer calls him long distance, by the time he reaches the destination, the customer has already left in another cab.

Another taxi driver, Jeevan from Samtse, said that he hardly gets customers via taxi apps. “Most of the time we only end up finishing mobile battery and data therefore I stopped using the taxi app a month ago,” he said.

As of December 31, 2018, there were 4,170 taxis in the country, of which 1,885 taxis were registered in Thimphu alone.

Dophu, a taxi driver, said that people prefer to use the city bus or catch a taxi ad hoc than use taxi app as the taxi that is booked takes longer to reach the destination but one can catch a taxi in the street every five minutes.

However, some people do use the apps during party nights and weekends when they want to be dropped off at a destination.

All the taxi booking apps are available online on Google Playstore and iOS App Store as free download. The apps are being used in Paro and Thimphu.

The Marketing Officer of Oie Drive and Oie Driver Mobile apps, Yachna Gurung, said there is less customer adoption despite heavy marketing initiatives. “Taxi drivers do not have set guidelines and Bhutan Taxi Association needs more support to promote the apps,” she said, adding that there is no support from the government as well.

YachnaGurung said that it takes longer to book taxis online and the slow switch to IT technology both by passengers and taxi drivers hampers the use of taxi apps. Also, due to disturbance in mobile network, there are miscalculations in rate, she said.

An official from MyDruk Ride said when people book taxis the normal way, they can negotiate the rates but with the apps, they cannot.

TshewangRinzin, a customer said using the taxi app is a waste of time and money during the day as they can get a taxi any time unless the customer lives far away from town and the app is useful only for emergencies.

Penjor, a Thimphu resident, said that people are willing to wait and catch taxis on the street because it does not involve the hassle of actually going online and using the app.

He also added that most civil servants and highly salaried people in private companies own cars while low-income families will not avail the service due to the high rates of booking the whole taxi.

A customer can log into a taxi app through their Facebook account or using their mail ID and phone number. The service which can be availed 24/7 automatically dials to the nearest taxi driver available when a passenger picks a destination. If the driver does not answer within 20 seconds, the call is directed to the next nearest driver.

Passengers can know whether their request is accepted through the app and through the message alerts. Based on Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) rates, the app also provides cost estimate of the journey.

Tshering from Thimphu