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Ride-Sharing Apps And The Taxi Conundrum In Malaysia

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The on-going battle for taxi supremacy continues with Uber & GrabCar

With the recent brouhaha with ride-sharing taxis within the region, particularly in Malaysia, Indonesia and The Philippines, it is without doubt that the past year has been a roller-coaster ride for private ride-sharing services. The beginning of the new year has already witnessed numerous altercations between local taxi drivers and ride-sharing app operators Uber and GrabCar in Malaysia. Countless infamous incidences involving local taxi operators often smear the good image of the local tourism industry, but portray the ugly side of typical Malaysian taxi drivers. In one incident which involves over a hundred odd taxi drivers creating a blockade of taxis parked alongside Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur – right across Fahrenheit 99 and Pavilion KL, two upscale urban shopping malls. The cabbies’ main protest centres upon the contentious issue of licensing of private ride-sharing taxis, specifically in reference to GrabCar and Uber. The ensuing chaos created massive gridlock and traffic congestion within the city centre during rush hour. When emotions run high, madness takes over. It was a surreal scenario depicted and played out on that fateful afternoon – the ultimate showdown of taxi supremacy!

The real question of whether ride-sharing services like Uber and GrabCar are actually operating legally in Malaysia should be left to the local road transport authority, especially the relevant commission to answer. This long-standing feud between SPAD and the various local taxi associations representing local taxi drivers have been dragging their feet for far too long now. Even the honourable Minister of Transport himself issued a verbal directive to SPAD to speed up the process of licensing with regard to Uber and GrabCar. Dubious or not, taxi drivers generally have been exploiting this issue to their own advantage. This certainly does not come as a shock or a surprise to many since taxi drivers have always been consistently over-charging their clients, yet not improving their services significantly. Pricing wars and customer service aside, it seems that the real victims of this political drama are average and ordinary Malaysians alike. Substantial concessions as well as compromises will need to be made in order to break the impasse or stalemate between taxi operators and local authorities.

As such, it has been a rather hazy situation for the two ride-sharing services which have provided untold convenience for users who are in a dire or desperate need for an efficient mode of public transportation. Henceforth, in order to clear the storm clouds hovering over this issue, we might finally get to see Uber and GrabCar drivers getting legalized after all. This whole episode or saga should be put to rest once and for all for the common sake of thousands of loyal customers using their respective taxi services. In terms of providing a legal platform for Uber and GrabCar, this will neither solve the persisting or long-standing issues, nor will it completely eradicate the underlying or hidden problems within the taxi industry. The taxi industry itself requires a total revamp in keeping up with changing times, whereby the integration of technology within our lives is an inevitable thing. Eventually, technology such as mobile apps will assimilate all facets of our daily lives, not just in transportation alone.

In a recent online survey conducted by a news portal cum social blogsite, it has been found that about 69.5 percent of respondents prefer to use their mobile apps to book a cab or a taxi. Approx. 71.3 percent of respondents fancy ride-sharing services due to its reliability, whilst 64.3 percent of respondents prefer their services for their affordability. Almost seventy-percent of them wish for all types of taxi services to be standardized regardless of operators. Ride-sharing services should also be regulated as well to operate within the confines of Malaysian laws and regulation. Some 42.1 percent are willing to fork out more for taxi service fees. A whopping 89.1 percent are generally unhappy with the overall taxis’ unregulated pricing. Final verdict is, most Malaysians do indeed favour ride-sharing apps! After all the politicking and drama, consumers just wish to get from one destination to another safely and at a reasonable price.

Taxi drivers who can provide efficient and affordable service usually gain repeat customers as well. In the long run, the adoption of new mobile technology such as apps would ultimately benefit both taxi drivers and customers respectively. Taxi drivers should also take up the federal government’s call and challenge to be their own entrepreneurs. This can be seen as benefitting them and their livelihood in the future. Individual licensing as well as fair pricing are fundamental issues which need to be debated and enforced without fear or favour. Fair prices must be equitable, justifiable and market-driven. Taxi users ought to be provided with more options or alternatives, whilst taxi drivers should be given more business incentives to drive or motivate them to dish out better service to users.  – HFM