Colombo’s taxi market is crowded. We’re up to our gills in traditional dial-em-up cabs, ride-sharing apps, taxi-hailing apps, and tuk-tuks you just grab off the street. You’d think that all these competing services would push each other out of the market, but the fact that they survive shows just how much of a demand there is for transport in a city that’s hyper-congested and notoriously difficult to park in.
The profusion of companies is good for the consumer, but not so much for drivers who protest this stiff competition driving prices down.
But into this jam of taxi companies comes a new entrant: Taxiyak. Perhaps banking on a hyper-localized brand and service (judging by its name), Taxiyak will be competing against the hugely successful PickMe and the well-funded Uber.
While the new service’s name is a mouthful to anyone who is not familiar with the Sinhalese language, the company behind Taxiyak is an old hand at the transport business. Airport Travel Holdings was established in 1996, providing transport to passengers to and from the airport. But this year, they are branching out with an app and a drive to provide transport services not just from the airport, but across Colombo.
The only way to stand out with such stiff competition is differentiation. Taxiyak has tuk-tuks, cars, vans, jeeps, and buses, which will be useful. They also operate a 24-hour call centre, which is not unusual, but will definitely be an advantage in dealing with issues locally, instead of shuttling queries off to another country to be dealt with.
The service also comes with its own smartphone app, with a few extra features thrown in. As you open the app, you get to see your location as well as that of any taxis close by. You choose what type of vehicle you want—whether it is a nano, mini, or a car, and then enter your pickup and drop off location. You get a ride estimate, and the nearest driver is sent to your location. The app also makes a play at your heart (and purse) strings, prompting you to make a charitable donation at the end of every trip.
Taxiyak is also depending on integrity and credibility to stand out from the crowd. They promise that their tuk-tuks have better, smarter metres that give more accurate readings. The company also states that their tuk-tuk drivers are safer, more courteous, and better trained, so users can trust them more.
Besides this, you can also book tours and trips ahead of time, which is what the company is relying on as its key differentiator. Through the app, the scheduling feature can give the user an overall summary of the trip with point-to-point destination selection. You could also select from a number of tour packages, or simply call them up to customize your trip further.
A Difference In Service
Taxiyak’s play into the taxi market is perhaps based on providing superior service, as opposed to ubiquitous service. They have the experience for it, but with prices being as competitive as they are, they’ll be hard-pressed trying to draw customers away from the other companies who have been operating in this particular domain for much longer.
If they are going to survive (and thrive), their best bet is to carve out a niche for themselves. Perhaps, in the same way they carried out their airport transport business. By focusing on offices, planned tours, or business transport, Taxiyak could grab a piece of Colombo’s transport pie. Or, they may brute-force their way into the casual, instant-ride business. That will be fun to watch.
Cover image: Wikimedia Commons