By May Thet Hnin
The Global New Light of Myanmar Daily spoke with U Nay Aung, founder and chief executive officer of Oway Ride, one of a number of mobile application-based transportation service company in Myanmar whose competitors include international taxi firms like Uber and Grab.
Q: May I know how you got the idea to start Oway Ride and why you chose this kind of business?
A: We started Oway Ride, an online travel booking and on-demand ride service, a year ago, aiming to fulfill the needs of urban car fare market in Yangon. City residents face daily the inconvenience of hailing street taxis including arbitrary taxi rates, poorly trained drivers and long service delays even though the city has a large number of taxis. This is why we developed Oway Ride.
Q: Please tell us about Oway Ride?
A: Oway Ride is a taxi application. Users need to download the application which enables users to book rides online. The app then displays nearby available taxis on a map and lets users confirm their pickup and drop-off locations rapidly. This is the initial stage of our on-demand service, with plans to expand our service in the future.
Q: Does the company train its drivers? How do you choose eligible drivers? What benefits does the company provide for drivers?
A: We mainly review drivers’ records before the selection process. We then test the condition of their cars. Applicants must take a driving test administered by the company. We provide selected drivers with communication equipment, including mobile devices with a GPS system to track their locations. Thanks to these devices, we can easily track the performance of individual drivers on a daily basis and manage the payment process between the driver and the company. Based on drivers’ performance, the company offers incentives to them to work harder. We are also planning to use a rating system in the future to let customers share positive and negative feedback. The system shows how drivers serve their customers. Actions will be taken against drivers who receive fewer than three stars, three times. The company will sever its relationship with drivers who receive a subpar rating. This system will also provide bonuses to drivers who get good ratings.
Q: What percentage cut does the company take from the total fare cost of a ride from driver? Does the company allow its drivers to connect with other companies?
A: We only take 10 per cent from drivers’ total fare. This is less than our competitors. We give bonuses to drivers for each route they drive on our system. We do not allow our drivers to work with other companies but it is difficult to monitor them. A minority of taxi drivers work with two or three companies and move one company to another after getting incentives from the first company. We need to control these cases to a certain degree.
Q: How does Oway Ride offer dispatch service to customer in time?
A: When customers sign onto our service through the application, the system automatically calculates distance and traffic between customers and a nearby taxi car. The app will send a text message to customer, describing the travel time to pick up the customer. Customers can also book a journey with Oway Ride from the app. The company will send nearby available driver to the customer 30 minutes before the appointment time.
Q: How does the company get customer loyalty?
A: The main point is taxi fares, rates and charges. Reducing taxi fares for our customers below the current market price is one of our incentives. We offer Ks2,000 each to customers for their first three short trips. We have responsibilities for our service. Customers may enjoy safe and secure service while riding in a cab with a good air conditioning system. The company will refund charges to customers if a cab breaks down. Top-up promotions are also available and customers can easily top up at shopping malls and earn points toward bonuses. We offer round-the-clock service to commuters who can also book through our call center. The app is designed to help customer access information about the service.
Q: How to fix fare for cub customers?
A: The government does not enforce an official taxi rate, however, we found the market rate by conducting a survey. Our taxi fare is cheaper than the market rate. We collect Ks260 per kilometer while the market rate reaches Ks300. We increase fees when the travel time exceeds expected time due to traffic congestion. These fees go to driver. Sometimes, our taxi fare reaches market rate due to travel time. Normally, we mitigate the fare as much as we can.
Q: How many taxis work with Oway Ride? How many customers have downloaded the application?
A: We operate this service with a fleet of 5,000 taxi cars in Yangon alone. The service will be launched in Mandalay very soon, with the company planning to offer not only taxi cub service but also bike taxis. The service will be extended in big cities including Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw, Bagan and Mawlamyine. The number of people who downloaded the app has reached about 200,000.
Q: How do you increase market penetration?
A: We will continue to conduct informational campaigns, introducing our user-friendly application with easy-to-use features to help both young and old people use it easily. The app is designed to be self-explanatory and can be used in both English and Myanmar languages. It was a very challenging to install Myanmar language in the app. We also advertise our service through our website and Facebook page.
Q: What are the biggest challenges faced by the company since its establishment?
A: It is difficult to start an ecosystem as a technology-related company. We trained drivers how to use the app and we also had to explain to customers how things worked. Attracting customers to use the app-based transportation service is a major challenge we are facing. We invest millions of dollar in the business. We also face market competition.
Q: At the present time, international companies including Uber and Grab are coming in the market. How do you prepare to compete with them?
A: There is more competitions in the market. Normally, a country has two or three competitors. America has two app-based transportation businesses while Indonesia has three competitors in the market. China had two service providers but only one business survived as this is a volume business and needs a huge investment. I think this kind of business will consolidate after six months or one year. We need to take a time to observe it. For the time being, we are putting forth concerted efforts to introduce the app to general public, trying to set a cheaper price for users as well as to increase drivers’ income by improving productivity. We plan to provide other extended services based on the application in the future, considering what kinds of vehicles are more suitable for residents in the target cities. In some areas, bike taxis are more appropriate than cabs.—Translated by Khaing Thanda Lwin