Uber HK: We are willing to cooperate with local taxi trade

April 19, 2018 14:08
Ride-hailing platform Uber said it is willing to join hands with the local taxi trade, despite the opposition of traditional taxi operators and drivers to the service. Photo: Bloomberg, HKEJ

Despite the Hong Kong government's lukewarm attitude toward car-hailing services, competition in the market is getting more intense. Didi Chuxing has just added in-app payment optionsthat can be used by local taxi drivers. 

In the face of new rival offerings, Uber Hong Kong general manager Kenneth She Chun-chi told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that her group has come up with new measures to attract local taxi drivers to join the service. These include sharing with them its technological advantages.

Here are the excerpts from that interview:

HKEJ:It has been four years since Uber launched in Hong Kong. Amid the legal issue facing the company, how's business in the city?

Kenneth She: We now have about 30,000 registered drivers in Hong Kong, while part-time drivers account for 70 percent of them. For Uber, we hope to achieve greater resource utilization and expand earning potential for vehicle owners willing to share his or her idle resources. Therefore, we do not require our registered drivers to stay online all the time picking up orders; our drivers can voluntarily decide on their driving time.

Q: Several ride-hailing platforms, such as the Chinese player Didi Chuxing, are planning to enter the Hong Kong market. How do you foresee the competition in the ride-hailing sector in the city?

A: Competition is actually a good thing for the market, considering the massive demand for ride-hailing service in the city. I believe ride-hailing platforms in Hong Kong, like us, are in a pursuit to provide more personalized and efficient services in point-to-point car transport. Competition leads to innovation and better service, which can drive more new customers. That's a win-win situation for all players.

Since Uber arrived in Hong Kong market four years ago, we have launched a series of measures to help raise drivers' income. This month, we have added a new tipping function to the app, which allows riders to tip the Uber driver at the end of every trip, so that riders can reward great service from our drivers other than leaving a good rating. Customers are free to tip an additional amount of their choice and all the money paid via the tipping function will go directly to the driver, with Uber receiving no service fees.

Q: After four years since Uber launched in Hong Kong, the company has been facing an unfavorable regulatory environment as well as opposition from traditional taxi operators in the city. We saw a protest held by a group from the local taxi trade last month, calling on the police force to take action against unlicensed cabs providing services via Uber. What are your thoughts on this?

A: Uber and the local taxis are not in a complete conflict of interest. Both parties have room to work together. Uber brings competition to the market. But what if Uber can offer both car and taxi-hailing services on its app? We can jointly tap the e-hailing market.

I believe creating a healthy communication with the local taxi industry is the prerequisite for cooperation. And for Uber, we are considering how we can use our technology platform to help raise taxi drivers’ income. For example, they can pick up orders easily via Uber when driving. There are massive data sets in Uber’s platform, which enable us to offer useful information about the market supply and demand, pricing, real-time traffic condition, and many more. With the common interest to develop the industry further, we can have a smoother path for industry growth with joined hands.

Q: As we understand, there are murmurs of discontent from Uber drivers over the company’s operations and practices.

A: We value our drivers highly. In addition to the discount offers for fuel and car detailing, we have organized regular activities and gatherings to enhance connection with our drivers. We have monthly meetings with our drivers, listening to their problems and trying to find solutions.

Q: One of the differences between Uber and other ride-hailing platforms is that service orders are distributed among drivers on a random basis, not on a first-come-first-serve basis. What's their response to this mechanism?

A: We believe this mechanism can distribute service orders among drivers in an efficient way; it also protects our customers from drivers refusing hire. And by retaining the customers, it secures the long-term income of our drivers. Meanwhile, we are open to feedback and comments from our drivers, in order to review the features of the platform and see how we can improve the process of distributing pickup orders.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 19

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal