• Mon
  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 7:31am

IT professionals launch Taxiwise smartphone app for expats

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 December, 2013, 6:14am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 December, 2013, 6:14am

Hailing a cab in Hong Kong is about to get a whole lot easier for those who don't speak Cantonese with the launch this month of a new smartphone app called Taxiwise.

The app translates destinations into Cantonese before matching the customer with cabs who want to accept the fare.

The app is the brainchild of two American IT professionals, French-born Jean-Marc Ly, 27, and Truong Lam, 28, who teamed up with local IT entrepreneur Lawrence Tse to develop the product.

The idea was born out of frustration after Ly and Lam were rejected nine times by cab drivers near Lan Kwai Fong after a night of partying in July last year.

"We ended up walking in the rain for 45 minutes because we couldn't get a taxi," said Ly, who has a background in marketing.

"Most of the time we got rejected because of the language," said Lam, who has previously worked for Apple, "but some were also asking for a premium price. And the further we walked, the harder it rained."

Ly and Lam were initially in Hong Kong for a three-month intensive course on building mobile products and the taxi idea gave them a reason to extend their stay.

After months of testing, market research and an 18-month app-building programme at the Science Park in Sha Tin, the service will be available for download later this month. Bookings can be made in real time or in advance, with the city divided into four areas - Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories and the airport.

Taxiwise is aiming to have 1,000 drivers on board within the first six months.

The Hong Kong market already has several successful taxi-booking apps, most of them in Chinese, but the co-founders say this one is different. "We are targeting expats, business travellers, people like us who don't speak Chinese," said Ly.

"We're also giving local drivers access to a new market."

They hope to turn a profit by getting corporate partners, such as hotels, to pay a fee for each booking. General users get a one-month trial before a HK$10 booking fee per fare kicks in.

Ly said the app could work well on the mainland where there is a growing expatriate community in major cities. "They speak less English there, so the need is greater," he added.

The team has signed a deal with Touch Media, which runs the advertising screens on the back of taxi headrests. "There are a million taxi rides every day in Hong Kong and we just want a small fraction of that," Ly said.


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So this is a taxi app. There are already many taxi apps in Hong Kong, including some that are bilingual English-Chinese. And this one is only special because it is aimed exclusively at expats and business travellers.

In short: innovation factor zero, and the makers have narrowed their market to a sub-set of taxi users who make up probably <5% of total taxi rides. Wow, what a recipe for guaranteed failure. There goes 18 months of effort down the drain.

And this is front (web) page news for the SCMP? Yawn.
As far as I have been told, taxi driver can NOT refuse to take a fare except for example, a green taxi from New Territories can't go to say TST. i don't unde rstand how these 2 high-tech bozos were rejected 9 times in an area around LKF. as far as "premium fare", that's illegal. When a taxi driver plays these games or makes believe he doesn't know where you want to go, just mention the word "police". They usually understand that!
In 20 or so years I have had very few cases where a driver refused to take me. when they did and I just sat back (in the comfort of the taxi and out of the rain), they called their d ispatcher for help and I could tell the dispatcher in Enlish where I needed to go and they explained to the driver. Expats: just get in the taxi FIRST and then tell the driver your destination.
Spot on.

In the many years I have lived in Hong Kong, I have never had a taxi refuse a destination (I did have had drivers curse me several times for relatively short rides from the Airport Express station or Macau Ferry Terminal, but that aside) and indeed - they aren't allowed to refuse rides.

Also, anybody who has trouble finding a cab, or even booking one (hint: use a simple phone to dial the relevant number), in Hong Kong must be quite an idiot. The only time it is hard to find a cab is in peak hours (heavy rain, after events, Friday rush hour etc). But at those times, it is a simple matter of demand exceeding supply, and no app is going to help you then: you will just have to queue up.
dear scmp. oh boy, another shameless PR plug. how much are you getting paid to write about this garbage SCMP? how do you sleep at night you sons of pitches.


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