Interview: PickMe has 4,000 vehicles on road, expands to Kandy

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Jun 20, 2016 (LBO) – ‘PickMe,’ Sri Lanka’s own mobile taxi hailing solutions provider, says they have close to 4,000 vehicles on the road, with over 2,000 three wheelers, one thousand mini cars, and the rest categorized as sedan cars and vans.

The startup, which successfully raised capital in three rounds of funding, has now expanded to Kandy and wants to expand until the app is used island-wide.

“We launched in Kandy about a month ago, and are doing well. We need to ensure that, like in Colombo, everyone buys into the technology,” Jiffry Zulfer, PickMe’s chief executive told Lanka Business Online in an interview.

“You will soon see us operating in other areas or cities. We have a lot of data and it is being evaluated. Then we will know which markets or cities to go after.”

Some three-wheeler drivers save between three thousand to four thousand rupees per day as the service cuts their time between hires and their loss ratio.

The company is currently focused on building market share while also increasing the usage of their app.

Eighty percent month-on-month growth

“We are reporting 80 percent month-on-month growth since the day we started, and want to keep this trend going. As for market share, we are the largest in the country right now,” Zulfer says.

“While increasing market share, we want to ensure that the usage of the app also increases. But as time goes on profitability will be an important factor.”

Zulfer says that its current operational challenge is getting drivers on board and keeping them on.

“We have a lot of operational challenges, that is getting the people to use the application and this is ongoing,”

“There is a lot of education that needs to be given to our drivers. We also need to make sure the technology is used properly and this is our challenge, right now.”

He said that some drivers could potentially misuse the GPS enabled devices for their personal use.

“The good use of the app is important. At times we have seen that some are misusing it, like the drivers.”

The company’s driver registration process is simple. They need to come with their license, insurance, billing proof, and police reports and then proceed to register.

Later, they are trained to cover aspects such as the device, etiquette when speaking to passengers, the situation and even to treating the passenger. As the last step they get the phone.

Safety First

However, Zulfer says that there are no guarantees as to the best behaviour of drivers, and it is always best that you use the app to hail the cab, rather than hail one off the street. This helps with tracking down lost items as well.

“The most important thing is we have proper systems in place, and this system supports good behavior,” he said.

“The traceability of the cab once hailed at all points is the hallmark of our technology and this goes a long way towards supporting both the customer and the driver.”

He said that a good example of the safety factor is the ‘ETA Sharing’ option on the PickMe app, where a passenger can share their trip with someone they trust until they arrive at their destination.

“This not only aids in creating extra security, but also encourages trustworthiness and accountability.”

Talking about the competition in the market space Zulfer says that it actually helped them.

“Competition helped us to up our game,” he said. “When Uber came in we were the only player in the market, but it was a good thing because we got to see how a multinational operates.”

However, he added that while a multinational only brings a service into the country their focus as a local company is to solve the local problems and cater to them.

Disaster Relief

Their app was deployed during the recent floods with special features for air and ground rescue.

“During these floods we have learnt what we can do over and beyond just being a taxi service. We were involved in assuring the safety of over 300 families and also did three air lifts while helping with the aid distribution to victims,” Zulfer said.

“While PickMe itself did not have sufficient time to make public announcements regarding the SOS feature on their app, the users of this application had figured it out and had been clicking on the SOS feature.”

This is a fine example of the user friendliness of the application which can level out the playing field and information technology becoming a key part of disaster management, he added.

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