Singaporean carpooling startup Ryde announced today it has tied up with local taxi company Comfort DelGro to enable taxi booking. The deal allows Ryde users to hail Comfort cabs through the startup’s app. The hails go through Comfort’s booking system – the cab company has its own ride-hailing app for its fleet of around 16,000 taxis.
Ryde was certified by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority as a third-party taxi booking provider, according to local laws. Other companies that have received this certification include Grab and Hailo, a UK-headquartered taxi booking app that has since pulled out of Singapore and merged with Daimler’s MyTaxi service in Europe.
Co-founder and CEO Terence Zou doesn’t see Ryde competing directly with ride-hailing apps.
The move would seem to pit Ryde against local unicorn Grab, which offers both taxi booking and private car hailing services. Both Grab and Uber have carpooling versions of their private-hire car products, named GrabShare and UberPool, respectively. Grab also offers a direct counterpart to Ryde’s carpooling service with GrabHitch, which matches non-professional drivers with passengers.
Ryde co-founder and CEO Terence Zou disagrees that this rivalry is inevitable, telling Tech in Asia that as a social enterprise, the company’s focus on “building social capital” sets it apart. Zou doesn’t see Ryde competing directly with ride-hailing apps.
“We aim to create value for both drivers and commuters through social networks and social activity,” he says. The Comfort deal is part of that strategy. “We are working with existing service providers to innovate mobility solutions as we believe that this is the more sustainable way to solve transportation issues without adding to congestion.”
For taxi bookings, the app offers flat or metered rates, in accordance with new regulations in Singapore that allow taxis to charge via dynamic fixed fares. Grab offers that option through JustGrab, which allows users to book either a taxi or a private car using the same flat fee. Comfort also offers a flat fare option on its own app.
The startup plans to add a cashless payment option, hoping it will boost user numbers. “[The] majority of our users prefer not to transact in cash,” Zou says. Down the line, the founder envisions features to “make the app more social” for increased engagement – even including things like selling insurance to Ryde users through the app.
The social aspect is highlighted in the app through features that allow carpooling drivers and riders to connect through chat and to select “favorite” counterparts, that can presumably hitch rides together more frequently. Zou says the startup has refined its algorithms to better match riders with cars according to where everyone is heading. Users can also request to share a ride exclusively or with other riders.
Ryde is active in Singapore and Hong Kong. For further expansion plans, factors like the value the startup can bring into a city’s existing transportation system, mobile usage, and carpooling regulations need to be considered. “In this regard, we are looking to cities that have similar demographics to Singapore and Hong Kong,” he says, but doesn’t offer more detail.
Ryde currently has 100,000 registered users but Zou doesn’t reveal how many of those actively use the app. “We are currently monitoring comprehensively on user rates and will be looking to provide a more detailed breakdown,” he says. Its membership has grown five-fold over the past year. Zou doesn’t share any figures on the startup’s revenue growth.
The company has raised US$2 million in seed funding from “strategic angel and private investors,” which Zou doesn’t disclose. Its latest fundraise was announced in November 2015.
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