In the Philippines, hailing a taxi is an annoyance that’s not limited to Metro Manila. A bit down south in the Visayan region, residents of Cebu will regularly struggle to grab the attention of busy taxi drivers. Cebu-based startup Micab is trying to solve this problem.
Launched in September 2013, like other taxi-booking apps in Asia, it aims is to help the commuting public get easy access to a taxi ride. While Malaysia’s Grab Taxi and Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi have already made their presence known in Metro Manila, they haven’t yet expanded outside of the capital. In Cebu, Micab hopes to be the go-to app for residents who need a cab quickly.
SMS or data connection? It’s your call!
Apart from being the sole taxi hailing app in the region, Micab distinguishes itself by letting passengers use either their internet connection or SMS to hail a cab through the app. The SMS feature connects to Micab’s servers and sends the information to smartphone-equipped cabs within a two-kilometer radius.
While this SMS service currently only works on smartphones, Micab will also allow feature phones to use the service via SMS next month.
People who use the service from now until December can use it for free, paying no booking fee on top of cab fare. In December, Micab will start imposing a Php 5 ($0.12) booking fee on top of the taxi fare.
Driving to different cities
Considering that the app is still in its early stages, the team is currently focusing on getting taxi fleets to sign up.
In April, it was one of the 20 startups who received mentorship from Philippine incubator Ideaspace Foundation. In addition, it’s also backed by international ICT-firm Next IX. The firm has already provided the startup with funding which will be used in its expansion throughout the Philippines.
Further boosting its expansion, the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (CITOM) recently provisioned 500 Android smartphones to cab drivers, which helps Micab’s fleet size grow. Taxi drivers equipped with smartphones are paying Php 30 ($0.70) a day for the mobile gadget and data credits needed for the Micab app.
Micab targets close to 1,000 units deployed by the end of the year in Cebu alone. It also hopes to launch the app in other neighboring regions – such as Davao and Iloilo, and also in Manila – by January next year.
In the next couple of months, Micab aims to break 80 to 90 percent penetration of the taxi hailing service in the Philippines. In order to do this, it will have to carefully consider its booking rates. Grab Taxi and Easy Taxi both charge Php 70 ($1.62) on top of the meter rate, which is significantly more than Micab’s expected booking rate for Cebu. Eddie says the team is “still determining the right booking fee in Manila,” but he assures that the cost for Micab’s services once it lands in the capital will be reasonable.
Micab is available for free download on Android, and will be available for iOS and Windows devices before the year ends.
(Editing by Josh Horwitz)