Well yes. Taxi-hailing apps across the globe have been facing hard times ever since Uber arrived on their territory. I could see that in Bangalore, when certain cab drivers complained of a declining business due to Uber’s ‘perfect’ offerings.
So how do Uber’s competitors counter that ? By forming a ‘global taxi alliance’. As per a report published in Buzzfeed today, such a global alliance is probably already in the final stages of formation, backed by who ? None other than the Japanese giant, Softbank. Ola, GrabTaxi and Flywheel are the companies involved and they are planning to introduce features like cross-booking or in-app integration to each other’s services.
Certain executives from rival taxi-hailing apps have told Buzzfeed that Softbank Capital has helped to create this potential global taxi alliance. And it is in fact obvious too. Softbank recently invested millions into two Asian tax-hailing services. It invested a $250 Million in GrabTaxi and a $210 Million in India’s Ola Cabs.
In fact, when asked about such an alliance’s formation, Brian Cu, the co-founder of the Philippines-based GrabTaxi, said that he has ‘heard’ industry discussions of forming a global taxi alliance among like-minded apps.
Cu further told BuzzFeed News,
It would include knowledge sharing and maybe cross-booking. If you’re in the Philippines, you can book a GrabTaxi using the OlaCabs app; it’s in the realm of possibilities, so maybe Softbank is trying to do that.
Yea, ‘knowledge-sharing’. That’s what he talked about.
He further explained as to why such an alliance’s possibility are even more, considering Uber’s recent move to venture out to private drivers. He said,
Uber works here with fleet operators,” GrabTaxi’s Cu told BuzzFeed News. “Now they started branching out to private vehicles. It’s been a point of contention with the government since around October, November of last year. The government started looking into it. It’s a very messy scene right now — technically they’re illegal. The chairman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board [LTFRB] said they’re illegal but they’re being tolerated
What has also come into light, is the fact that this alliance isn’t just limited to Asian taxi-hailing start-ups. FlyWheel, which is a San Francisco based ride-hailing company that connects riders to existing taxi drivers is also a potential partner in this allaince.
Flywheel CFO Oneal Bhambani told BuzzFeed,
You may see a global alliance to unify all these regional markets and unify taxis across the globe in other markets.
And yes, ‘unification of taxi services’. Sounds too righteous ? Yes, it does to me.
FlyWheel is in fact, already into discussion with India-based, SoftBank-backed, Ola Cabs. This is what he told BuzzFeed,
We are both very passionate about the very same things so we talk all the time and talk about our customers and our drivers and we share the same vision of the safety aspects of the industry. Going forward if anything happens [between our companies] it’s more of a synergistic thing.
This ‘global alliance’, if formed, is sure to hurt Uber’s markets. However, the reasons for this damage won’t just be the ‘global alliance’. It is also the legal troubles which Uber has run into lately. Though it recently received a huge $600 Million ‘strategic partnership’ from Baidu, it still runs under enormous ambiguity as the Chinese Government is set to take a tougher stance on taxi-hailing services.
We’ve contacted all of the above mentioned cab services for comments, and will update this story once we get some input.