Other e-hailing firms rush to fill the Uber gap
Grab

Smaller and emerging ride-sharing players continue to enter the fray

by MARK RAO / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

DESPITE the growing concern over monopoly and anti-competitive practices in the local e-hailing market following the Grab-Uber merger, industry players have carved out their own niches and continue to prosper.

One such player is Blacklane, a Berlin-based company offering limousine services in five Malaysian cities, which has quietly grown its business under the shadow of mainstay providers Grab and Uber Technologies Inc.

Blacklane CEO and co-founder Jens Wohltorf said the company is now part of the expanded traditional limousine market while offering fares that are about half of what legacy players charge.

“We beat competitors with high-quality vehicles and drivers at rates that are about half of those of legacy companies.

“We compared our rates in Kuala Lumpur and found that legacy companies charge 203% of Blacklane’s fares for a ride from (Kuala Lumpur) Sentral Station to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

He said the company’s services are complementary to those that are provided by other ride-sharing companies.

Despite the “competition”, Wohltorf claimed that Blacklanehascontinuedtoregistera record number of bookings and rides in Malaysia each month.

“The popularity of ridehailing or ridesharing services corresponds with our popularity, too. As people have more mobility options, they use a variety of services to meet their needs,” he said.

Founded in 2011 by Wohltorf and Frank Steuer as a twoman operation in Berlin, the limousine service grew to expand into over 250 cities in 50 countries today.

In Malaysia, the company’s services cover Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Penang and Senai, where numerous ridesharing drivers flock local airports to secure fares.

Blacklane, which offers professional drivers using one of three Mercedes-model vehicles, found its place in the industry not by competing with other players but by servicing a niche market.

Wohltorf said travellers choose Blacklane when they have the time to enjoy the quality of the vehicles and service from the chauffeurs.

“We focus on longer-distance rides such as airport transfers and inter-city trips.

“Travellers choose Blacklane to and from city centres and use taxi and ride-hailing services for short, inner-city trips,” he said.

Wohltorf said the company is well-positioned with its current footprint in Malaysia and will look to add global travel partners to bring in more guests to Blacklane rides.

In October last year, the company signed a partnership deal with Malaysia Airlines Bhd that would allow a steady flow of jobs for the limousine provider.

When the Uber app in Malaysia went offline on April 8 this year following Grab’s takeover, competitors feared that monopoly and anti-competitive practices would creep into the market.

Currently, some 300,000 registered e-hailing drivers are roaming Malaysia, with Grab touted as the undisputed market leader — at least in terms of scale.

However, smaller and emerging ride-sharing players continue to enter the fray, suggesting a marketplace that is large enough to support both competition and diversity.

Earlier this month, Platform Apps Sdn Bhd announced that its new e-hailing service MyCar could fill in the gap left behind by Uber’s departure from Malaysia by addressing some of the concerns voiced by drivers when operating on the Grab and Uber platforms.

This includes charging a significantly lower commission rate on drivers at 15% compared to Grab, which charges as high as 25%.

The app, which started with 2,000 drivers, is today securing some 5,000 rides daily — up from 40 rides previously — following its commercial launch on Feb 1, 2018.

Platform Apps founder Mohd Noah Maideen said MyCar saw some 10,000 Uber drivers joining the e-hailing platform from February to April, and will look to bringing in more of these drivers going forward.

Other players that make up the growing industry include Decentralised Alternative Cabs Serving and Empowering Everyone or Dacsee, Pick N Go Sdn Bhd and Riding Pink.