Karhoo gears up for private-hire market

Daniel Ishag, founder of Karhoo, a ride-booking app that will be launched in Singapore, New York and London early in 2016.
Daniel Ishag, founder of Karhoo, a ride-booking app that will be launched in Singapore, New York and London early in 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

Taxi-booking app to tap on 2,000 vehicles from rental car and limo firms by year's end

Taxi-booking app Karhoo is expected to launch its own private-hire car service here within the next few months, in a move that will bring it head-to-head with existing players Uber and Grab.

Karhoo strategy director Will Harris told The Straits Times over e-mail that it is working with private-hire vehicle fleets to give it access to "thousands" of cars.

Expected to launch by the end of the year, Karhoo will have 2,000 private-hire cars from 10 fleet owners, made up of rental car and limousine companies.

This will add to the British start-up's previous arrangements with ComfortDelGro and Prime Taxis, the largest and smallest taxi fleets with 17,044 and 759 taxis, respectively.

These tie-ups give Karhoo access to more than 17,000 cabs, or more than 60 per cent of Singapore's taxi population of about 28,000 as of July.

Originally positioned as a "cab comparison app", Karhoo was given approval by the Land Transport Authority in February to operate under the Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers framework, which regulates cab-booking apps.

The app had been expected to launch earlier this year.

When asked, Mr Harris said the app is being tested before its official launch.

"We are in beta test phase and want to ensure that the technology integrates smoothly with each fleet partner, before we're ready to bring the app to the public," he said.

The app will now allow commuters to compare and choose not just available cabs, but also private-hire cars, based on price, time of arrival and type of vehicle.

Favoride Car Rental said it was approached by the company a few months ago, and that its fleet of 70 cars would be available to Karhoo drivers.

Mr Henry Heng, owner of Ouber Limo, said his company's fleet of more than 200 cars would be ready for use by Karhoo.

Dr Lee Der Horng, a transport researcher at the National University of Singapore, said it was too early to say how Karhoo might be received, given that consumers had their choice of private-hire and taxi-booking apps.

However, he added that Karhoo's move into the private-hire market made commercial sense, noting that Uber and Grab offered both private-hire and taxi-booking services.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Karhoo gears up for private-hire market'. Print Edition | Subscribe