Over 17,000 cabs signed on to new booking app

British entrepreneur Daniel Ishag, the founder of Karhoo, which has inked a partnership with Singapore's biggest cab operator, ComfortDelGro. The Karhoo app will let commuters pick a cab across companies, based on criteria such as price, time of arri
British entrepreneur Daniel Ishag, the founder of Karhoo, which has inked a partnership with Singapore's biggest cab operator, ComfortDelGro. The Karhoo app will let commuters pick a cab across companies, based on criteria such as price, time of arrival and type of vehicle.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

A new taxi booking app that will launch in Singapore only in the first quarter of next year has already signed up over 17,000 taxis.

Karhoo, founded by British entrepreneur Daniel Ishag, announced yesterday that it has inked a partnership with the island's biggest cab operator, ComfortDelGro.

The app lets commuters pick a cab across companies, based on criteria such as price, time of arrival and type of vehicle. They are given a choice of taxis nearest to them.

Mr Ishag, 41, the company's chief executive, said Karhoo is different from peer-to-peer apps that match taxi drivers to passengers, because it relays its customers' booking requests to the cab operators' existing despatch systems.

By being an aggregator for cab firms, Mr Ishag adds that Karhoo will "level the playing field" and "empower" incumbents by increasing the booking jobs they receive.

MEETING LOCAL DEMAND

Logic dictates - the deeper the inventory (or supply) you have, the higher the probability you have of being able to serve the need.

KARHOO FOUNDER DANIEL ISHAG, on solving Singapore's peak hour taxi crunch

Over the past year, taxi companies have come under fierce competition from private-car hire services such as Uber and GrabCar.

Mr Ishag said Karhoo will work only with transport operators that are licensed and accredited by the regulators, for commuters' safety and security, and to ensure that the drivers are professional.

He said he is in the "final stages" of talks with the other four taxi companies - which account for the remaining 40 per cent of the over 28,000 cabs here.

Asked how Karhoo plans to monetise the bookings, Mr Ishag said it could be through sharing booking commissions with taxi firms.

In just the 10 months that it was started, Karhoo has already raised over US$250 million (S$356 million) in funding, according to reports. Besides Singapore, it has plans to launch in New York and London as well.

Mr Ishag expects to increase bookings to cab operators by at least 50 per cent in a year. On the customer end, he hopes to cut waiting time for a taxi by between 25 per cent and 30 per cent.

He is confident he can solve Singapore's taxi crunch during the peak hours, as he is working with entire fleets of taxis.

He said: "Logic dictates - the deeper the inventory (or supply) you have, the higher the probability you have of being able to serve the need."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'Over 17,000 cabs signed on to new booking app'. Print Edition | Subscribe