Start-up hopes commuters Rush to new app

First, there was Grab, then Uber. Now Rush is dashing into Singapore's private-hire car market.

The new start-up will be launched next month, says founder Jordi Yap. "We want to give commuters more options, " he said.

While some experts wonder if Rush can sustain its momentum, given the saturated market, Mr Yap believes its unique features will put it in good stead.

His app will allow commuters to key in multiple destinations, something not possible on either the Uber or Grab apps. In future, it will provide customised options such as allowing women commuters to choose only women drivers.

The 35-year-old corporate sales executive, who worked briefly as an Uber driver last year and as a taxi driver in 2012, said the fares for Rush will be comparable with those of its rivals, with a base fare of $3 and a rate of 80 cents per km.

Unlike the "surge" pricing of Uber and GrabCar, where fares increase based on demand, surcharges on fares will be imposed only during fixed times, similar to taxis.

Mr Yap said Rush will also allow drivers to keep more of their earnings as they need to pay only a fixed monthly subscription fee of $150. Drivers for Uber and GrabCar currently pay about 20 per cent of all fares earned to their companies.

He has set up a Facebook group for interested drivers, which now has more than 600 members. They can vote on future changes to the app and services. "Right now, private-hire drivers have no say about things like fare reductions," he said.

Rush has about 40 drivers signed up and aims to have about 1,000. It hopes to earn revenue from the drivers' monthly fees, as well as advertising on the app.

Money for the development of the app was raised from several sources, including crowdfunding.

Mr Yap declined to say how much has been raised, but added that he welcomed more funding.

Drivers who signed up with Rush say they hope to be able to earn more. "The 20 per cent commission is very taxing. With Rush I will be able to keep all my earnings," said 44-year-old Mr Mohd Alkam, who has driven for Uber and GrabCar for almost two years.

Mr Lim Kell Jay, head of Grab Singapore, said he welcomed the new contender. "We believe competition makes us stronger," he said.

Uber declined comment.

Experts told The Straits Times Rush faces an uphill battle. SIM University economist Walter Theseira said any new entry to the private-hire market had "poor prospects" if they cannot get enough drivers. "As a commuter, if there aren't enough drivers, you might not be able to get a ride within five minutes, and it's unlikely that you'll try the app again," he said, noting that even the two incumbents have trouble holding on to drivers.

Ms Ameera Aslam, 29, who uses private-hire cars four times a week, said she found the features interesting and would consider Rush when it launches.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2016, with the headline 'Start-up hopes commuters Rush to new app'. Print Edition | Subscribe