Cab operators must innovate

As a consumer, I am concerned with the rhetoric between taxi companies, as well as the efforts taken by the authorities to regulate the private-hire car industry.

The recent actions taken by the authorities - while ostensibly levelling the playing field - have, in effect, negated the very innovation that we are known for and champion ("GrabCar, Uber drivers to be licensed"; April 13).

That these private-hire car companies continue to survive and thrive points to the fact that their model works, as they are serving a segment that taxi companies cannot.

One issue often cited for the need to regulate these companies even further is that of insurance for the consumer ("Questions over insurance for Uber, GrabCar"; April 15).

This is, however, a red herring.

If consumers do not feel sufficiently safe riding in these vehicles or find that they have no course of redress, they will revert to taxis.

Instead of levelling the field, actions to regulate these companies actually put them at a disadvantage.

For example, taxis can pick up fares off the street, while these private-hire cars cannot. How can the playing field be considered level if such stark differences still exist?

National Taxi Association executive adviser Ang Hin Kee's criticism of recent price cuts by Grab and Uber comes across as somewhat self-serving ("Fare cuts by Uber, Grab will hurt sector: Taxi body"; April 24).

He was quoted as being concerned about market monopoly, should taxi operators be squeezed out.

However, the market will always find an equilibrium.

It is clearly in the interest of the taxi companies for private-hire car companies to be operated like themselves.

Rather than constant lobbying, the taxi companies should perhaps consider innovating themselves and coming up with competitive advantages.

Benny Tan Cheng Kiat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Cab operators must innovate'. Print Edition | Subscribe