ComfortDelGro cabby David Chan was resentful when ride-hailing companies Uber and Grab entered Singapore's public transport scene.
The 58-year-old "thought they were the enemy, stealing the customers", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong related at a May Day Rally yesterday.
But last September, Mr Chan tried out Grab after a friend referred him to it. Almost immediately, he found he had more bookings and was earning more.
"I was scared at first because about 90 per cent of Grab passengers pay their fare using GrabPay instead of cash, so I was really worried I would never see the money," Mr Chan told The Straits Times, referring to the cashless payment option on the app.
"But I realised my earnings were transferred straight to my bank account within 24 hours."
He has since embraced theconcept of cashless payments, paying his daily taxi rental through mobile banking instead of queueing to do it in person. He also helps other drivers keen to learn how to use the Grab app.
Mr Chan, PM Lee said, shows "you are never too old to learn to use technology". His story also shows how well cabbies have adapted to disruption in their industry, and that workers in other sectors facing rapid technological changes should embrace change too, Mr Lee added.
Labour movement's new initiatives
NTUC-EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUND
The fund, which subsidises training for union members, has reached its $200 million target. NTUC raised $50 million through sponsorships and received $150 million in matching government grants.
SUPPLY CHAIN EMPLOYEES UNION
The new union was formed to represent workers in the logistics and supply chain management sector, including 800 employees from ST Logistics.
FINANCIAL SERVICES UNION
The labour movement is working with unions in the financial cluster to better represent professionals, managers and executives in new services such as financial technology and asset management.
INFOCOMMS AND TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION
The association for information and communications technology professionals will provide key services including networking opportunities and support for training.
Under a partnership with United Overseas Bank, NTUC will offer small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a digital solution that helps to automate processes such as accounting and finance. The most basic option will be free.
NTUC will offer it's Plus! Engage service for SMEs to market their products and collect data that can be used to improve campaigns.
NTUC's social enterprises in the upcoming Kampung Admiralty project will work more closely to offer integrated services. The new housing estate will have a FairPrice supermarket, a Foodfare hawker centre, a First Campus childcare centre and an NTUC Health eldercare service centre.
"I know when ride-sharing first came, taxi drivers had grumbles, but in truth they generally have adapted quite well to the market changes," he said.
With the impending arrival of driverless vehicles, bus and train captains will have to take the cue from taxi drivers, he added. But they will not be displaced completely because the automated vehicles will need someone to monitor what is happening and ensure the computer does not make a mistake, Mr Lee said.
Companies too have to transform, he said, citing DIY chain Home-Fix, which started as a charcoal shop in Geylang Serai in the 1960s. Its managing director Low Cheong Kee took over the family business in 1993 and modernised it.
But as online shopping grew in popularity, Mr Low's business took a hit and he closed 10 retail stores in Singapore, leaving him with 16.
Now, he has an online platform to sell his products.
He also transformed his business model to offer more services. It is no longer just DIY, but DIFY (do-it-for-you), with someone sent to do the repairs for you. There is also DIWY (do-it-with-you), in which customers are taught to repair appliances and fix up their homes.
"In that way, he is building new relationships, doing things which online stores will find hard to replicate," said Mr Lee.
Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity.