British taxi-booking app Karhoo gets LTA's nod

Founder says it will launch soon; has hired country manager for Singapore

A new taxi-booking app is set to join those already in use to make getting a taxi easier, after getting approval from the Government to operate in Singapore.

British start-up Karhoo was issued a certificate by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Thursday to run a third-party cab-booking service, The Straits Times has learnt.

Karhoo joins two other apps, GrabTaxi and Hailo, which got the necessary approvals in December.

Under laws passed last May, third-party cab-booking apps have to register and comply with a regulatory framework.

Among various requirements aimed at passenger safety, only licensed taxis and cabbies can be used, and fare information must be specified upfront, with no bidding or pre-tipping allowed. New service providers are required to obtain a certificate - valid for three years - before they can start operations.

Though it did not give a firm date, Karhoo said it will launch "very soon", and that it has already hired a "growing" team of a dozen staff members in Singapore.

Karhoo's British founder and chief executive Daniel Ishag said the taxi-booking app has been "working closely with the Land Transport Authority and cannot wait to get started".
Karhoo's British founder and chief executive Daniel Ishag said the taxi-booking app has been "working closely with the Land Transport Authority and cannot wait to get started".  BT FILE PHOTO

Karhoo's British founder and chief executive Daniel Ishag said of getting the Government's nod: "We have been working closely with the Land Transport Authority and cannot wait to get started."

Karhoo, which has plans to launch in New York and London as well, is backed by investors who have pumped in more than US$250 million (S$352 million) in funding, according to reports.

Unlike most other taxi-booking apps, which work through peer-to-peer matching of cabbies and passengers, Karhoo relays its customers' booking requests to the taxi operators' despatch systems.

Commuters are then given a selection of taxis near them, which they can sort through and select based on "price, local knowledge, quality, punctuality, vehicle type or brand".

Karhoo has signed agreements to work with taxi giant ComfortDelGro, which has the island's largest fleet of 17,000 cabs, as well as Prime, the smallest firm with more than 820 taxis.

It has also hired a country manager for Singapore, Mr Andrew Ang. According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr Ang was formerly the director of the Industry Development Group at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Meanwhile, an LTA spokesman said it is still assessing the applications of two other apps - UberTaxi and ConnexTaxi.

He added: "The time taken to evaluate each application depends on the clarifications required with the respective service provider."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'British taxi-booking app gets LTA's nod'. Print Edition | Subscribe