3 start-ups eyeing share of Singapore's private-car hire market

Ryde CEO Terence Zou said his car-pooling company will take only a 10 per cent commission from drivers.
Ryde CEO Terence Zou said his car-pooling company will take only a 10 per cent commission from drivers.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Local player Ryde, India's Jugnoo aim to roll out services next week, with MVL joining fray at end-July

With the impending departure of Uber from Singapore, a trio of start-ups have announced plans to start their own private-hire car service, two of them as early as next week.

Local car-pooling app Ryde will launch its RydeX private-hire car service next Wednesday, while the Singapore-based MVL (Mass Vehicle Ledger) Foundation aims to roll out its blockchain-based ride-booking concept at the end of July.

Indian firm Jugnoo, which specialises in auto-rickshaw bookings, intends to make its foray into the private-hire car business on Tuesday with a Singapore launch.

Their plans come amid talk of a possible tie-up between Indonesian ride-hailing firm Go-Jek and Singapore taxi giant ComfortDelGro.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS), which issued orders two weeks ago to stall Grab's acquisition of Uber's operations here, told The Straits Times yesterday that it has noted news of the new players.

The watchdog - currently probing the Grab-Uber merger, which is suspected of infringing competition laws - said the "entry of players into the market is a factor for consideration" in its assessment.

New entrants are considered a "sufficient competitive constraint" if they meet three conditions - "the entry must be likely, sufficient in extent and timely", the CCCS said.

The new players are taking the fight to Grab, with lower commission fees for drivers and new options for customers. Ryde said yesterday it will allow users to request their preferred driver when making a RydeX booking. It will also offer users an average 5 per cent cashback and advance bookings of up to seven days, Ryde chief executive Terence Zou told reporters.

 

Mr Zou said his firm has already recruited 5,000 drivers and will take only a 10 per cent commission from them. Grab takes 20 per cent.

In contrast, MVL founder Kay Woo said the firm will not take any commission. Instead, its drivers will earn points from, say, driving safely. The points are traded for MVL's own cryptocurrency, which can be converted into cash later.

To generate revenue, the data acquired from drivers and their vehicles will, for instance, be sold to car rental or insurance companies.

Meanwhile, Jugnoo's reverse bidding system will allow drivers in the customer's vicinity to offer competing bids. Chief executive Samar Singla said Uber's exit was an opportune time to enter the market.

"Singaporeans are now confused about what is going to happen to Uber, and will prices for Grab be increased? A lot of drivers I have spoken to don't like to be on Grab, but don't have a choice," he said in a phone interview from India.

MP Ang Hin Kee, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said he hopes the new players will not just "fill a gap that Uber left behind but offer added services".

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira, when asked if the new players will change the CCCS' assessment of the competitive landscape, said: "The number of players is not relevant, but (what is relevant is) whether the players have enough market share to make the market contestable."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2018, with the headline '3 start-ups eyeing share of private-car hire market here'. Print Edition | Subscribe