Ride-booking app GrabTaxi has built up a network of over 22,000 cabbies and private chauffeur drivers two years since it came to Singapore, a company executive has revealed indirectly.
While he declined to give exact numbers, Mr Lim Kell Jay, regional head of GrabCar, told The Sunday Times that "we believe we are bigger than the two largest taxi companies in Singapore combined".
As of September, the two biggest taxi operators are ComfortDelGro, which has 17,026 cabs under its Comfort and CityCab brands, and Trans-Cab with 4,974.
Mr Lim said the GrabCar business, especially its economy service for the booking of private saloon vehicles, has grown rapidly since its launch in April.
GrabCar offers other vehicles such as limousines, but its economy service is the one grabbing headlines. Along with rival UberX, these private-hire car services can have cheaper fares than taxis.
Their drivers pay cheaper rentals, are subject to fewer regulatory requirements, and do not need vocational licensing. The Government is mulling over regulations for the industry after complaints that they were competing unfairly with taxis.
Mr Lim said fares can go even lower. "Right now, GrabCar is as cheap as flagging a cab. We'll continue to bring the fares down. We want to make point-to-point transportation affordable, to people who are not able to afford it."
Asked if services like GrabCar compete with the taxi industry, Mr Lim replied: "GrabCar is a supplement to taxis, especially during peak hours, when there is a huge need for more cars. When it rains, demand goes up by at least three times, and it's not practical to have three times the number of taxis on the road. What we need is a transient type of supply." He noted that many GrabCar drivers drive only during peak hours or weekends.
Mr Lim believes there is room for cabbies and private-hire car drivers to co-exist. "I think the size of the pie is growing... More people are taking (taxi or private-car) rides."
He said GrabTaxi supports both groups of drivers. "If a commuter tries for a taxi but can't get it, the app will recommend a (private- hire) car if it's available. And it should be vice versa."