By Shabiya Ali Ahlam/Daily Mirror
“Tuk Tuks” were always there. Then came the metered taxis, making life a lot easier for those depending on them for transport as it finally meannt a standard fee was charged. Then we were hit with PickMe, a service we cannot seem to live without, much due to the level of convenience it offers.
Before PickMe came to being, the concept of getting a taxi to your doorstep was available and all it took was a call and an approximate 30 minutes of waiting time. The service that disrupted the nation’s taxi industry leaped to reap the benefits on the increasing ownership and usage of smart phones, making a taxi available at your doorstep in just a click, that too within minutes. What more could we busy bees have asked for ?
Founded in March 2015, the service has grown from strength to strength in terms of both capacity and service. What started off as a taxi service that was dominant in Colombo (mostly three-wheels), today has expanded to an island wide network and includes just about any vehicle, even a boat in case of floods.
Concept in a nutshell
In the words of PickMe Co-Founder and CEO, Jiffry Zulfer, the facility is a technology-backed service that ensures and strives to offer passengers a safe, comfortable and a hassle-free journey.
“The PickMe app essentially connects the passenger with the closest taxi. The inbuilt features and processes ensure that the passenger has a good experience while reaching their destination,” explained Zulfer.
Problems PickMe solves
Not just one, but PickMe solves quite a few problems that were overlooked by the industry stakeholders for quite some time. The product irons out the issues faced by the country’s taxi industry, such as inefficient usage of vehicles, lack of reliability, lack of availability, inconvenience and safety concerns. It thus extends an array of solutions to drivers, passengers and other stakeholders in the taxi industry.
“Our aim is to ensure that a passenger is able to get a vehicle at any time of the day from any location, by a simple click of a button,” said Zulfer.
He shared that the bigger plan is to contribute in making the nation’s transport system more efficient in terms of better utilization of vehicles on the road as it would have a positive impact on both, the economy and environment.
The platform has helped remove inefficiencies in the taxi industry while accelerating the growth in the industry. The technology has also improved the social status attached to a person engaged in the driving profession, while enhancing his living standard.
According to Zulfer, PickMe has helped in converting many traditional drivers into aspiring entrepreneurs due to the attractive income levels and efficiency the service offers. He added that from the consumer side, due to the convenience factor, what he observed is a trend in customers opting to use a taxi rather than taking their own vehicles out, eliminating traffic, parking issues, safety concerns and also opportunity cost.
The thought process behind PickMe was formed much before it started. Around 2011, the app-based taxi-hailing technology in the US, Uber, that was gathering momentum and traction caught the interest of Zulfer. Looking at it from different perspectives, he was determined to not just build the same but a technology that would suit and cater to the needs of the Sri Lankan taxi industry.
Zulfer stated that the team was confident the product would be accepted by Sri Lankan passengers and the driver community and felt that the timing was just perfect.
“We wanted local talent to build the technology and operate the company. Once the recruitment was done and the technology perfected, we launched our services as private beta.”
“I believe for a start-up company, recruitment is critical; it is essential that the key management personnel are passionate about the business. I think this helped us convert the idea into a product that was immediately accepted by the market within a very short period of time,” he explained.
While wanting a product that is innovative and capable of solving the many shortcomings witnessed in the industry, Zulfer stressed that the team did not want the app to be a “copycat model”, replicating the product seen in the US or elsewhere. And true enough, there are many features built into the app that was designed specifically for the Sri Lankan taxi industry.
For instance, the Drivers app is in Sinhala, Tamil and English and is color coded to suit the literacy level of the driver.
The pricing is based on a ‘KM + Waiting Cost’, which is a unique pricing model compared to other taxi-hailing apps found elsewhere. The Drivers app is also equipped with an in-built GPS meter, replacing the ‘odometer’, which Sri Lankan passengers were used to, despite it having many shortcomings.
(The featured image at the top shows PickMe CEO, Jiffry Zulfer)