Uber is not for everyone. This is how the Polish company resists giants
Mateusz Madejski, Business Insider Polska: iTaxi is a Polish company that has to compete with global players such as Uber or Bolt. How it’s going?
Jarosław Grabowski, CEO of iTaxi: Competing with such organizations is a summon – due to their scale of operation, budgets or the strength of the brands themselves. But these companies also expanded the transport market and proved that it is possible to order passenger transport services in a completely different way than before. We are also a beneficiary of this market growth. In addition, as much as global players, we focus on technological advantage and we are absolute pioneers in many solutions. Thanks to a more local approach, we are flexible and react faster to market changes, we are also closer to our clients when it comes to the way of contact and sensitivity to changes in their needs. This is all the more important as most of our clients are B2B customers.
Such giants as Uber and Bolt with business clients are not on the way?
Companies expect all kinds of amenities. I mean just ordering the service, but also settlements or commercial care. So, answering directly to that first question: we’re doing pretty well, we’ve found a niche. We are developing quickly and we are also trying to integrate the market – by merging or taking over companies that operate in a more traditional way. We give these companies our technology platform – and it works pretty cool.
So your niche is corporate rides, and that’s what you focus on?
We have one more niche in which we specialize. We mean customers who need a slightly higher quality of services. We have – I would say – a stricter approach to hiring drivers, but we are also more selective about the cars they drive. So we focus on the customer who is simply looking for a higher quality service and is able to pay a little more for it. Having said that, I must also point out that we operate a bit differently in each of our markets.
Each city we are in has its own specificity. We treat each city as a market person, we try to respond to local needs. What global companies are unlikely to use. According to my observations, the needs of a Polish client are not a priority for global companies. And in one more thing we see our advantage over global competitors – you do not have to order us via the application, you can also order us by phone.
App? The customer still prefers to call
And a lot of customers keep calling for a taxi?
When it comes to companies, about 75 percent. courses are ordered via the app. When it comes to individual customers, as much as 70 percent. are telephone orders! However, this is also partly due to the fact that we have recently gone outside the largest cities, and there are still many people who traditionally want to order a taxi. In the future, everything will gradually move to the application. However, we can see that there are customers who simply do not want to install the application, do not want to undergo the authentication process. This is especially true for people who use taxi services occasionally. So, for example, once a month or twice a month. In the case of the youngest generation, however, it is different – they have everything and want everything on their smartphone.
Where do people go taxis now? The typical route has changed after lockdowns?
She has not changed. People basically go exactly to the same places they used to go before the pandemic. Most of our clients have simply returned to their pre-2020 habits, although they do not always use transport services as often as they did then. Our data shows that the scale of orders is at the level from before the pandemic. There are, of course, exceptions – for example, they apply to companies that have switched to remote or hybrid work.
However, it cannot be denied that the pandemic was a very difficult period. At the time of the lockdown announcement, some companies reduced orders by 60 or 70 percent. This crisis gave us a hard time, but I think that in some way we also came out stronger, because the current financial results are definitely better than before the pandemic
I still remember the times when you went to a taxi rank to get a taxi.
Of course, there are still stops, although the pandemic has strongly verified the rates for stops in the busiest and most prestigious places. It has often turned out that these rates are simply unrealistic under the current conditions. After all, drivers earn money when they drive – not when they are standing. However, we recently won a tender to operate the Central Railway Station in Warsaw. In many cases, especially in genuinely busy places, this presence makes sense. And the conditions are definitely more favorable than they used to be.
Long courses were also a legend in my youth. Stories of someone ordering a taxi to go to another city.
Such a service has been with us for a long time, although of course it is a negligible percentage of all courses.
2-3 percent if we count our total revenues. But this is because the courses are simply much more expensive than the “standard” courses.
What routes are the most popular here?
There will be no surprise here. These are usually courses between Warsaw and other large cities. Usually they are carried out when, for example, someone misses a plane or when someone misses the train and the visit is urgent.
And it happens that someone wants to go even further? Abroad?
It happens. I remember, for example, that we had a course from Warsaw to Berlin. However, these are truly individual cases.
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What are the plans iTaxi? Do you want to enter any foreign markets?
The Polish taxi service market is very fragmented. There are hundreds of companies. Our ambition is to consolidate this market and give local companies and partners technological opportunities that have great platforms. And we have so much to do here that going abroad at this point would mean that we would stop focusing on what is most important to us at the moment. Our goal for two years is to establish new partnerships on the Polish market. At the moment, we have a lot of discussions on this. Our plans assume an increase of at least 100%. For two years. In cooperation with the Apaczka.pl website, we are also developing our iPaczek service, based on the fast delivery model, which is available in 9 Polish cities.
Are you afraid of how the energy crisis will affect your condition?
We do not operate in a vacuum, we are aware of the economic situation. However, we do not feel it at the moment. Rather, I would like to remain cautious in my forecasts. But it seems to me that nothing worse than a pandemic will happen to us. I admit that when I looked at those dipping bars every week … it was a really strong, life experience. But since we have dealt with it, I believe that we will also deal with this crisis.
The fall-collusion period is always the most intense for us, so we are getting ready for a busy period. Rather, we worry about handling all orders properly.
“Wheels for work” is still missing
No hands to work?
We thought two or three months ago that this would be a problem. However, it turned out to be not so bad. The other problem is bigger.
No cars. Supply chains are yet to recover, and there is still the issue of cost. So we work to provide our drivers with access to cars, because we probably get people willing to work even faster than we are able to provide them with vehicles.
Do you employ a lot of foreigners?
Foreigners constitute a negligible percentage of our drivers. The reason is that our clients – especially business ones – require drivers to have a good command of the Polish language. We also have quite strict requirements for skills, behavior, etc. We always require the right of permanent residence, a Polish driving license and at least communicative – and usually fluent – knowledge of the language.
We will talk about the further future. Autonomous taxis have been talked about for years. The revolution, however, is not coming. Will come?
I would say there is no chance in the next five years. Unless there’s some incredible technological breakthrough that I don’t see right now. The biggest problem here, however, is not the technology itself, but rather the legal issues. Who will be responsible in the event of an autonomous taxi? These issues are not regulated at all, and considering how long it takes to develop laws in each country – let alone EU law – it will take years for legislation to be established. There may be some tests, but such services will not be introduced more widely soon. There is more talk of “electrifying” cars. But here too, this revolution is slow, if only because of the small number of charging points. We are after the electric fleet tests, but we decided that it is still a bit early for that. And for autonomous cars … well, a long way.
Author: Mateusz Madejski, journalist at Business Insider Polska
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