Online taxi service providers make life easy for Pakistanis.
The all three services can be ordered through a mobile app though A-Taxi's app is yet to go live. Unlike Uber, Careem and A-Taxi give an additional option of ordering the car through their 24/7 call centre which also provides customer support. Uber taxis also provide in-app help service with email communication. A-Taxi has an added feature of stopping the car on the road.
Once a ride is secured, Uber and Careem provide details of the driver (name and picture) and the car (model, number and colour) enabling the customer to track the entire trip on global positioning system (GPS) through their mobile app. A-Taxis also have GPS systems installed in their cars.
A price war between Careem and Uber appears to be heating up, as Dubai-based Careem announced a slash in 'Go' booking fares of up to 30 per cent for residents of Karachi days after Uber cut its rates by 30pc for Lahorites.
Careem entered the Pakistani market last year, launching its services in Karachi, Lahore and later Islamabad.
The cab hailing service, alongside its rival San-Francisco-based Uber, gained instant popularity among a Pakistani population that has quickly adopted 3G and 4G technology.
Zohair Yousafi, head of Expansion for Pakistan said: "We are excited about our growth in Lahore and we are committed to making Uber the most affordable and convenient option to move around. On the driver side, we are confident that increased demand will also mean higher earnings".
"After years of experience, we have learnt that price cuts boost demand so more people are requesting more rides with Uber, meaning drivers will spend more time with riders in the backseat and less time sitting idly waiting for a request. We reduced fares in cities such as Cairo, Egypt and Lagos, Nigeria and saw that these cuts had resulted in an improvement in the volume of rides requested on the Uber platform", said Mr Yousafi.
On the other hand, the introduction of online taxis like Careem, Uber and Bayrak seems to have created competition for rickshaw drivers. Once the only option for commuters, the rickshaw has now become a secondary option for most.
The commuters who used rickshaw for travel now have a new facility to avail. They get a car on their doorstep on one call.
They realise that the services have definitely affected their income as citizens now have another option and they prefer travelling by it.
A rickshaw driver Mohammad Aslam doesn't feel that the new service of cars and taxis has affected his income. He is of the opinion that only the richer class of the society prefers using it.
The taxis also stand here. When the rich commuters see the taxis they choose them for travelling, ignoring us. But people who can't spend much do sit with us. Rich commuters are in a hurry and choose the cars because they don't have money issue and the cars take them to their destination early, the rickshaw owner says.
Although they accept the threat to their income caused by these new services, many are content with their fate.
The app-based taxi service in Pakistan can set a great milestone for the women in Pakistan in addition to the many advantages it might bring to our transport system. They are convenient, cheap and remote. Individuals will be able to order cabs at any hour of the day from any location without worrying about any extra charges. Besides, imagine the relief it will bring to the ladies traveling alone in the country as they will be able to take on long journeys knowing they are safe and comfortable with a female driver at the wheel.
There are four types of apps for online taxis services.
Savaree is a homegrown carpooling app with a simple motto: "Never Ride Alone". Users can post routes that they intend to travel on or regularly use in order for others with similar routes to join them. To sign up as a driver/passenger, call "Savaree Captain") simply by providing your name, email, phone number, CNIC and your route.
Tripda is Rocket Internet's ride-sharing app/service. There are clear differences between Savaree and Tripda in how the app works. First, you can use your Facebook profile to log in to the app versus the CNIC-plus information that Savaree requires. It is available for both Apple and Android users. The service started in Pakistan a couple of months ago and launched in over a dozen other countries over six months back. Like many other Rocket Internet ventures, this scalable model will be dependent on how users adapt to this service.
Easy Taxi is Rocket Internet's taxi booking app. Touted as a global taxi booking app (available in 30 countries), the app is available to users and taxi drivers in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The Easy Taxi app's unique selling point is that you can call a taxi in one click. All you need to do is open the app and click "Call Taxi". The app uses your location to call the taxi that is closest to you. The app also claims to register taxi drivers with modern cars. This makes for an interesting criteria for the Pakistani market where most of the taxis are small cars from the 80s/90s and taxi drivers are highly unlikely to be smartphone users.
Metrocab is a cab service for the niche market of people who are likely to own cars but need a decent ride to/from the airport or bus station. Keeping up with the times, Metrocab has launched an app for smartphone users to get their services without calling them. Unlike the services described above, Metrocab's business model is not dependent on the success/failure of this app, the service is extremely easy to book via phone and has physical booking outlets in all the major areas.