Black cabs running on tech
In less than three years eCabs has established itself as a market leader in the so-called ‘black’ taxi services sector. Achieving this in such a short time would have been almost impossible without the support of ICT. It has contributed to turning the perception of taxi services on its head.
“Fuel prices have increased by 45 per cent since we launched in 2010, and yet we have managed to keep the same prices. This was only possible by reducing overheads with the help of technology,” Paceville-based eCabs managing partner Matthew Bezzina.
The company started its operations in March 2010 and today employs 80 people, 60 of whom are drivers. It has a round the clock operation, with weekends registering double the patronage seen on weekdays.
“ICT is very important for two factors,” Mr Bezzina said. “The first is perception within the taxi industry. It is the most costly service in public transport and therefore only more affluent people afford it. Image is very important. This is why we thought of providing credit card payment facilities and wi-fi internet access on board our vehicles. We found wi-fi especially important for our clients as they would keep their communication channels open and do some work even if they get stuck in traffic, which is the norm in Malta.
“Then there is the perspective of economies of scale, and that’s where iMovo, our technology partner, provided the most valuable input. It is only through technology that you can grow sustainably without affecting the overall level of service.”
At the core of eCabs is a completely cloud-based booking and management solution integrated with a customer relationship management solution. The system is fully integrated with a PBX telephony application so each time a customer calls, the system will automatically search the customer database and bring up the customer details and other information. This, in itself, reduces time spent on the phone for both the customer and the eCabs sales agent, while reducing time capturing customer names, addresses and phone numbers. The solution was provided by Birkirkara-based iMovo.
Being in the cloud means the solution is accessible from anywhere, including the eCabs offices in Paceville. It also means that the taxi service operator has minimal infrastructure internally and more specifically there are no computer servers on the premises since the core of the system is in the cloud. This has the added benefit to company of not requiring skilled IT resources to support them as well as saving on precious space and power consumption. The latter is particularly relevant to the company ethos of sustainability and environmental responsibility; eCabs relies on iMovo to not only support the system but also to actively participate in innovating and extending the system in new directions.
Pierre Mallia, managing director at iMovo, highlighted the synergies between the two companies.
“Both iMovo and eCabs are young, ambitious companies, operating in very competitive sectors. For this project we merged minds and ideas and built the system to the specifications and needs of eCabs as well as throwing in new unorthodox ideas and it was a great learning experience for both companies. When you consider the environment within which such a system has to work, 24/7, high throughput and extreme pressure on staff to deliver a service especially on weekends, this project lasted several months. The going live phase of the project required a lot of focus on training and knowledge transfer – these are challenges which are not as simple as it sounds.”
Phase one of solution was launched last May and was finalist in the MCA eBusiness Awards. “The second phase promises new directions in terms of customer service and convenience, you can expect some interesting developments early in the New Year,” Mr Bezzina said.