Amit Lakhotia and Udai Singh Meena, two ex-MakeMyTrip employees, have recently launched a new online service called GetMeCab.com, that allows users to check for cab prices online, and make bookings. MediaNama readers might recall that an online cab booking service, Olacabs.com, had recently raised funding.
Getmecab offers cab rentals in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore, and has tie-ups with around 25 car rental operators such as APEX, Global Travels, RBTS, KS Car Hire and RBS Tours and Travels, and aggregates their inventory. The company says it has access to a fleet of around 700 cabs. The site focuses on inter-state travel, airport and railway station drops and day long city rentals, although it does intend to offer point to point intra-city travel in the future, as more operators make their inventory available on a real-time basis.
GetMeCab also allows cab operators to use its own global distributions system (GDS) for inventory management of their fleet. Customers can search for cab rentals after specifying their requirements, browse the available cars along with their fares and indicative total cost. They can then book the cab by paying 10% of the estimated price online, and get vouchers, paying the rest after the trip gets over.
According to Lakhotia, monetization is through commissions from cab service operators. Although, the company does not ask for commissions upfront, after an operator gets familiar with the system and makes substantial number of bookings, the company starts charging a commission on a per booking basis.
So why would operators pay commission when they have their own clientele? Lakhotia says that operator’s booking occupancy varies and at most times is close to 60%, however GetMeCabs intends to act like another sales channel, and aims at increasing occupancy levels to 70-85%.
He adds that operators are not required to pay any registration fee, or fixed monthly charges. The cost of customer acquisition through the service is almost negligible compared to lead generation services like directory listings, which charge a monthly fee. The value-add is the access to the company’s GDS system, which allows realtime bookings.
Update: The company did about 300 transactions in July, with an average of 3-4 passengers per transaction, the number of customers served in July was about 1000. In June, it registered 250 transactions. Since its launch in late April, the company has so far done around 1000 bookings. The daily average is at 10-11 bookings, and it targets a growth of 50-70% month on month for next 3-4 months. It plans to initially market the service online, through SEO based marketing. Repeat customers and referrals will also play a role in this expansion, according to Lakhotia. Out of all the bookings, nearly 50% are for inter-state travel, 30% for local travel and the rest constitute airport and railway station transfers.
Signing Up Cab Operators
The majority of operators on the site are from Delhi/NCR. Lakhotia says that their focus is on stabilizing existing operations, after which it intends to add 500 cabs every month, to its fleet. The company also intends to add more features, including actual photographs of cabs.
But why doesn’t the site give a listing of cabs from different operators, acting like a marketplace? He replied that this will add to the customer’s confusion, resulting in a higher number of service calls, where customers will be keen to know why a particular operator offers a cab at a lower rate than the other. Also, customers are not aware of cab service operators, since there is a lot of fragmentation in that space.
Note that the site does not add toll taxes, parking fee and permit costs while calculating the estimated cab fare. Lakhotia says that these vary from state to state, and passenger to passenger. For example, a defence services personnel might be exempted from certain taxes. However, the site categorically mentions that the taxes are extra.
Why Would A Customer Book Online?
But, why would a customer make an advance payment, when he can simply call his travel agent or a cab operator in the neighborhood to book a cab? Although Lakhotia does admit that a lot of customers don’t feel comfortable using their credit cards to make online payments, he says that it is unavoidable at the moment, since the amount acts like a token of guarantee that the service provides to operators. He also mentions that the service offers convenience of booking, variety of options to choose from, transparency in pricing, and promises high quality of service delivery, which are important considerations for customers, these days. He adds that, in the near future repeat customers might be offered a free booking without an advance payment. But that will be only after the company is able to build a rapport with operators.
Editor’s Comments (by Nikhil Pahwa)
– Adding information about cab operators might assist frequent users; some might want to take a cab from a previously used cab operator. This would also help cab operators.
– A customer might want to book online because if he/she is travelling on official work, then a bill received via email makes it easier to claim travel expenses. A written slip from a cabbie might be easily misplaced.
– GetMeCab should provide complete details – at least include toll taxes in the final bill.
– Customer acquisition can be done through providing the inventory to any of the existing OTA’s or through online marketing, but the real business here is probably getting cab operators to deploy the global distributions system for enabling real-time booking: the more the better. That is defensible.