How a Maldivian developer is changing Malaysian taxi industry
For many Malaysians and tourists visiting the country, booking taxis has always been a nuisance. Sometimes the taxi would not have a functioning metre or the metre might be rigged.
However, that is gradually changing, thanks to a new innovative service launched by a team of business professionals and programmers led by Maldivian developer, Shafiu Hussain.
TaxiMonger, a virtual taxi call centre that allows passengers to review and book cabs using their smartphones or computers, has won this year’s local Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA) award in tourism and hospitality category. The team will represent Malaysia at the international APICTA Awards 2012 to be held in Brunei in December.
Shafiu, former lead developer and designer at Maldivian tech startup Geeks Company, has had several bad experiences with taxi drivers in Malaysia. About a year ago, Shafiu and his wife took a cab in Kuala Lumpur but it had a malfunctioning metre.
“As the taxi started, the metre kept spinning like a roulette wheel. We couldn’t stop and get a new cab because it was raining. So we ended up paying 16 Ringgits for just 8km, which was twice the charge,” he said.
This experience led Shafiu to develop what would later become TaxiMonger, which currently works on smartphones running Google’s Android operating system and web. With iOS and BlackBerry versions just around the corner, the app has around 3,000 users at present and receives some 100 bookings a day.
Launched in February, TaxiMonger currently provides access to over 1,000 taxis operating in and around Klang Valley. To book a taxi, passengers just have to type in their destination, current location and time the vehicle is needed. Drivers who have the app will then be able to see the request and confirm it.
“Once a passenger makes a booking through our app, the person will be notified of the taxi that accepts the request. The user will also receive the rating of the taxi and reviews sent by previous passengers,” Shafiu, who co-founded the service with Malaysian business associate Nizran Noordin, said.
TaxiMonger was the only Asian startup chosen from more than 150 applications worldwide to attend SeedStartup, an international accelerator programme held in Dubai earlier this year and affiliated with US-based TechStar.
The team has put the experience gained from the three-month programme into good use. It has integrated TaxiMonger with Malaysia’s award-winning ‘SecQ.me’ personal safety mobile application. Unlike conventional call centres, TaxiMonger now offers “a virtual bodyguard service” that automatically monitors the passenger from the time of entering the taxi to the destination.
“If the passenger fails to confirm arrival at the specified destination, the app will alert the emergency contact listed for the person and send details of the travel itinerary and the taxi driver. It is also integrated with popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter,” Shafiu explained.
“This unique service offers personal protection and promotes high level of comfort and safety for tourists.”
TaxiMonger’s success comes with many challenges. Many taxi drivers are not well versed in today’s technology – a problem Shafiu and his team is trying to overcome by providing the drivers with necessary training and facilities.
“Drivers have the chance to purchase a very cheap data plan from our partner mobile operator Celcom along with an entry-level smartphone to run the app,” he said.
From the way we communicate to how we do business, technology has changed every aspect of our lives. As our dependence on technology increases day by day, services such as TaxiMonger will slowly become an integral part of our daily lives. And like Malaysians, passengers in several other cities in Southeast Asia and Middle East will soon be able to get the benefits of TaxiMonger.
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