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    Apr 09, 2014

    More funds for GrabTaxi as cab booking apps take off

    THIRD-PARTY taxi-booking apps are growing in prominence here, with Singapore companies and the authorities throwing their support behind these tech start-ups.

    The latest is GrabTaxi, which is backed by government-linked Vertex Venture Holdings. The start-up yesterday announced a second round of funding from its lead investor, a subsidiary wholly owned by Temasek Holdings.

    Since September, Vertex Venture has invested more than US$10 million (S$12.6 million) in GrabTaxi, said its co-founder, Mr Anthony Tan, at a media briefing.

    He said the funding boost will be used to hire more technical staff, like coders and applied mathematicians, and shorten the long waiting times that have been a bugbear for commuters here who want to secure a cab booking.

    Founded in Malaysia in 2011, GrabTaxi was launched here in October. Since then, the stable of drivers it has signed on is second only to ComfortDelGro's numbers.

    The additional funds come amid the growing popularity of third-party taxi-booking apps, which aim to bring some respite to frustrated commuters who find it difficult to book a cab.

    Established taxi operators like ComfortDelGro, SMRT and Trans-Cab already have their own booking apps.

    But third-party apps are designed to match commuters to a cabby from any taxi operator, making it easier and faster for commuters to get their rides.

    Besides GrabTaxi, Singapore start-up MoobiTaxi and Brazil-founded Easy Taxi are also hoping to get a slice of the taxi-booking app market.

    UberX, a private car-hire service app, which has a pricing structure similar to that of taxis, was also launched here last month.

    In 2010, MoobiTaxi was awarded $10 million under the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's Digital Concierge programme.

    Mr Tan said GrabTaxi's competitors are not other taxi-booking apps, but rather street flagdowns.

    The firm's biggest challenge is to "change human behaviour" and give commuters sufficient incentive to use apps to book cabs, which will then spur the market forward, he explained.

    With the high penetration of smartphones here, Dr Park Byung Joon, head of the Urban Transport Management programme at SIM University, said such taxi-booking apps may become more popular.

    But while they enhance the "service quality" by showing commuters taxis in the vicinity and their en route locations, they may not necessarily address commuters' grouse of a lack of taxis during peak periods, which is more of a fundamental supply-demand issue, Dr Park noted.

    The authorities put in place more stringent rules in 2012 to improve services during peak hours.

    Mr Lee, 42, an Easy Taxi cabby, said that he has achieved 20 per cent more pickups daily using the app, while he continues to take flagdowns and bookings from his own company.

    Mr Lee said this translates to an eight to 10 per cent rise in his weekly takings.