Forget Uber; grab a bike instead!

Uber is facing as much resistance in Vietnam as it is in any country in the world (its reputation isn’t exactly stellar at the moment). Just last Wednesday, the Ho Chi Minh municipal transport officers booked 15 Uber drivers for offering transportation services without a license or badge, but Uber has lavished Vietnamese drivers with plenty of incentives to expand its driver network in the city, including offering to cover their fines if they are pulled over by the authorities. Sounds a bit (actually, a lot) dodgy to us.

And then there is GrabTaxi, an aggressive Malaysia-based taxi booking app that has been expanding its operations in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Unlike Uber, the GrabTaxi service only matches passengers to licensed taxi drivers, which has thus far safeguarded it from the same legal challenges as Uber.

GrabTaxi only entered Vietnam in February last year and in less than a year, it has added a new service to its booking app, dubbed GrabBike. Instead of a taxi, users can opt for a xe om (motorbike taxi). The traditional xe om service is not licensed anyhow, so GrabBike are recruiting bikers themselves which might sound no different from how Uber does it. But all things considered, it would still be safer than hailing a xe om the conventional way (i.e. waving your hand at a random stranger on a bike) since the biker has to submit his license details, photo and vehicle license plate; an estimated fee is shown on the app prior to the journey so that users can avoid from being fleeced and they can rate the driver after.

The idea isn’t new in Vietnam though. A local startup Alexeom had attempted a similar idea in Hanoi a year prior but has not gained as much traction as GrabTaxi or Uber had. The problem might not be so much to do with the service but the lack of the millions of dollars of backing that the other two have managed to rack up.

GrabBike is currently only available in Ho Chi Minh; if the pilot project works out, it could work in other cities that has motorbike taxi’s as well, say, the Philippines and Indonesia. Heck, why not tuk tuk’s in Thailand too. It would make getting around as a tourist in these countries a whole lot easier, not to mention, safer.


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