Are taxi drivers who use Grab selling out?

By May 4, 2018Current

TL;DR – Adapt or die.

At his May Day Rally speech, PM Lee cited Grab as a technology enabler for taxi drivers. He told the story of how David Chan, a member of the executive committee of the National Taxi Association (NTA), went from hating ride-sharing apps like Grab to being its advocate. PM Lee said:

“Brother David Chan is one such former taxi driver. He is 58 years old, he has been a taxi driver for more than 20 years. He used to dislike ride-sharing apps. He thought they were the enemy, stealing the customers.

But last September, he decided to try out Grab, after a friend referred him. He found he had more bookings, he earned more. Now he is happy about ride-sharing. David is in the NTA Exco, so he helps other drivers who are interested to learn how to use the apps, to teach them.”

Grab posted what PM Lee said on their Facebook page:

It sounds like a great story, showing that no one is too old to learn, to adapt. But apparently not everyone saw it that way.

Someone posted to a taxi drivers’ Facebook page saying that Mr Chan sold out to Grab. That post has been taken down. But that person emphasized that his opinion of Mr Chan still stands.

Foolish not to adapt

Ermmm. How is learning to use a technological platform like Grab which enables taxi drivers to be more efficient and effective in getting passengers selling out? Like it or not, hailing apps like Grab or Ryde are here to stay. And using those platforms allow taxi drivers to get more passengers easier – instead of having to drive aimlessly looking for passengers, wasting fuel in the process, now they can stop somewhere and look for passengers using the apps.

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PM Lee had shared in his May Day Rally speech on Tuesday,

“Many commuters today use apps on their smartphones to book rides. Today, 1 in every 2 rides is booked on Uber or Grab. If you just go back five years, only 1 in 5 rides was pre-booked.”

With so many commuters preferring to use apps to book rides, instead of flagging down taxis or calling the operators, can the taxi drivers afford not to adapt?

If taxi drivers don’t learn to use those apps, and instead choose to see those apps as the enemy, then they will inevitably perish. In fact, it was precisely because taxi companies didn’t innovate fast enough that allowed ride hailing apps to be able to gain a foothold in Singapore in the first place.

Make use of government programmes to adapt

That’s why it’s good news that taxi drivers are adapting and learning to use technology. The NTA is helping taxi drivers to do just that.

Not too long ago, the NTA, together with Republic Polytechnic (RP) and NTUC LearningHub Pte Ltd (LHUB), organised a Skillsfuture For Digital Workplace (SFDW) pilot programme that helped taxi drivers overcome their fear of new digital platforms. Taxi drivers who attended the programme also learnt to use digital applications and platforms such as, internet banking, ePayment methods such as PayNow and other relevant business applications.

And it’s not just taxi drivers who need to adapt and learn to better use technologies.

All of us have to.

That’s why the SFDW isn’t just targeting taxi drivers. The Government hopes to have 100,000 Singaporeans undergo the SFDW programme within the next three years. This two-day training initiative aimed to equip Singaporeans with basic digital skills that are useful at the workplace and in their daily lives.

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Have you gone yet?

And ride the wave

The threat of disruption is real. But these threats bring with them opportunities. If we can adapt and learn new skills, we can ride the wave for greater growth.

You can read PM Lee’s full May Day Rally speech here.


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Joey Wee

Author Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

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