Taxi associations in Vietnam's three biggest cities have simultaneously lodged their complaints against the Ministry of Transport for giving priority to a popular cab-hailing app in its draft plan to have the passenger transport sector go high-tech.
On October 19, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued a fiat, tasking the transport ministry with applying technology to the sector by running a trial program to connect passengers and transport firms via smartphone apps.
The Ministry of Transport later announced that it would select cab-booking GrabTaxi as the only app to be used in the pilot program in five cities and provinces, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Quang Ninh and Khanh Hoa.
Under the trial project, GrabTaxi would help drivers of taxi and transport firms in these places install the app on their smartphones and show them how to use it to connect with customers and riders, the transport ministry said in its draft plan.
GrabTaxi allows users to book a cab via its smartphone app, with estimated charges and the summary of the ride and driver’s details made known to the passengers before they enter the taxi.
The transport ministry’s plan, however, has angered taxi associations in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang – Vietnam’s three biggest cities – as it keeps other ride-hailing apps out of the game.
The prime minister only asked the transport ministry to run a pilot program on using smartphone apps, not insisting that a specific app be used, the associations argued in their complaints.
“The transport ministry should allow at least five transportation firms in each city to use their own [car-grabbing] apps to avoid making GrabTaxi a monopoly,” Ta Long Hy, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Taxi Association, said.
Several taxi operators in the southern metropolis, such as Mai Linh and Vinasun, have developed their own cab-hailing apps, which should be allowed to be piloted in the program, Hy added.
Similarly, the Hanoi cab association also demanded that five to ten local firms be permitted to use their own apps in the program to prevent monopoly.
The Da Nang association, in the meantime, said local transportation firms should be given chances to deploy technology in their business, and GrabTaxi should not be allowed to be the sole player in the game.
The Ministry of Transport has yet to comment on the complaints of the taxi associations.
The ministry has said it would ask GrabTaxi to be fully in charge of the pilot program for the transportation sector to go hi-tech between December 2015 and December 2018, according to newswire VnExpress.
The cab-hailing app has won the choice of the ministry as it has “a detailed plan to launch the program and promises to only work with licensed and qualified businesses,” according to Khuat Viet Hung, deputy chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee.
“[GrabTaxi] is also willing to share its data to help the government better supervise the program,” he was quoted by VnExpress as saying.
GrabTaxi was founded by two Harvard Business School graduates in Malaysia in 2011, but the firm is now headquartered in Singapore.
Now available in six countries, GrabTaxi is a smartphone-based taxi booking and dispatching service aimed at revamping the Southeast Asian taxi industry.
As of March 2015, the number of taxi drivers registered in the network had increased to 75,000, with a total of 3.8 million app users in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.