NEED A RIDE? USE YOUR SMARTPHONE: TAXIFY GEORGIA
Tbilisi is awash in taxis - from privately owned fleet cars to unlicensed cabs. But a new start-up is tapping into Georgia's love of all things smartphone to make ordering a cab just a click away.
As smartphones grow in popularity around the world, a Tbilisi-based startup is revolutionizing how the city's residents catch taxis.
Instead of waving down a taxi on the street or calling a taxi company, Taxify Georgia's free smartphone app lets customers book a taxi based on its proximity to them, the type of car and the driver's customer rating. The fares are based on distance and trip duration as calculated by the meter built into the driver's version of the app — not negotiation.
The Tbilisi-based Infinite Management Consulting Group (Infinite MCG) partnered with Taxify, an Estonian tech company, to operate the Taxify app in Georgia. Beso Papiashvili, Taxify Georgia's COO, says Taxify has transported thousands of customers in Tbilisi since it launched a year ago.
Papiashvili says drivers are vetted for reliability and the condition of their car and trained before working for Taxify Georgia. User ratings allow the company to ensure good service. More than 300 drivers are currently working for the company.
It's a significant change from the current system. Since there are no laws regulating taxis in Georgia, anybody can put a taxi sign on their car and start picking up customers. While that means no shortage of taxis, customers have few means of evaluating the trustworthiness of the driver before hopping in.
Prices are also up for negotiation — a difficult task for expats in particular.
Amber Morison, an American chiropractor living and working in Tbilisi, said it's not uncommon for taxi drivers to charge her higher prices. She recently paid 7 GEL to go from the Tbilisi Concert Hall to her home in Saburtalo, a few GEL more than the usual fare.
"I know better and should say 'blah blah street, X GEL' when I hail a cab," she said. "But at 12 am, I wasn't caring so much to do that."
Not only are Taxify's prices more consistent, they are often cheaper — sometimes shockingly so.
"On my first ride from the airport to Vazha-Pshavela station, it only cost 8 lari!" Tyler Young, an American teaching English in Georgia, told Investor.ge. "The taxi driver was shocked and I was extremely happy."
Melissa Stonehill, an American living in Tbilisi, says the Taxify app also allows her to avoid waiting outside in bad weather and makes it easier for her to get around the city given her limited Georgian-language skills.
Taxify is now working on expanding its services. Though users usually pay the drivers in cash, corporate clients can charge rides directly to a company account, which can be viewed online. Taxify has also recently brought in an online button that hotels can use to quickly call taxis for their visitors.
"There are more important things to do than talk to a dispatcher," Papiashvili said.
There are, however, challenges to implementing an app-based business in Georgia.
Not only must drivers have a smartphone, Taxify also requires drivers to have a bank account so they can be paid for trips involving corporate clients, a condition that prevents many drivers from joining their team.
Taxi apps are sprouting up all over the globe, following the success of the American startup Uber. However, unlike Uber, which has been banned in cities around the world, Taxify also works with taxi companies, who, for a fee, can use the Taxify software to increase their clientele. Papiashvili stresses that Taxify is open to everyone.
"If you are an individual driver, you are welcome. If you are a taxi company that would like to optimize your company, you are also welcome."
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