Howa unveils taxi-booking app to challenge Grab, Line

Howa unveils taxi-booking app to challenge Grab, Line

The HaHa app uses Mastercard's Masterpass digital payment platform.
The HaHa app uses Mastercard's Masterpass digital payment platform.

Howa International Co, the operator of Taxi Radio and Suvarnabhumi Taxi Cooperative, has invested 20 million baht to unveil the HaHa taxi-booking mobile app and digital meter terminal (DMT) to compete with rivals Grab and Line.

Over the next 30 days, the Land Transportation Department is expected to announce a new regulation to let taxi drivers receive an advanced booking fee, with a ceiling price of 100 baht, to eliminate denial of service to passengers.

Faced with competition from rival ride-hailing apps, Howa's taxi-calling service has cratered. The company decided to invest in DMT and a traffic operations centre to replace taxi radio services, said Hudsadin Eamsherangkul, deputy managing director of 30-year-old Howa.

The DMT is a digital display device comprising a meter and location tracking system that verifies taxi drivers working with the HaHa taxi booking app through a card reader.

All taxis are legal, complete with insurance coverage and driving licences, Mr Hudsadin said.

Howa has 4,000 vehicles in the system and keeps upgrading to new systems. A taxi driver needs to pay 30,000 baht, a one-time charge for the DMT, and 3,500 baht in annual service fees.

Under existing radio systems, drivers are charged 6,700 baht for a meter and 20,000 baht for the additional radio tracking system, with a monthly fee of 500 baht. DMT uses cloud service from Advanced Info Service Plc.

Howa also has a traffic operations centre that will open under a collaboration with universities to use data analytics for city traffic management.

The HaHa app targets premium passengers who need to be picked up with a surcharge of 50 baht and an advanced booking fee of 150 baht for up to three hours in advance in prime areas such as hospitals, department stores and five-star hotels.

Howa will use a credit scoring system for drivers who do not deny passengers, so the system will prioritise good drivers and assign jobs to them first.

"We aim to have 20,000 taxis using our DMT in the future," Mr Hudsadin said. Howa has about 500 taxis.

Howa has joined Mastercard to use the Masterpass digital payment platform to provide electronic payment as an option for passengers alongside cash.

Aileen Chew, head of market development for Thailand and Myanmar at Mastercard, said HaHa is the first taxi booking app in Thailand to use the Masterpass digital payment platform. The HaHa app provides similar services as the taxi apps that use Masterpass in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The platform lets passengers use a debit or credit card to pay via the app, through which customer data will be stored in the Mastercard cloud.

"Some 65% of global public transport uses cash, so there is a big opportunity for digital payment," Ms Chew said.


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