Allo Taxi and eCab Take On Uber in the Car Booking Game

Alexis Baghdadi, Apr 05 2016

Allo Taxi, part of Kurban Group, Lebanon’s leading travel agency, has signed a partnership with the international car booking app eCab to launch a taxi service with competitive prices and improved service.

Allo Taxi will continue to operate in the Lebanese market, including via its proprietary app, but will also introduce the eCab service in the country, in an agreement similar to the one between Middle East Airlines and Air France.

The App and the Furious

Online-only booking sites like Expedia may be causing some travel agencies to lose sleep, but the real excitement is in the car booking arena where all the talk revolves around “Uberization” and the disruption of the sector by lean, mean online booking platforms. The current view is that traditional players often find it hard to compete against the likes of Uber and Careem who own the technological advantage.

So far, the outcome has been largely in favor of these giants and can be summarized as such: traditional agencies lose more and more market share to the new app-based giants and either go out of business or get acquired (such as Careem’s acquisition of Enwani and Taxiii).

But that is not the case for Allo Taxi who has set a precedent in the MENA. Its partnership with eCab could be a game changer and serve as a new business model in this vertical.

There Is More to Gain from Collaboration, Not Competition

Like other divisions in Kurban Group, Allo Taxi had seen the writing on the wall early on and understood the need to go digital. The service had launched its car booking app before Uber even launched operations in Lebanon. In an interview at ArabNet Beirut 2016, Raja Kurban, Managing Director of the Avis Budget Group at Kurban Travel, put it simply: “We do not see Uber as our competitor.”

According to him, the buzz over Uberization is highly exaggerated. He compared car booking apps to “brokers” who do not own their product (cars or drivers) and therefore have to rely on a third party to supply them with that. In Europe, drivers contracted by Uber have high standards of quality, which largely contributed to the app’s success there. In Lebanon, however, quality cab services are in shorter supply.

In the interview, he even hinted that as owners of their product, Allo Taxi could eventually consider using a broker like Uber as a sales channel!

The partnership with eCab was announced only 3 weeks after this interview.

“For customers, eCab is a single international app, providing access to the best taxi and limo operators in the world; In Lebanon, they will get access to three service levels, ranging from the most affordable rides in town to the largest taxi fleet and an exclusive VIP service with chauffeurs,” explained Ghinwa Dandache, Marketing Supervisor at Allo Taxi.

On one hand, eCab brings the latest smartphone technology, as well as expertise in operations, digital marketing, and customer support. It accepts payments either via its app, or in cash to the driver, something Uber doesn’t offer yet in the local market.

On the other hand, Allo Taxi boasts the largest fleet of professionally-maintained taxis in the country, transparent pricing, and reliable drivers, as well as different modes of payment. It also features more specialized services than Uber or Careem (tours, buses, etc.) and advance bookings.

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