News broke out last March that Uber was merging its South East Asian operations with Grab Taxi in exchange for a 27.5 percent stake in the latter. In the Philippine context, this means the two major players in the ride-sharing industry have combined into one. Furthermore, according to Brian Cu, country head of Grab Philippines, there are 600,000 booking requests each day. Those passengers will certainly feel the loss of a key player in the industry. A Quartz.com article writes that in China, after Didi and Uber merged, people claimed it became harder and more expensive to hail rides.
Already, riders are unhappy with the situation. “Post-transaction prices of Grab indicate that prices are increasing, while quality of service is deteriorating, to the detriment of the riding public,” the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said, as reported in ABS-CBN news.
In addressing drivers, passengers
To address rider complaints, Grab Philippines launched what it called “the 100-day initiative plan” last May 8. “We’ve seen people posting about driver cancellations, their rude behavior,” Cindy Toh, Grab Philippines’ country marketing head said in an Inquirer article. The plan would have drivers go through “intensive transformation program” to become “models of road courtesy and public service”, she said. Drivers would have to follow a certain code of conduct, with top drivers getting rewards. Toh expects the program to cut driver cancellations from 8 percent to 4 percent.
Meanwhile, Transport Network Companies (TNC) are considering steps to protect its own drivers from unruly passengers. With incidents of robbery, assault and damage to property, Grab plans to blacklist abusive customers. Currently, the LTFRB is discussing this matter; Aileen Lizada said in a GMA ambush interview, “One of the items that we have been discussing with the TNCs, aside from blacklisting of TNVS [Transport Network Vehicle Service] is the blacklisting of riders. Kasi may mga riders na pasaway talaga, that’s why TNCs will be coming up with a common protocol, one, if they damage the car, two, sexual assault on the TNVS.”
In comparison to drivers’ current state, former Uber driver, Dennis* pointed out that having experienced the systems of the two companies, both had their own ideal features. In terms of the interface of both apps, he clarified that the only difference with Grab is its feature of getting to see the destination. “Ma-shoshock ka nalang na pupunta ka na ng Bulacan, pero at least alam mo yung destination, kasi para rin maka-avoid ng accidents, at ma-consider yung safety ng pasahero,” he stated.
(You’ll just be shocked that your destination is Bulacan, but at least you know the destination to avoid accidents and to consider the rider’s safety.)
The now Grab driver also expressed his insights regarding the difference Uber and Grab have in handling and treating their drivers. “Mas maganda yung Uber magbigay ng incentives; mas malaki yung amount, at walang maintained ratings,” Kuya Dennis lamented. “Taken into consideration yung cancellation, acceptance rate. Dapat ‘di bumaba yung rating within that week, o wala kang incentives. Sa Uber, kahit ilang trips ka, matatanggap mo pa rin [yung incentives],” he continued.
(Uber gives better incentives, the amount is bigger and the ratings don’t have to be maintained. The cancellation and acceptance rate is taken into consideration. The rating shouldn’t go down within that week or else you won’t receive incentives. With Uber, regardless of how many trips you complete, you will still receive incentives.)
He further narrated his experiences with reporting incidents he had encountered with passengers, explicating that Uber even gave him a cleaning fee worth P2,500 to sanitize his car soiled by vomiting riders. “Nagka-pasahero rin akong bastos. Ni-report ko sa Uber, at within the day, tinawag ako at kinamusta. After that, sinabihan akong na-block na yung rider na yun from the [application],” he recalled.
(I had a rude passenger once. I reported to them to Uber and within the day, someone called and assisted me. After that, they also informed me that the passenger is now blocked from the application.)
In terms of complaints, and issues, Dennis also expressed that Grab does not get to properly resolve these problems, with the company only sending automated replies through their server. “Sa kanila, nag-send lang ng email, nasolusyonan na. Sa Uber, tatawagan ka at aasikasuhin. Yung sa Grab parang walang sincerity,” he affirmed.
(They send an email as the solution. With Uber, they will call and assist you. With Grab, there is no sincerity.)
Other alternatives to Grab
Grab’s brief stint as the only Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) provider in the country was cut short by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) accreditation of five new ride-sharing companies MiCab, OWTO, GoLag, HirNa, and Hype in April this year. LTFRB’s accreditation came after the PCC, the riding public, and several lawmakers expressed concerns over a possible monopoly by Grab.
Details of the five companies are further explained below:
Hype employs a similar business model as Grab in its use of private vehicles. However, it differs with how its services can be accessed even without internet connection. The application detects the quality of the user’s internet connection and redirects it to SMS support, allowing the user to book the ride through a text message free of charge. In addition, the Hype app also features an “SOS” button that both the drivers and passengers may use in times of emergencies.
In terms of fare pricing, Hype claims to charge cheaper fares compared to Grab because of the absence of a per-minute charge and other hidden costs in their fare computation. Private rides have a base fare of P40 and an additional P14 charge per kilometer, while shared rides start at P30 with an additional P9.50 per kilometer.
OWTO also uses private cars for its services. According to the company, their application features a supposedly advanced security system for use in investigations into user complaints.
GoLag is a ride-sharing company based in Laguna, but whose services also extend to Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Metro Manila. Like Hype, the company also claims to provide cheaper rates.
Meanwhile, HirNa exclusively makes use of taxi vehicles. It is currently available in Davao city only but will expand later on to the rest of the country. One of its advantages is that it is operated by Avis Philippines, a car rental company.
Lastly, MiCab, like HirNa, is also a taxi-hailing service. The company believes that price surges, which happens when there are not enough vehicles to accommodate passengers, will not be a problem given the 10,000 vehicle units in their system.
Affecting the Lasallian community
In a recent survey conducted by The LaSallian, insights and comments were recorded from the members of the Lasallian community regarding the recent situation of the TNVS in Metro Manila.
Despite the updates regarding the new players in the business, there is a significant recording of 32.2 percent of people who are not familiar with the newly accredited companies when asked, and only 19.6 percent of the respondents identified to be especially open to the possibility of experiencing the services of the new modes of transportation.
Discussing how the abolition of Uber as a company, and the merging of the company with Grab affected transportation options, especially for commuters, Tom Sebastian (III, IME-SM) expressed his sentiments regarding the issue. “A lot of time is wasted on waiting for a driver to accept [a] trip; it becomes a hassle ‘cause I’d really have to give an allowance, and prepare earlier than usual,” he stated.
Among the most frequently raised issues with Grab, with reference to the survey, are the fare hikes, the duration of the booking time, the nature of their drivers, and ride cancellations. The respondents were able to voice out their options in going around the metro, without having to deal with the said concerns. Ysabelle Orlino (I, BSA) describes how fares while using Grab fits into her budget. “I can spend as much as P80 for near places, and P200 for far destinations. Sometimes Grab offers reasonable prices, but sometimes they don’t,” she clarified.
Majority of the Lasallian community prefer to ride jeepneys, UV Express vans, the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), and regular taxis post Uber-abolition, but would still accommodate Grab in their budget for transportation.
Addressing issues regarding fare surges, Grab explained that such is due to “the passenger demand-driver supply concerns,” according to a report from CNN Philippines. The company continues to settle the transfer of Uber’s assets post-merging, and has since revamped its application’s interface, seemingly identical to that of Uber’s.
*Names were changed for anonymity.