The Business category in the Press Section of the eCabs website

Here one can find informative and interesting articles which the mobility company publishes from time to time.

Please click on the photo above each item to access the original article.

sustainable

Sustainable mobility: walking the talk

eCabs co-founder Dr Andrew Bezzina says that eCabs has reprioritised its vision towards a long term sustainable and cleaner platform.

March 2020 changed the trajectory of many businesses the world over. However, an uncontrollable situation that gave us eerily quiet roads, also gave us cleaner oxygen and clearer air. Nature was given the time and space needed to blossom with balances restored on land, air and sea. We learned to love what we miss so much in our country. The countryside walks with our families and the nature that we have come to take for granted over the years.

In many ways that situation contributed to the resetting of our thinking around the boardroom table. It saw us reprioritise, amongst many things, our vision towards a long term sustainable and cleaner platform. This is at the core of our Environmental, Social & Governance agenda. Having a local operation that runs entirely on Electric and Hybrid vehicles by 2025 is no mean feat. It presents many challenges and relies on multiple stakeholder responsibilities.

Earlier this year we launched a pilot project. We invested in a multi-branded fleet of fully electric vehicles to test and to determine the operational and commercial suitability of EV’s in a 24/7 operational context on our challenging road network.

In eight months, we test covered 150,000kms, consuming 18,000KwH of electricity, translating to 0.12KwH per kilometre travelled. In the process, we saved 7.3 tonnes in CO2 emission versus an internal combustion engine (ICE). Additionally, we also benefited from economic savings of 65% of the fuel costs. With a fully electric eCabs fleet, these CO2 savings would go up to over 650 tonnes p.a. More than quadruple that had we to manage to incentivise and convince all our partner drivers to follow suit. The process also saw us benefiting from 60% in cost savings for maintenance and servicing.

Incentives for all ECO rides

Having over 1,000 partner drivers on our platform in Malta, we launched a financial incentive for all with a reduced commission rate charged for all ECO rides. We thereby made a direct financial contribution towards the attainment of these goals. In doing this, we have added more incentives to the existing government grants for partner drivers to invest in cleaner vehicles. As we work at gradually decommissioning ICE vehicles and replacing them with Electric Vehicles (EVs), we will continue to incentivise our partner drivers to do the same with their vehicles. Our goal is to complete the full transition by 2025.

Of course, no project of this sort comes without challenges. The largest challenge we collectively face as a nation revolves around the county’s charging infrastructure with vehicle range coming into play.

A long term sustainable solution

To give some important context, between the EV brands tested, we resulted with an average range of 290kms, running a half-day on a full charge. That is 55% less than a full tank of fuel in an ICE, and just about serves our range requirements today. By this summer we will need to close that 55% deficit. On a positive note, we have commenced tests on a new set of EVs. These tests are estimated to solve this range issue . However, the long-term solution comes in the form of a mix of fast and normal charging cycles for a healthy battery lifetime – an important factor with manufacturers’ battery guarantees covering eight years or 160,000 kms, whichever comes first.

The country’s charging infrastructure would therefore be best planned for fast charging. This would leave the 8-10hr charging cycle at the base, or the home in the case of consumers. It will however also come with its trade-offs. Existing parking spots would need to be given up for EV charging spaces. And we all know that parking is in short supply.

“We need to be more serious about this vision”

For larger fleet operators, there are also limitations on how many chargers can be installed on a standard 3-phase electricity meter. Fleet operators will inevitably have to invest in their own substations, with a hefty investment of around €150,000. We are already drawing up outline plans for an electricity substation at our logistics centre. Additionally, ee have held discussions with the government. They have confirmed plans for such substations to be partially funded via grants or tax credits.

As a country, we need to be more serious about this vision. With a growing population and with consumption on a constant long-term growth rate, we need to acknowledge that these important changes are an absolute must. This will require national commitment and the execution of a plan which doesn’t waver every year or two. Greenwashing and skin-deep changes will not cut it. All stakeholder at multiple levels need to address a national transition to EVs.

Build and shaping tech for a sustainable future

As the main orchestra conductor, the Government does not have it easy. However important stakeholders also include consumers who ultimately affect demand, and by default shape supply. Fleet operators will need to be ready to invest in and anticipate the demand generated. In the meantime, we will continue to build and shape the technology that addresses our industry’s challenges, remaining committed to the investment needed in EVs and the infrastructure required to make it work.

Let us however make no mistake. Sustainable efforts by single companies will be futile unless all stakeholders complement them by a concerted effort and commitment. As we remain committed to the cause, we are also confident that all stakeholders can and will come together to effect change and walk the talk.

In the press:

The Times | Malta Business Weekly

Shopify

Shopify plug-in introduced to eCabs’ FastDrop platform

As Shopify continues to establish itself as one of the most used e-commerce platforms in Malta by high-volume merchants, eCabs’ FastDrop has plugged the platform into its FastDrop app to make its merchant customers’ last mile deliveries even faster.

“Automation is crucial for merchants who want to save time and cost on administration of deliveries. With this new plug-in, we offer a simple way for local Shopify-enabled e-commerce platforms to deliver their orders where all they need to do is prepare the order for us to collect,” Ruslan Golomovzy, FastDrop’s business manager, explains.

FastDrop, which evolved from the eCabs Delivers service, was launched just before last summer and the response has been very strong among e-retailers who saw the opportunity of growing their business by not having to handle the delivery aspect of their business, while retaining healthy margins.

“The lengthy process of inputting bookings is a bottleneck for retailers, so our Shopify plugin automates and simplifies this process, unburdening the merchant from having to capture that information, as it pushes directly to the FastDrop platform.”

“Merchants saw the convenience of all this and since we launched FastDrop, we have been doubling the number of merchants on the platform every month, attracting many e-retailers, from small local businesses to international groups operating in Malta and delivering anything from clothing to electronics, to meal plans as well as servicing offices looking for courier deliveries,” Golomovzy adds.

True next-day delivery service

The most attractive aspect of FastDrop is that it is a true next-day delivery service operating 24/7 365 days a year that offers both a ‘deliver now’ and a ‘deliver tomorrow’ option. While ‘deliver now’ delivers in 60 minutes or less from pick-up of the package, ‘deliver tomorrow’ guarantees delivery in 24 hours. This saves merchants time through automation, allowing them to grow their operation with less cost on processing of deliveries.

eCabs is now revamping FastDrop’s core mechanism to optimise deliveries, introducing a labelling and scanning solution that will involve QR codes for better tracking of package status and automating rescheduling of deliveries and is planning to develop and deploy a similar plug-in for other platforms.

In the press

Times of Malta

record growth

Record growth and innovation at eCabs

eCabs’ CEO Matthew Bezzina met The Malta Business Weekly for an insight into how the company’s business has changed since the onset of the pandemic, and the way forward from here. “eCabs registered record numbers throughout the summer months, defying the general economic and tourism downward trends. This success boils down to strategic focus and an incessant investment in people and technology,” he says.

Business wise, do you feel eCabs are over the worst of the pandemic hit? 

The pandemic hit us worse than most other sectors because our business thrives on mobility and connecting people. Two elements decimated through social distancing restrictions. But we believed the crisis was temporary and we bounced back, gaining tremendous growth and market share. An independent survey ranked us as the leading local ride-hailing service provider in Malta. This summer, we managed to exceed 2019 volumes (incidentally a record year) in a summer market that has seen a 75% drop in incoming tourism numbers. Throughout Covid, the team showed impressive stamina and commitment. And we are now reaping the benefits of all that hard work with healthy double-digit growth over the best year the company has ever had. The indicators couldn’t look any better. 

What do you attribute this post-pandemic success to? 

We stuck to our vision without allowing the pandemic to disrupt us. We amplified our focus on every tactical decision, optimised costs, tapped into new sources of business, and ensured we kept adapting to evolving circumstances. Furthermore, the team’s all hands-on-deck commitment, complemented by shareholders’ determination to accelerate investment in technology was another factor. So, 17 months on, we are stronger than ever, with a much-improved product and a best-in-class fully-owned mobility tech platform used daily by over 800 partner drivers with a consistent growth of 5-star customer rating. 

What do you think of the new normal? 

Smooth seas never bred skilled sailors. Covid made us bring the best in us all both emotionally and commercially. From an HR perspective, the new normal ushered in a new breed of determined team members and today, we are together stronger, grittier, faster and more motivated. Of course, there was collateral damage but we also learnt some great positive lessons.  

What are your predictions for the coming months? 

From a business and market share perspective we are expecting the same growth patterns of the last quarter. Covid has readjusted travel and behavioural patterns, so we expect to see the same positive tourism numbers throughout the rest of Q4. Locally, decreases in costs and subsequently in pricing have driven further adoption of our service. We are committed to remain the ride-hailing service with the shortest waiting time at the best prices as we strive to reflect these optimisations on customer prices. The medium term is looking even better as mobility grows but we are excited by our north star: the internationalisation of our technology operations into multiple regions as of next year. 

eCabs has been increasingly focusing on the technology side of business. Does this now define the organisation?  

eCabs today is a mobility product and technology company employing over 50 technologists with 10 nationalities in 5 different countries. The number increased substantially over the past 17 months and will be exponentially growing in the medium to long term as we continue building our fully IP-owned tech platform drawing upon 11 years of invaluable experience operating in one of the world’s most dense road networks. We see the future in our mobility business as one that is defined by data aggregation and machine learning. To enable machine-made decisions at speed and scale as well as exponential improvements and product automation. This level of intensive optimisation will enable us to be always faster and cheaper, without ever compromising on service levels. 

eCabs record growth

The concept of sustainability increasingly dominates the agenda. Where are you at with your project launched earlier this year to operate a fully Eco-friendly fleet by 2025? Is this project really feasible? 

To date, our Eco cab category in our app allows clients the option to order Eco vehicles. We also added 120 Partner Drivers using Eco vehicles by giving financial incentives, so they keep investing in green vehicles. Furthermore, we have added three fully-electric cabs to our existing hybrids. This is part of a pilot project to assess industry adaptability and feasibility. Government needs to invest more in the right charging infrastructure and to incentivise fleet-conversion. We also need constant communication with all stakeholders, especially government and regulators, to design incentives for partner drivers and fleet operators to shift to cleaner vehicles. The project is as feasible as all the stakeholders make it.  

eCabs currently operates with over 800 partner drivers. Why do you call them ‘partner drivers’?  

The term ‘partner driver’ replaced the industry term ‘self-employed driver’ and reflects the relationship we want to have with our drivers. Our partner drivers are crucial stakeholders just like our clients. Although our group owns a fleet, many other fleets work on our platform. Today, the majority of trips are fulfilled by our growing list of partner drivers. They go through a rigorous onboarding process to be allowed to offer our service. We nurture consistent and open communication with all our partners because this is the only way a sustainable industry can thrive. 

What kept you back from implementing the partner driver model before? 

Unlike others in the market, we always worked within the parameters of the regulatory framework. This took a long time. It was only in October 2020, following a period of consultation, that the new regulations for “Light Passenger Transport Services” were launched. This consequently regularised the position of all partner drivers. We also started onboarding partner drivers. And in a matter of months our success was beyond expectations. Success that is due to our approach where partner drivers are not considered as numbers, but business partners who invested in their vehicle and want to provide an exceptional service to our joint client-base. 

What other milestones have defined eCabs’ operations over the past year?   

The past year was all about technology. We launched our own very successful and advanced in-App-based loyalty scheme eCabs Circle, whilst re-building and enhancing our own App with multiple iterations. Most of our new tech made our system more robust and scalable and led to the new partner driver platform which was inexistent. The future should bring us more technology to keep on reinventing the next mobility game-changer. 

In the press:

The Malta Business Weekly

last mile

eCabs reinventing the last mile delivery industry through Fastdrop

New 24/7 last mile platform set to permanently change delivery services in Malta.

Local mobility tech industry leaders eCabs have stepped up investment in their last mile platform Fastdrop to bring to the market exceptional service, a new paradigm in last mile delivery and affordable rates, new and improved services that enable even the smallest of stores to be part of the e-commerce market. eCabs is now aiming to become the leading last mile player in the industry, leveraging its unique technology platform with the Maltese market serving as a global showcase for the platform.

Having announced their global strategic partnership with German tech company M-Tribes in August, Fastdrop General Manager Greta Borg explains, “strategically, we are tackling in the same way we revolutionised the cab market in Malta: invest in technology, team up with the best minds in the segment, build a platform on our own intellectual property, take it to the Maltese market and then expand globally.” Greta added that “what has resulted today is an incredible demand for our services. This was translated into the daily delivery of thousands of packages of all sizes and nature. All this in a matter of weeks.”

The accelerated growth of Fastdrop is due to a constantly increasing long list of satisfied B2B clients who are experiencing a process driven platform which is easy to use, empowers the business with data and live tracking, provides the fastest and most cost-effective delivery times on the market with live proof of delivery and offers an unmatched 24/7 service including live support even on public holidays.

An effective, efficient and inexpensive last mile capability

Being tech first, the sky is the limit on where Fastdrop has set its sights. The product development roadmap is packed solid with features. These include eCommerce plug-ins for quick deployment of an eCommerce last mile offering, as well as labelling and scanning with the innovative and brand friendly use of QR codes, unique in this type of deployment. Other features will include end customer tracking through mobile application, empowering customers to also affect delivery date and time changes quickly and easily.

Greta Borg underlined the eCabs philosophy in deploying Fastdrop in Malta emphasising that “from day one, our aim has been to empower local businesses with an effective, efficient and inexpensive last mile capability which can offer value through a round-the-clock service in Malta and Gozo. Fastdrop is also enabling its clients to make use of the unique 24/7 capability. Whilst most businesses are closed on Sunday, today’s consumer expectations means that customers are open to delivery of packages any time, any day.  “Some business clients have started taking advantage of this operational strength and the numbers in this area are growing. We have found ways with some to enable stock collection in the early hours of the morning when the same business is closed at no extra cost to the business and the customer”.

As the business grows day-on-day, the Company is shaping new products largely in the middle mile segment through which Fastdrop would be enabling the business to outsource its internal logistics including warehouse to store, and store to store stock movements. This will eliminate internal inefficiencies and mitigate costly inventory stock piling and other operating expenditure such as the cost of maintaining vehicles and delivery personnel.

In the press:

The Times of Malta

eCabs Rebrand

eCabs Rebrand

Along with the brand strategy, the eCabs rebrand has explored the way the brand’s visual identity worked alongside its principles.

chauffeur

eCabs acquires Elegance Chauffeur Drive

The leading mobility company eCabs has embarked on its next stage of growth through its first acquisition in the local market of Malta. It is strengthening its executive and luxury service offer with the acquisition of Elegance Chauffeur Drive.

The deal includes the integration of Elegance’s core team, as well as its extensive fleet of premium vehicles. Thus, it will bolster eCabs’ existing executive and luxury offering both in terms of numbers and service execution. This will make eCabs the largest luxury transport service provider on the island.

Elegance Chauffeur Drive was established in 2017. It focuses on the premium segment, having built itself into one of Malta’s leading chauffeur providers. It has serviced leading personalities such as royalty, celebrities and VIPs alike, with a steadfast and consistent detail-oriented approach.

According to Matthew Bezzina, CEO of eCabs:

“This move is in line with our long-term growth strategy, which includes a planned string of mobility acquisitions. We have a clear and unflinching vision of transformation. From a multi-channel ride-hailing platform, to an end-to-end technology logistics and multimodality company. Through our acquisitions programme we now aim to consolidate the local market and integrate our offering to provide the highest level of services with the most competitive rates on the island. Our ambitions for internationalisation remain firmly in our sights. The local acquisitions will enable us to go to the international market with a uniquely strong offering.”

Taking eCabs’ luxury service to new levels with one of the leading chauffeur companies in Malta

Simon Debono, eCabs’ Chief Officer Marketing & Business Development added:

“This acquisition is a clear reflection of our commitment to keep investing and strengthening our position in the market, in this case with dedicated attention to the premium segment. We are delighted to on-board the exceptional Elegance Chauffeur team within the eCabs team. Together, we shall be taking our luxury and premium service to new levels, matching the highest international standards.” 

eCabs has ramped up its capital investments in 2020 with a clear long-term strategy. This included investment in an extension of its head office in St Julian’s. As well as a significant investment in the growth of its technology team which houses its team members in Malta, Turkey and Belarus. 

“Despite the hit dealt by Covid-19, we have kept our focus on growth, expansion into new verticals and the optimisation of our operations. We are now at a stage wherein we shall take the company to the next level with confidence and a passion to enhance mobility on our islands and beyond” added Matthew Bezzina.

In the press:

The Times of Malta | Newsbook.com.mt | The Malta Independent

E-scooters Malta

“E-scooters are part of the mobility future of this country”

By Matthew Bezzina, eCabs CEO

E-scooters are part of the mobility future of Malta and their role is set to become even bigger.

Some may think that e-scooters are a competitor to the cab industry. Unfortunately this is a typical myopic perspective advocated by those who believe in protectionism rather than the dynamics of an open and modern economy.

Our mission has always been to provide an alternative, sustainable and effective means of transport other than the private car. The private car is increasingly becoming a heavy and expensive burden on our infrastructure.

The average person makes around 3.3 trips a day. A good percentage of these trips are done using a private car. Which 95% of the time is lying idle and parked but still occupying space on the roads for free. In today’s terms this translates to prime space that comes at a high premium.

If only one considers the opportunity cost of time and space, it is already enough reason to understand that a private car equates to a lot of missed opportunities.

Therefore, it goes without saying that as a company committed to promoting alternative mobility means other than private cars, we’re four-square behind the widespread use of e-scooters.

It is commendable that the authority has acted fast to regulate the use of e-scooters. And not to allow the law of the jungle to prevail in such a sensitive domain. A modern country deserves a responsive regulatory environment and certainly doesn’t afford gaps which could jeopardise the safety of drivers and the public.#

Proper enforcement of E-scooters in Malta is key

The first issue that we need to consider is that of risk. Space in Malta is limited. Our road network is one of the densest networks in the world. Most streets are narrow, and two thirds of these streets are taken by the road. Not to mention that a large portion is taken by parking spaces for idle cars. And the very little remaining space has to be shared between pedestrians, bicycles and now e-scooters. This limited space that has to be shared means increased risk for all road users.

The only way to manage this risk is through proper enforcement and this is why the proposed regulation is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that the service can grow in a sustainable way.

Finally, it is in everyone’s interest that e-scooters in Malta operate safely and without endangering other road users. The authorities need to make sure that the right legislation is in place so that all stakeholders are protected. Only proper and responsible monitoring can contribute towards the service to grow organically.

If we just consider accessibility, the use of an e-scooter makes it an ideal fit to any multi-modal pattern of commuting. Someone on an e-scooter can easily ride a bus, board a ferry and yes why not, even call an eCab and travel with his e-scooter. We will go the extra-mile to send e-scooter riders a cab that makes the commute with their e-scooter an easier and more fulfilling experience!

E-scooters have an important role to play in Malta. And as the ongoing quest for better and more efficient mobility continues, their role is set to become even bigger

transport

The real value of transport

By Matthew Bezzina, eCabs CEO

Given that the use of cars is so accessible, our idea of the true value and cost of transport is skewed.

Our society is driven by a lifestyle where cars are protagonists. We instil the idea in our children that, as soon as they turn 18, they have to get their driving licence. And own their car.

The car has become a must and is now an intrinsic part of the social fabric. But we have reached the extreme where owning a car is not just an expense for its owner. It also carries a cost on the infrastructure and, as we are lately also finding out, on our health.

Every morning, many of us walk to our car, start the engine and drive to work. And then, after a day’s work, we take the car back home. If you stop to think about it, you would realise that many of such people’s cars are lying idle for 95 percent of the time.

Yet, they are still paying for fuel, road tax and insurance, not to mention maintenance costs.

Changing patterns

From an infrastructure point of view, the reality is that, nowadays, no matter the location, vehicles are constantly occupying space on the roads for free. Prime space which, in today’s terms, is an asset that comes at a high premium.

In reality, we will never know the real value of transport until we are forced to radically change the patterns of how we commute. A change so drastic it will bring a whole upheaval in our personal lifestyles. How we plan our days, where we spend most of our time and how we interact with family and friends.

Unfortunately, for this to happen, those in government will need to make difficult decisions.

Even more unfortunate, however, is Malta’s current political environment where society is based on a bi-party system.

This could possibly be the main reason why a long-term vision for transport, if there ever was one, can and will never be put into action for fear of losing precious votes.

“Our idea of the true value and cost of transport is skewed”

People are comfortable and upsetting this feel-good factor will have adverse effects on popularity ratings. We have grown accustomed for far too long to free parking and free congestion zones. Which are becoming even more congested.

We use our car every day and at any time. Cars have become the be-all-and-end-all. And, without serious political will and consensus, a long-term plan that can start redressing the situation will never be possible.

Given that the use of cars is so accessible, our idea of the true value and cost of transport is, therefore, skewed. If people experienced the real cost, many would become sensitised to the extent that they would start adjusting their driving patterns.

The point of departure would be quantifying the real value of transport by looking at the two main variables of space and time.

Alternative modes of transport

Space in terms of all the vehicles occupying space on the roads. And time as in what period of the day and for how long they are used. Optimising these two variables and assessing the opportunities available is key to a solid start in addressing our transport problems on a national scale.

Truth be told, there are many people who have started to opt for alternative modes of transport.

The ferry service in the harbour area and the Sliema to Valletta route are already ingrained in our daily lifestyles.

There is increased use of more reliable cab services. And many are those who are reverting to the use of bicycles or scooters.

The Barrakka lift could be free of charge to incentivise those entering Valletta using such clean modes of transport. The infrastructure catering for these alternative means cannot be compromised but made more enabling.

No problem comes without a solution. Those who are empowered to make decisions have enough power to also decide on issues that could be a bit difficult but that, in the long run, would start addressing a problem that is close to saturation point.

Eventually, a situation will be reached where there will be continuity, irrespective of the party in government. That will be the day when traffic will stop being a political football.

In the press:

The Times of Malta