eCabs Technologies is exporting its technology and industry know-how beyond Malta’s shores, teaming up with overseas partners to launch new ride-hailing platforms. Its first international partnership comes in the form of Taxi.gr, which will debut in Athens, Greece this September, with other jurisdictions also in the pipeline.
The Athens launch in partnership with Greek company Intelligent Mobility App SA, signifies eCabs’ leap onto the global stage, backed by considerable research and development efforts, and a strategic drive for innovation and growth beyond Malta.
In an exclusive interview with MaltaToday, eCabs founder and CEO Matthew Bezzina sat down with MaltaToday to talk about the technological changes in the transport industry and what it took to take the eCabs product and export it abroad. He tells Nicole Meilak how the ride-hailing company transformed its business and is now going international.
Empowering global aspirants
eCabs describes its new product as a white-label solution for business interests looking to enter the digital ride-hailing space.
Bezzina says they have created ride-hailing tech that can be tailored to the specific needs of a foreign country and city.
The app they built for Greece for instance, looks and feels like the eCabs app, but incorporates specific features that are unique to the Greek transport reality.
This includes a unique pricing system that is based on the metering model used in traditional taxi cabs across Greece.
Similarly, when platforms launch in other jurisdictions, they will have their own unique features to reflect the rules and realities of that specific country.
But eCabs aren’t only bringing tech to the table. Bezzina says they also bring market expertise and operational know-how.
He said they are forming “comprehensive partnerships” with foreign operators, providing operational support, marketing assets, and industry acumen.
Their first partners are major taxi operators in the Greek capital.
Having been through the difficult transition from a traditional cab company to a digital ride-hailing platform, Bezzina says they know how to help other businesses make the same transition.
And they do it all from their headquarters in Malta.
“Within a 100m radius from our office, you have a ride-hailing laboratory, a research and development site right here in St Julians,” Bezzina said.
A digital evolution
Looking back on the eCabs journey over the years, Bezzina says the company was disruptive to the Maltese transport landscape. “eCabs made it easier for people to get involved in the industry”.
For instance, he said the company opened the doors for women to become drivers – something seldom seen prior to 2010.
Starting out as a three-person startup in 2010, eCabs has undergone a remarkable transformation of its own.
Back in its earliest days, Bezzina and his first employees took down reservations for rides using pen and paper.
Today eCabs employs over 400 professionals, developing cutting edge tech, and is asserting its presence in the global ride-hailing market – a bold step for a Maltese, homegrown outfit.
“From 2016 and 2017 onwards, we went into a journey of digital transformation. Ultimately you need to level up in terms of the tech offering in order to be able to compete, not only on a local level but eventually on a global level.”
What was once a fleet ownership model has morphed into a dynamic marketplace connecting drivers and riders.
Technology has played an important role in this, but Bezzina thinks that data will have an even bigger influence on the market in the years to come.
“The more time passes, the more our company will have to become a data company. The user experience will be influenced, both from a driver and consumer standpoint, based on the right optimisation and usage of data.”
Triumph amidst adversity
COVID-19 took a major toll on cab companies – eCabs was no exception. The company experienced a 90% decline in year-on-year ride volumes as Malta ground to a halt.
But Bezzina says COVID-19 was the opportunity for eCabs to accelerate its transformation into a technology company.
“Throughout COVID the technology team became a technology company that today employs over 60 people. This is a growing number, and this all happened between 2020 and 2023.”
Bezzina says this is a story of resilience on several levels.
“It’s a story of resilience, of vision, of the team. It’s easy to do this stuff when you’ve just received a billion in funding. But we’re frugal, we optimised, and we’re self-funded. We survived – and even thrived – against all odds.”
The company’s move to internal technology development, Bezzina highlighted, was a pivotal move that enabled eCabs’ survival.
“Between 2010 and 2016 we used to depend on third-party technology… From 2016 onwards we took a conscious decision and said listen, we have to start building the technology internally because we have the product and operational know-how.”
And that leap has paid off with the company now eyeing overseas markets to export its technology.
The next time you are on holiday in Athens, you could very well be using Maltese technology to hail your cab ride to the Acropolis.
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