The Media 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.

human dignity

Human dignity must always remain a priority

Malta must adopt a proactive approach in creating a way of providing platform workers with basic protection. It must also safeguard their human dignity, says eCabs CEO Matthew Bezzina.

COVID 19 has exposed the ugly side of gig work. This has left vulnerable workers exposed to the brutality of operating in an unregulated market.

As the pandemic tore through economies highly dependent on tourism and travel, ride-hailing drivers witnessed their incomes dwindle. This consequently forced them to work long inhumane hours in deteriorating conditions. It also provided opportunities, and accelerated the rise of delivery, creating industries requiring new skill sets and adjustments to pay expectations.

On the demand side, customers also crave the convenience of meals delivered to their homes and offices and taxi rides that are just a tap away. On the supply side, workers grasp the opportunity to work in a flexible manner.

The gig economy is here to stay. In the spirit of fairness and sustainability, Malta must adopt a proactive approach in creating a ‘third way’ of regulating platform/gig economy work, and provide platform workers basic protection from unforeseen economic cycles, seasonal shocks in demand, and on-the-job injuries.

A thriving business should never come at the cost of human dignity. Let’s not wake up when it’s too late.

In the press:

Malta Today

People are the most important element at eCabs

‘People are the most important element at eCabs’

“People are the most important element at eCabs. In everything we do we seek a professional attitude and a consistent passion for the job to keep us at the forefront,” says Marvin Cuschieri, chief officer human capital and corporate services at eCabs.

Few might know that 20 percent of the 500 plus drivers employed by eCabs are women. That the company employs over 25 nationalities. That it has a team of in-house technologists. And a fully-fledged contact centre handling hundreds of customer interactions on a 24/7 basis.

Mr Cuschieri is a senior figure in the field of human resources, having occupied the role of CEO of the Foundation for Human Resources Development for six years. Now, as a member of eCabs’ top management team, Mr Cuschieri’s role is that of leading the human capital and corporate relations functions, covering the full spectrum of duties from manpower planning, administration, capacity building, systems implementation, business processes reengineering and facilities management.

“I say ‘recently appointed’ but really and truly, ‘recent’ is now already almost a year. I must admit, it took a bit of thinking to join eCabs. Transport and logistics was at the other end of the spectrum in my career and development pathway. But once I was exposed to the dynamic and technologically disruptive nature of the company and learned how the founders were devising to internationalise the business, I decided to embark on this journey and be part of this success in the making.”

Far from just a conventional cab operator

He explains that eCabs is far from just a conventional cab operator. The company is considered as Malta’s largest and leading private transportation company. Since its inception, it has sought to revolutionise passenger mobility and how people commute on this highly congested island.

Over the last few months eCabs has ventured into events, expanded its corporate accounts portfolio and is now offering the full spectrum of people transport. It has also set up its own captive logistics software company, Cuorium. Adopting cutting-edge geo-spatial technologies, flirting with the application of AI in its operations and venturing into the uncharted territory of consuming big data to enhance its trip optimisation capabilities.

People are the most important element at eCabs

“HR is the only function that touches every single part of the organisation in all its aspects. From the drivers whom I consider as the front line of our organisation, to the contact centre agents. From the logistics controllers to the back office team, support service providers and the fully dedicated team of developers building and developing our unique ICT systems and infrastructure.”

Over the past 12 months, a lot has already happened within the company’s human capital structures.

“And so many more changes are coming up,” he adds. “Currently we are taking the company through a meticulous restructuring process at all levels. Perhaps one very important change is the way we are running our human capital. Being a strong believer in delegation, one of the very first steps was to build a stronger middle management structure that can bridge the gap between the vision and the front-line, while putting a stronger spotlight on the important aspects of the HR support services so vital for such a company employing such a large workforce.”

A more holistic way of training

He says the company is also developing a more holistic way of training its drivers and contact centre agents with better induction processes and feedback channels. Their logistic coordinators have been given the opportunity to follow academic diplomas in management, while the developers get the space they need to keep abreast with the dynamics of their specialisations.

“For instance, one of our developers was recently at the DevFest Berlin, an annual community-driven developer event organised by the 3 GDGs where he had the opportunity to attend a number of sessions across multiple product areas, all-day hack-a-thons, code labs, and more. The holistic and most unifying value that we are trying to instil is that all employees belong to a common vision and hence why they understand the importance of being professional in everything that they do and not to just meet customers’ expectations, but constantly exceed them. Quality is key for us, while passenger safety is paramount.”

Nourishing a positive work culture for people at eCabs

He points out that the company managed to build a strong recruitment pipeline by taking an innovative approach towards recruitment and striving to build models which can fit with those of the workforce.  “We have made efforts to reduce turnover by for instance allowing more flexibility, rewarding positive actions, creating a stronger team engagement, and instilling a strong sense of belonging.”

“The fact that the company operates on a 24/7 basis means it is in a position to give employees the flexibility they need, something other companies cannot offer,” he adds.

“What I love about HR? Seeing people grow within their roles at eCabs, teams of people pulling the same rope and coming up with their own initiatives, nourishing a positive work culture, having a diverse company not only in gender and age but also in terms of nationality.”

In the press:

The Times of Malta

transport technology

Building a transport technology framework that is ‘future ready’

eCabs CEO Matthew Bezzina speaks about the past, present and future of eCabs’ transport technology framework.

Over the past few years, the landscape of Malta’s cab industry has changed dramatically. With just a few players on the scene, around 10 years ago Malta’s roads were introduced to eCabs. Since then, the number of people moving to Malta for work has exploded, together with traffic and increased overall activity. Further still, Malta has also experienced a boom in ride-sharing applications competing with eCabs. In the light of this, the Malta Chamber discusses how technology is shaping the company with eCabs co-founder Matthew Bezzina. It also touches upon increased competition has shaped its strategy.

Mr Bezzina’s aim is simple. He wishes to “build a transport technology framework that is future ready.”

He discusses the impact competition has had on his business. Mr Bezzina also speaks about the lessons learnt from a decade in the industry. Finally, he talks about the lack of regard to customer safety by many operators in the space.

eCabs is close to a decade old. What would you say the biggest unexpected lesson learnt from your experience in the cab industry has been?

We entered the industry at a time when the disruptive era was still to commence. In effect, locally, it was us who triggered the disruption. In that context I would say the biggest lesson was to continuously challenge the status quo. And also to drive change, based on the needs of the market, irrespective of the internal and external forces that will naturally resist change. Taking a cue from mother nature, species that evolve to adapt to the continuously changing environment are those that have survived thousands of years of evolution and change.

The technology behind how you deliver your service has changed drastically over time. Could you give an overview of the most recently revamped digital framework implemented within eCabs?

Initially, eCabs started from two booking channels. These were mainly the phone and OTC (over the counter) through our satellite sub offices in Paceville. In 2013 we introduced Malta’s first cab booking app.

This heralded the facilitation of the booking process and reduced the margin of error. Eventually, spurred by the technological advancements of international app based platforms, we took a bold decision not to rely on third party technology any longer. We built our own tech assets to make eCabs’ technological offering and our mobile app relevant to the peculiar needs of our customer base.

With constant releases and upgrades we are ensuring that our App offers a seamless user experience, from the booking stage straight through the customer exiting the vehicle. We are now on the doorstep of major technological breakthroughs in what eCabs stands for: the entrenchment of digital in our fabric will now be reaching new heights and deliver beyond customer expectations. Our aim is simple: to build a transport technology framework that is future ready.

eCabs has made serious efforts to push the use of the app, rather than have people telephone in. In this way, drivers find it easier to find their clients. It also serves as a transparent record of what the client has ordered. What would you say has been the biggest challenge and the biggest reward from the latest application developments?

First things first. Behind the popular 21 383838, a team of dedicated and passionate people run an incredible set-up . We do not just take calls, but we provide mobility solutions to our customers. It would have been easy for us to follow the same route as many others and just implement an app and let the customer sort it out.

For example, how could we call ourselves a responsible transport provider if we ignored the fact that many people still do not feel comfortable enough with technology? Our strategy was to build a leading-edge app whilst still maintaining our call centre channel extending the benefits of our technology to those passengers who do not use it. Needless to say, our vision is to accelerate the app usage not by merely talking about it but by exceeding our customers’ expectations.

We are a live showcase that competition is healthy! It keeps all the stakeholders alert and to a certain extent helps eliminate underperforming players. As a person who has the sustainability of the industry at heart, I instigate competition, local and international. I believe that no one is owed a living. We need to put our money where our mouth is if we want to be trusted by passengers.

However, competition can never thrive if there isn’t a level playing field. Unfortunately, over the past three years, our industry evolved into a veritable jungle with most of the mushrooming operations verging on severe regulatory breaches. Such platforms are marketing and offering their services to a new breed of self-employed drivers. These drivers have no employment or contractual relationship either with the platform itself or with the operators under whose permit the vehicles used are licensed.

Passenger Safety

This is giving these app-based platforms an unfair competitive advantage over legitimate operators like ourselves. Unlike such platforms, we are legally obliged to abide by a myriad fiscal and employment rules. Also, the fact that these platforms openly claim to have no responsibility over drivers and vehicles used for such services is a matter of serious concern from a passenger safety standpoint. It aims to exonerate them from any obligation towards their passengers or responsibility for the service provided. However, it puts at risk the safety of passengers and hinders effective regulatory control.

On the other hand, customer safety has always been our priority, to an extent that we will soon be rolling out a Passenger Charter and an Emergency Assist button on our app. A call centre and a control team manning and monitoring the operation 24/7 will complement them. Thankfully the government has recently issued a very well-thought-out reform document and kickstarted a consultation period. This reform will mainly safeguard the safety of the passengers and the sustainability of the industry.

In the press:

The Malta Chamber

future of tech mobility culture

‘eCabs mission is to change Malta’s mobility culture’

eCabs was set up to provide a feasible personal transportation alternative to people and kick-start a change in mobility culture and mentality, CEO Matthew Bezzina says.

In its 10th year of operations, eCabs today boasts impressive growth, making the company one of the leading transport solutions providers in Malta with aspirations to go international. eCabs CEO Matthew Bezzina speaks to The Sunday Times of Malta about his ongoing quest for higher standards in service provision and how technology has enabled the business to evolve.

“Today, 10 years down the line, we look back with pride and satisfaction. But we also look forward to the next revolution we want to trigger.”

He points out that like many other ventures, there were many challenges along the way. If he had to pin down one critical success factor that is at the heart of the company’s growth results, it would be the nexus between vision, commercial strategy and the implementation of a business plan.

“Coming from the tightly-knit logistics environment, for us, planning is a religion that we practise at all levels of our company: from the boardroom to our facilities management function.

“Equally important was our reinvestment culture. We were never after enjoying the fruits of our labour by reaping them but by reinvesting every single cent back into the business to make it stronger, more resilient and future-ready.”

Delivering change in mobility culture by bringing people together

Today, eCabs’ fleet runs into hundreds of cabs and it is by far the largest such operation in Malta, employing over 700 individuals across all departments.

“Our logistics centre team runs the opera­tion with clinical precision, based on a technology platform developed and supported by our brilliant tech team. The latter provides both consumer apps for booking and driver apps for service fulfilment by our highly trained and competent drivers. These are all supported by our call centre operators. This is the beauty of eCabs: the ability to deliver change in mobility by bringing people together,” he says.

Mr Bezzina refers to the company’s control centre as the heart of eCabs’ operational setup, a melting pot of all the activity driving eCabs.

“Our logistics and control centre, which operates on a 24/7 basis and is run at exceptional efficiency levels, optimises service levels and our operational capacity. At any point in time, 20 people – who handle all the incoming bookings and requests that come through our website, through e-mail, phone, social media or our mobile app – man the centre. The control centre gives us the visibility in real time of all our fleet, and the IT platform enables our operators and drivers by devising the best route possible for them.”

Smart technology

Perhaps one aspect that defines eCabs is its use of ‘smart technology’. Mr Bezzina stresses that from day one, eCabs has always been run as a technology company that seeks to enable passenger transport solutions to address congestion challenges in Malta.

“We intend exposing our achievements on the international stage to tap into the scale of markets beyond our shores. “It is true that we move people. But what differentiates us from other operators is that in our case, IT lies at the heart of our vision. It can be considered to be the nervous system of our operation.

“As a matter of fact, our intellectual property has grown to the extent that we are now spinning off our ICT operations into a dedicated company in order to enable it to provide services to third parties, locally and internationally. With this in mind, when we describe our technology as ‘smart’, we mean that the technology is an intelligent one that is constantly aggregating the mobility data that we have been accumulating over the years to improve the services that we offer.”

A highly human resources-intensive environment

eCabs has grown to the extent that, like many other companies, it has felt the need to hire workers of other nationalities. In fact, the real challenge is not to retain these workers. But to find workers who are committed enough to enter this sector.

“Today, the talk of ‘foreign workers’ needs to stop. There are no such thing as ‘foreign’ workers. There are workers who decide to make Malta their home, they decide to commit to working and they work. At eCabs, we have an encouraging number of non-Maltese workers with us who receive continuous training, assisted by our technology and communications infrastructure. As we speak, we are striving to widen the catchment of our workforce to attract talent from all walks of life with the only underlying pre-requisites being the willingness to learn and the unquestionable commitment to passenger safety and service delivery.”

Human resources was always the biggest challenge for eCabs, especially when the company was starting up. The company acknowledges that it operates in a highly human resources-intensive environment, and the limited pool of people willing to work in a disciplined and structured environment is somewhat challenging, albeit not impossible.

“But even here we changed culture and we’ve managed to the extent that today, even women are applying to join us as drivers. Today, in fact, one of my most cherished statistics is that 20 per cent of our drivers are women. We not only believe in equal opportunity, we enable it in practice.”

A change in mobility culture and mentality

Another challenge is the fact that eCabs operates in an environment where the roads are becoming busier and busier. Mr Bezzina believes that the current infrastructural works may provide a temporary relief, especially for congested hotspots. However, this is not the optimal long-term solution in which the major investment should be made.

“The fact of the matter is that our roads are not able to take on the quantum of vehicles being put on them. Any long-term strategy should be anchored around changing culture, not merely burdening further the infrastructure to accommodate the accumulation of further congestion. And when you change the mind-set of people, you can achieve greater things.

“This is what we have been doing here at eCabs – promoting the reality that a change in culture and mentality is indeed possible. With the use of technology, we are making it increasingly easy and cheaper for people to be encouraged to leave their car and start using cabs more. It is not a change that will happen overnight, but it will take years. But we’re managing because if we weren’t, we would have been out of business a long time ago. If we can do it, so do the rest.”

Looking to the future

Looking to the future, Mr Bezzina sees eCabs’ commercial vision as second to none, and said that a lot will be happening over the coming months to reinvent the industry.

“I believe that our proposition, based on best practice and operated through an integrated IT infrastructure that we have deve­loped in-house and built and rebuilt over these past 10 years, is a unique one. The huge amount of movement data we collate every day contributes to a constant improvement of the service at all levels, particularly for route optimisation.”

In the coming months the company will be engaged on initiatives at all levels. From deploying new features on its consumer app, to the provision of new transport products, up to the internationalisation of its business model.

“As eCabs is growing into one of the largest corporates on this island, we intend exposing our achievements on the international stage to tap into the scale of markets beyond our shores,” Mr Bezzina says.

In the press:

The Sunday Times of Malta

largest corporates in Malta

‘We aim to grow into one of the largest corporates in Malta’

eCabs CEO says that they aim to grow the Company into one of the largest corporates in Malta, exposing their achievements on the international stage to tap into the scale of markets beyond the island’s shores.

eCabs is a household brand in the local transport industry. Its impressive growth and significant operational footprint make it the first private company to reach high standards in service provision and technology application in the sector. BUSINESS TODAY met the company’s CEO, Matthew Bezzina, for an insight into how his business evolved into the leading transport solutions provider in Malta with internationalisation aspirations.

What was the idea behind eCabs, which started out as a new taxi company and has evidently turned itself into major operation within a short span of time?

Our idea was born out of the blend of two elements: firstly our academic formation in business and law which enabled us to structure our approach to problems and secondly our vision for shaping a business which uses technology to revolutionise a sector conspicuous for its failings and shoddy service. One can easily sum up the idea into an aspiration to be a prime mover in the solution to what was already becoming a huge traffic problem. We wanted to provide a feasible personal transportation alternative to people and kick-start a change in culture and mentality.

Today 10 years down the line we look back with pride and satisfaction, but we also look forward to the next revolution we want to trigger.

Which growth path did eCabs follow, and what is the secret behind being successful in this industry?

Like many other successful ventures, we faced a tall order of challenges along the way. If I had to pin down one critical success factor that is at the heart of our growth results was the nexus between our vision, the commercial strategy and the implementation of our business plan. Coming from the tightly knit logistics environment, for us planning is a religion which we practice at all levels of our company: from the boardroom all the way through to our facilities management function. Equally important was our re-investment culture.

We were never after enjoying the fruits of our labour by reaping them but by re-investing every single penny back into the business to make it stronger, more resilient and future ready.

eCabs taxis are a common sight on Maltese roads, so your capacity must be significant. How many cabs are there in your fleet, and how many workers do you employ?

Our fleet, running into hundreds of cabs, is by far the largest-owned in Malta. It is certainly the most dynamic one in terms of growth, diversity and refresh. However, the fleet is merely a tool in our business and its heart is our vibrant workforce.

We employ over 700 individuals across all departments each of which has a crucial function in the value chain of eCabs. Our logistics centre team runs the operation with clinical precision, based on a technology platform developed and supported by our brilliant tech team. The team provides both consumer apps for booking and driver apps for service fulfilment by our highly trained and competent drivers. They are all supported by our call centre operators. This is the beauty of eCabs: the ability to deliver change in mobility by bringing people together.

Driving past Regional Road one can see a digital map of Malta in your offices. What is this for?

Well… that is the melting pot of our operations, our logistics and control centre which operates on a 24×7 basis and run at exceptional efficiency levels intended to optimise service levels and our operational capacity. At any point in time our control centre is manned by around 20 people. They handle all the incoming bookings and requests that come through our website, through email, phone, social media or our mobile app.

The control centre gives us the visibility in real time of all our fleet and the IT platform enables our operators and drivers by devising the best route possible for them. Under this bonnet lies a complex web of algorithms to optimise all of this operation in real-time even at the peak operational levels.

You regularly emphasise that you make use of ‘smart technology’. What is this, and how does eCabs incorporate this technology in the way it operates?

From day one, I have always looked at eCabs as a technology company enabling passenger transport solutions to address congestion challenges in Malta. It is true that we move people but what differentiates us from other operators is that in our case, IT lies at the heart of our vision and can be considered to be the nervous system of our operation. As a matter of fact, our intellectual property has grown to the extent that we are now spinning off our ICT operations into a dedicated company in order to enable it to provide services to third parties, locally and internationally.

With this in mind, when we describe our technology as ‘smart’, we mean that the technology is an intelligent one that is constantly aggregating the mobility data that we have been accumulating over the years to improve the services that we offer.

What is your opinion of foreign workers in Malta, and do you face challenges retaining workers?

Today, the talk of ‘foreign workers’ needs to stop. There is no such thing as ‘foreign’ workers. There are workers who decide to make Malta their home, they decide to commit to working and they work. The challenge is not to retain workers. Rather it it to find workers who are committed enough to enter this sector. At eCabs, we have an encouraging number of non-Maltese workers with us who receive continuous training, assisted by our technology and communications infrastructure.

As we speak, we are striving to widen the catchment of our workforce to attract talent from all walks of life with the only underlying pre-requisites being the willingness to learn and the unquestionable commitment to passenger safety and service delivery.

Malta’s roads are becoming busier and busier. Do you feel that the government’s investment in road infrastructure is helping with the traffic situation?

While the current works may provide temporary relief, especially for congested hotspots, my experience-based opinion is that this is not the optimal long-term solution in which the major investment should be made. The fact of the matter is that our roads are not able to take on the volume of vehicles being put on them. And any long-term strategy should be anchored around changing culture, rather than merely burdening further the infrastructure to accommodate the accumulation of further congestion. And when you change the mindset of people, you can achieve greater things. This is what we have been doing here at eCabs – promoting the reality that a change in culture and mentality is indeed possible.

With the use of technology, we are making it increasingly easy and cheaper for people to be encouraged to leave their car and start using cabs more. It is not a change that will happen overnight; it will take years. But we’re managing because if we weren’t, we would have been out of business a long time ago. If we can do it, so can the rest.

What is the biggest challenge of running a large business like yours in Malta?

The biggest challenge that we found when starting up eCabs was human resources. We operate in a highly human resources-intensive environment and the limited pool of people willing to work in a disciplined and structured environment is somewhat challenging albeit not impossible. But even here we changed culture and we’ve managed to the extent that today, even women are applying to join us as drivers.

Today in fact, one of my most cherished statistics is that 20% of our drivers are women. We do not only believe in equal opportunity but we enable it in practice. I assure you that many other challenges fill up our day-to-day operations but really and truly management is there to find solutions and not to complain about challenges. It’s a mind-set that we try to ingrain across eCabs.

Since eCabs was started, a number of new taxi companies have also sprouted around the island. How does eCabs keep itself ahead of the competition?

We started off this industry in Malta. I am personally very satisfied to see that what we started grew even outside of eCabs. Commercially our vision is second to none and we shall certainly be reinventing the industry again in the coming months. Having said that, even in the current model, I believe that our proposition is a unique one. The service we offer is fully compliant with regulation, based on best practice and with the most diverse of booking channels – phone, website, app and social channels – all backed by an integrated IT infrastructure that we have developed in-house and that we have built and re-built over these past 10 years.

This is coupled with the huge amount of movement data we have been collating which contributes to a constant improvement of the service at all levels, particularly for route optimisation. Competition will strengthen us as it makes us seek better efficiency levels and more innovative service delivery enhancements.

What plans do you have for the future of the company – any projects in the pipeline?

Our pipeline is full of initiatives at all levels. From deploying new features on our consumer app, to the provision of new transport products up to the internationalisation of our business model. We aim to grow the Company into one of the largest corporates on this island and exposing our achievements on the international stage to tap into the scale of markets beyond our shores. So watch the eCabs space: it will be an exciting journey.

In the press:

Business Today