eCabs Proof That R&D is Way Forward for Country

“Maltese culture is not inducive of risk. Few people are willing to take risks and this is why a company like eCabs who ten years ago took a leap of faith and courage, needs to be a role model for tomorrow’s generations.” 

 

This was stated by Opposition Leader Dr Bernard Grech during a visit to eCabs’ Head Offices in St Julian’s.

 

The Opposition Leader praised eCabs for its long-term vision that notwithstanding the challenges, persevered for 10 years with unwavering determination and courage, invested in innovation and technology and become a leader in mobility.

 

“Malta should put research and development at the top of its priorities and direct serious investment towards this sector because Malta holds a lot of potential and talent that needs to be tapped. Proof of this is the success story that is eCabs – a successful start-up that has grown into an enterprise and is now looking beyond our shores,” said Dr Bernard Grech.

 

“Believing in local talent should not merely stop at applauding start-ups but should translate into tangible actions most notably through the creation of an ecosystem that encourages the flow of venture capital and investment support to move innovative ideas from concept to market,” said eCabs CEO Matthew Bezzina.

 

Matthew Bezzina recalled how 10 years ago, eCabs embarked on a journey to radically transform passenger mobility through the application of technology.

 

“We started small but with big aspirations. We succeeded to make the leap from start-up to enterprise and now making our first steps to take our dream into international waters. The growth-path was far from plain-sailing, within a system that instead of nurturing growth, acted more as a barrier. If Malta wants to be the tech destination it aspires to be, we need to collectively act on empowering start-ups and tech ventures to grow and make the same leap we made,” added Mr Bezzina. 

eCabs Rebrand

eCabs implements pioneering Passenger Safety Charter

eCabs is the first mobility service provider in Malta to ever implement and commit to a comprehensive Passenger Safety Charter, through which it is voluntarily self-regulating its standards to ensure the highest level of passenger safety in the provision of its services.

The Charter titled ‘eCabs and You’ represents a commitment by the Company to consistently take proactive measures to ensure the safety of its passengers and drivers, as well as creating and promoting a responsible environment for safer Maltese roads.

“From day one, our commitment has not only been that of bringing positive disruption and meaningful change in our sector but also to help raise the bar when it comes to standards across the board. Passenger and driver safety are at the inner core of our services: this is why we decided to go the extra mile and impose on ourselves standards which go beyond those stipulated by the Law” says Matthew Bezzina, CEO of eCabs.

“It is within this spirit that we have been working on the Passenger Safety Charter for the past months and today we are proud to have reached this very important milestone in our journey. We have researched and sought international best practice and shaped a Charter which will set the gold-standard for mobility in Malta. The ‘eCabs & You’ Passenger Safety Charter is defined by our brand values, being in touch with what matters most to passengers, drivers and all those with whom we share the road, including pedestrians, cyclists and people in other vehicles,” added Matthew Bezzina.

The Charter is enabled by the fact that eCabs’ remains the only operator that boasts a 24/7 controlled environment with an over-riding safety-first priority. Whilst the entire operation is fully technology-driven, eCabs retains an element of manned and logistical control, ensuring constant support for the hundreds of drivers, full control over drivers’ trips, tracking of locations and system access control.

‘eCabs & You’ defines the rights and responsibilities of both the passengers and the drivers, clearly defining the parameters within which a journey is to take place. The Charter covers all key areas including customer care, health and safety, vehicle sanitisation, driver behavior, passenger interaction, mutual respect and emergency protocols.

Greta Borg Bezzina, Operations Director at eCabs, said “the Charter sets out the parameters for safe travel guidelines, clearly sets out how complaints are handled, promotes the ease of booking through the multichannel booking options and states the Company’s ‘Lost & Found’ policy whereby items found in cabs following a drop-off are returned to customers through eCabs’ 24/7 contact centre.

“eCabs is not only committed to take passenger and driver safety very seriously but to also drive positive action by everyone to take safety on the road seriously. Our Passenger Safety Charter is a mutually beneficial tool being enshrined in the fabric of the Company. Passengers will understand better their rights and responsibilities, as well as those of their driver, and benefit from the peace of mind knowing they are trusting a Company where their safety is not a mere hashtag, but a core value. We are committed to keep on leading the space of passenger safety and trust that our Charter will inspire all stakeholders in the sector into nurturing a true commitment towards road safety,” concluded Greta Borg Bezzina.

eCabs sets new Safety and Comfort Standards in School Transport.

As an integral step in the shaping of its leading mobility solutions portfolio, eCabs has launched a new service line for school transport, which is setting the standard for mobility involving children in Malta.

Safety, professionalism and comfort have been cornerstones of the eCabs brand promise since its first day of operations over a decade ago. Expand this into the performance of school runs, particularly in the middle of such a challenging period shaped by the Covid-19 restrictions, has spurred eCabs to once again raise the bar of  existing standards and service offering, to meet international best practice. The fleet of highly sanitised people carriers dedicated to the school run service were very well received by parents, being fully aware of eCabs’ unwavering commitment to the highest health and safety protocols.

“Once again we are raising the bar. We are humbled by the response of the parents who chose to trust their children in eCabs’ hands, confirming the high regard there already exists about our health and safety standards. Unlike traditional school runs, we are also offering the service of collection and drop-off outside the children’s home, rather than the traditional meeting-point, translating into more convenience but even more safety for the children to remain within the proximity of their home until picked up” says Simon Debono, Chief Marketing Officer at eCabs.

eCabs’ fleet procedures includes an intensive sanitisation process, whilst all drivers are equipped with disinfectant sprays and wipes to constantly sanitise all high touch areas within the vehicle.

Fewer children than the maximum capacity per vehicle are being accommodated to avoid overcrowding, improve safety and respect social distancing provisions even within the van. 8-seater people carriers which have been deployed are purposely selected to reduce the number of children in contact with each other in every run and as little as 6 children are being accommodated in each 8-seater. In the case when 16 seaters are being used, the number of children has been limited to 11.

The eCabs drivers have been given specialised one-to-one training related to the varying guidelines and requirements of the different schools, with hand sanitizer provided on board each vehicle being used, the assurance that all children wear their masks onboard, as well as fastened seatbelts before each trip commences. Attendance is also being taken per trip to further enhance the safety and tracing of the childrens on each trip.

“As a parent, I know all too well that when it comes to school transport, we want the peace of mind that our children are on time for school and back home afterwards in the safest hands possible,” added Mr Debono.

Fewer children on board of the vans also mean shorter round trips and better management by drivers. All routes have also been optimized through the eCabs proprietary data platform, to minimuse the transit period from home to school and vice-versa. For added flexibility, eCabs is also offering its 24-hour support service contact centre where parents can get in touch and advise of any sudden changes so that eCabs can plan and adapt to any changes to the route accordingly, as well as the adoption of the Lost & Found service being a handy addition to school runs.

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, through which it is strengthening its executive and luxury service offer with the acquisition of Elegance Chauffeur Drive, one of Malta’s leading chauffeur companies.

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

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

“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 and the local acquisitions will enable us to go to the international market with a uniquely strong offering,” says Matthew Bezzina, CEO of eCabs.

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 team within the eCabs team, where 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, including investment in an extension of its head office in St Julian’s and a significant investment in the growth of its technology team which houses its team in Malta, Turkey and Belarus. 

“Despite the hit delved 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.

People in technology spotlight. Bernhardt Engerer, Data Analyst at eCabs Technology Division.

Notwithstanding these challenging times, eCabs keeps investing in its resources with BERNHARDT ENGERER as the latest addition to its in-house team of data analysts. “I already knew eCabs as a tech-oriented company, but I never expected the level of human-machine interaction driving this company towards the future of mobility”, he says.

What is your background and why did you go into data analysis?

Although I started my career in software development, I transitioned into the field of data analysis quite early on in my career, and have been perfecting my skills in this area for the past 6 years.  When I originally started digging my teeth into data analysis, it consisted mainly in developing visualisation tools, such as trend graphs and charts, analysing historical time sensitive data in order to gain a clear understanding of any seasonal trends. 

Eventually, as I started delving into more complex machine learning and A.I. techniques, I got more intrigued by the insight that data could provide and the way businesses are making strategic decisions based on insight. Rather than just reporting results of past actions, I started focusing on understanding the outcomes and making inferences from these outcomes. One of my biggest motivations in pursuing my career in data analytics is being able to aggregate data from multiple sources, create interactive visuals to interpret it and then create or apply algorithms that learn from that data to solve real-life problems. 

What was your perception of eCabs before you joined and what attracted you?  

I always associated eCabs with mobility technology and industry disruption. 

As a person with a fascination for big data, I aspired to work for a company that appreciates the value of data and invests in it. Working at eCabs as a Data Analyst is a unique opportunity for me to work closely with like-minded individuals to extract trends and usage patterns from the wealth of information that is available to us. We use a variety of data augmentation techniques and develop tools that help us reveal interesting insight, which in turn helps the company to make more informed decisions.

What was your induction like?

I joined at a very particular time. It was the second week of March. On my first day, I found myself in an empty office as all the tech team had already moved out of the office to work from home. Despite the new reality and the challenges of remote working I immediately felt part of a young and dynamic team. Thanks to the communication tools and the support I received from management, my integration within the team was efficient and effective.  I was warmly welcomed by everyone and have quickly developed great professional and personal relationships.  I swiftly realized how important my role was and the value that I could bring to the company.

What were your technology expectations about eCabs?

As a client, by simply interacting with the app I always knew that technology lay at the heart of its customer-centric mentality.  What I perhaps did not appreciate before joining was the level of human-machine interaction that pervades the organisation. Behind the multiple booking channels there is an intricate mosaic of technologies that interact with each other seamlessly, designed to achieve one common goal: that of providing an unparalleled customer experience end to end.  The question remains: how can eCabs harness the industry knowledge and experience garnered over a decade and translate that into an even better customer experience? That is where AI will come in and that, I believe, will be part of my role moving forward. Technology will continue to play a key part in helping the company make sense of the large volume of data in a fast and automated way.

What impressed you mostly at eCabs?

I am mostly impressed by the sheer dedication of all my colleagues and the involvement of everybody on the team to ensure that we deliver a top-quality product, together with the genuine excitement when I can provide new visibility into a trend or KPI which may have been previously less visible. I was also very impressed with the hands-on approach that  management brings to the table, taking such an active role in the day-to-day running of the business.  Having amassed the vast experience over the years in this industry, it really is a big asset we gladly leverage and learn from.

How do you usually approach a new project?

I first make sure to have a thorough understanding of the requirements, suggesting improvements where possible. I then execute the project with an iterative approach, such that stakeholders are asked for feedback along the way in order to fine-tune the requirements where necessary. I like to seek the stakeholders’ direct involvement to instill a sense of ownership, since the ultimate goal is to develop a tool to help them perform their role better or more efficiently, rather than just developing a tool to be used sporadically.

In what ways do you see data analysis determining the future of this industry?

I believe the keyword is efficiency, specifically with on-demand mobility, but also with pre-scheduled trips. Data analysis alone will not provide this increased efficiency, but harnessing the data at our disposal and using the power of AI will lead to the industry being able to have mobility options in the right place, at the right time.  This increased efficiency will undoubtedly serve to improve the customer experience by passing on the cost-savings whilst also keeping waiting times low, thereby increasing the convenience of our service.

eCabs Supporting the Malta Trust Foundation

“The fact that since this pandemic hit Malta three months ago, the Food Aid Depot operating from Floriana has had to open 15 sub-depots across Malta and Gozo says a lot about the current situation and how desperate it has become for many households to simply put food on the table,” says H.E. Marie Louise Coleiro Preca whose Malta Trust Foundation is currently busy running the Food Aid Depot.

Operating from the Malta Trust Foundation’s premises in Floriana, the Food Aid Depot is currently delivering 6000 food packages to over 1700 households across Malta and Gozo. 

“These amounts are beyond shocking and it is therefore very important for us all to remain sensitized and aware that for many families, the situation has become very desperate and far from simple. Distribution of all the food packages entails a massive logistics coordination and we feel very lucky to have found the very generous support of eCabs who for the past two months have been assisting us with emergency last minute deliveries of food packages even on weekends,” added H.E. Coleiro Preca who founded the Malta Trust Foundation in 2015 to support and bring real and significant impact in the lives of disadvantaged young people and individuals.

Greta Borg Bezzina, Director of Operations at eCabs mentioned that the company’s mission was always to bring disruption to the mobility sector and the way people commute. 

“However, this disruption is nothing compared to the disruption that this pandemic has dealt to thousands of families and individuals. Therefore, supporting the community at this very fragile time with our infrastructure has now become eCabs’ mission, in line with the supportiveness value the brand embraces and priority. At the same time, we are indebted to the many volunteers who are making the Food Aid Depot a living miracle every day,” added Borg Bezzina.

Although the main depot is located in Floriana, the past 3 months have seen another 15 sub-depots opening in Paola, Bormla, Żabbar, Żejtun, Marsa, Qormi, Siġġiewi, Mosta, Senglea, Għaxaq, Mqabba, Sliema, Floriana, Birkirkara and Gozo with the help of parish priests, local councils and schools.

“The basement of St Aloysius College’s 6th Form for example, is acting as our sub-depot in Birkirkara. Gozo too has many families in need, way beyond the 135 households we are already providing food to. And besides the Floriana depot acting as our main base, the bulk of the food is currently going to our Sliema sub-depot located in St Patrick’s home,” she added. 

“We are also extremely grateful to companies like eCabs, who have chosen to support our cause by applying what they do best to help the community in these very difficult times for everyone. It is admirable how every time we are faced with emergency deliveries, eCabs is always very responsive and makes sure that our food packages reach the families in need. Together, we want to keep working to make sure no one is left behind,” concluded H.E. Coleiro Preca. 

Women in technology spotlight. Kerstin Rizzo, Head of Programmes at eCabs Technology Division

Technology has been a seed in the eCabs culture since the day it moved its first passenger from point to point. That seed today became a thriving branch: a fully-fledged transport technology division, composed of an exceptional team of technologists who are driving the engines for the internationalisation vision of eCabs. Kerstin Rizzo, who joined eCabs’ technology team as Head of Programmes a year and a half ago, explains how fundamental technology has been in the growth achieved by eCabs in the past years and her role as a professional in a tech company.

“I wanted to become a chemist and had focused most of my studies on research. However, I was always interested in tech and I recall myself patiently typing code from various games’ magazines onto our ZX Spectrum a few moons ago”, she smiles.

“Eventually I read Chemistry and Computer Studies at University only to realise there were many tech opportunities available. By then, my choice was an obvious one which I never regretted.”

After 15 years as a systems’ analyst and a software developer, Kerstin spent another 10 years in management, leading several high-profile projects.  She then joined eCabs to realise she had just walked into an immensely disruptive and innovative culture.

“I must admit that I had my reservations and wondered what my interactions would be like in a company which I thought would have a relatively heavier male presence, only to find out that the workplace is also highly populated by fellow ladies. I had joined a company whose priorities are focused on innovation and a relentless pursuit for excellence. The vision is an ambitious one and it’s what makes the environment so inspiring to work in.”

Technology remains fundamental in eCabs’ growth journey and as the organisation keeps investing heavily in this area, it bids to consistently improve its efficiencies in operations, ensuring a seamless service delivery to its clients, whilst bringing about the ability to quickly adapt to unpredictable scenarios such Covid-19.

“Our technology also takes into consideration our growing driver base. Coordination of all the trips, tracking and timely pick-ups all depend on a robust technology infrastructure, also enabling us to lay out our long-term vision for the organisation. eCabs’ primary strategic goal is to internationalise its product portfolio and is in the process of transforming its current technology to a cloud-based solution.

“One of the aspects that makes working at eCabs a unique proposition is the fact that we are a company intent on bringing a drastic shift in the country’s mobility patterns. Mobility remains a big challenge for Malta with a very particular and complex infrastructure, so I am thrilled to be working on such challenges at a company with a vision of bringing a positive change in this aspect.

Being the only mobility company in Malta adopting an all-inclusive multi-booking channel model through the app, phone, web, social media and email, eCabs has made its service accessible to all to ensure mobility for everyone.”  

In a world driven by data, new exciting challenges emerge to harness that power and make good use of it. “As our service grows, our models are increasingly helping us predict traffic patterns and trends. This allows us to keep offering a reliable service within the shortest time possible and at competitive prices. With aspirations of product development into the ‘Last Mile’ delivery segment my role becomes more fun and challenging as I help to translate these innovative business requirements into IT deliverables, which will essentially see customers and their parcels reaching their destinations in a quicker, smoother and more efficient manner.”

Agility in adapting is also an essential attribute as external factors can very quickly change the priorities. Covid-19 is a perfect case in point as Kerstin points out “The surreal scenario that hit us in March 2020 had instantly shifted the priorities. But we are an amazing team and we managed to pull this through together, matching the speed and change in direction”.

Turning back to the topic of women and IT, Kerstin is proud as a woman not only in an IT environment but also at a tech mobility company. But she also quickly admits that STEM subjects remain male dominated and augurs that the future will see more women choosing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

“The fact that I made it means that change is indeed possible.” she quipped enthusiastically. “But this change needs to start from the very bottom, tackled from as early as kindergarten. There are plenty of innovative educational programs and science challenges that school children should be introduced and exposed to. It would help encourage a larger cohort of young women to take up tech-related jobs by also promoting women in these fields to serve as role models”. 

Kerstin admits that being interested and fascinated by astronomy, her first inspiration as a young girl was Katherine Johnson, the famed mathematician who was instrumental in Nasa’s first manned space flights. Famed by the recent Hollywood movie Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson carved her place in the history books. Kerstin says that there is no reason not to dream big and go for the achievement. “We’re only scratching the surface of possibilities here and that is what I love about this subject and this company. The future is bright – even in the face of the battles we face today.”

eCabs Implements Fully New Mandatory COVID-19 Guidelines

eCabs, Malta’s leading passenger transport provider, has implemented fully the latest set of mandatory Covid-19 guidelines issued by the public health authorities, which were issued for cab and taxi operators over the last days. eCabs has not only ensured it is fully compliant to the published guidelines but has also extended its passenger and driver safety standards to ensure that their health is given the highest level of priority.

The new guidelines include amongst others, mandatory masks to be worn by both drivers and passengers who should not be allowed to board the vehicle unless they are wearing a face mask. To help with this directive, eCabs are now also selling disposable face masks in-vehicle. 

“We’ve been keeping our fingers on the pulse since day one of this public health emergency, following the health authorities’ recommendations and updating our operations accordingly. We have also sought international best practice in our sector and acted on our own initiative to strengthen our safety measures, such as the installation of a dividing perspex screen between driver and passenger.  These matters are taken very seriously, not only for the safety of our passengers but also for that of our own drivers,” said Simon Debono Chief Marketing Officer of eCabs.

“I believe it is important for everyone to work together to stem this situation and do their part so that normality returns as soon as possible, whatever shape that may be. I’d like to urge our passengers to collaborate with us in respecting these measures in everyone’s interest,” he added, mentioning that eCabs has also been encouraging payments to be effected through credit cards in the App to reduce cash handling.

A vehicle ventilation policy has also been adopted in response to these new guidelines and with a view of the rising temperatures. These include the air recycler to be turned off at all times and  windows to be left ajar for better ventilation. The Air Conditioning filters are also being treated with viral disinfectant as part of a wider, daily in-vehicle sanitisation procedure which has been in effect since the first week of March. This includes extensive steaming and cleaning using the same disinfectant which possesses long residual action.

“Our Covid policies are kept consistently updated on our website. Anyone riding with us can be sure that we are doing our best and going beyond what is mandatory. We are doing our utmost to make sure that in these challenging times everyone can get from point to point with peace of mind and in the safest manner possible”, concluded Simon Debono.

 

eCabs supports MOAS and the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers

2500 meters of elastic, 500 meters of fabric and 140 spools of thread are being delivered by eCabs to 130 volunteers around Malta. These volunteers have recently responded to a call by humanitarian organisation MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) and the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS), to produce a total of 6,500 face masks for refugees and asylum seekers in Malta, to aid these vulnerable communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 MOAS, who is also providing all the material needed, has found the support of eCabs in handling the logistical aspect of the project. A total of 260 trips covers the delivery of all the needed material to the volunteers who will sew the masks together, as well as the collection and redistribution of the freshly made masks back to MOAS and AWAS. All masks are destined for the asylum seekers and refugees currently resident in the centres, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and protect the beneficiaries and wider community. 

Christina Lejman, Head of Fundraising and Project Management of MOAS said “I honestly cannot thank eCabs enough for this who stepped in without hesitation. We are incredibly grateful for this service as it will make a huge difference to the project. People have been so kind in donating their time and efforts, so to be able to get them the items quickly and reward their generosity is really amazing.”

“Although homemade masks are not an alternative to medical grade PPE, they have been shown to slow spread in high density residential communities. Following the call, over 130 people offered to volunteer, committing to produce at least 50 masks each over the coming weeks,” added Ms Lejman.

Matthew Bezzina, CEO of eCabs added, “Teamwork, empathy and community spirit should prevail in times like these. We all need to make an effort to continue supporting these types of causes even when normality returns. A tip of the hat to MOAS for supporting the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers, and for all the amazing volunteers who are contributing their time and effort to this worthy cause. It was only natural for us to pitch in to this project and contribute to its eventual success, in the same way that we are contributing to other community support causes”.