Maltese ride-hailing company eCabs has seen customer journeys during the first three months of 2022 grow by more than 50 per cent, compared to the same period in 2019, which is its best performing year to date. As the company gears up to expand internationally, Malta Today spoke with Dr Andrew Bezzina, CEO at eCabs’ Malta operation about how the ride-hailing company achieved this success and what the future holds.
“It’s easy to forget that just last January tens of thousands of people were in quarantine. Tourism and nightlife, our two main segments, were at a standstill compared to forecasts. To have emerged from such a poor start to year so strongly is a fantastic result and a testament to the quality and efficiency of the service we deliver,” says Dr Bezzina, reflecting on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the business.
“Of course, we had already started to see a recovery in our business in the summer of 2021 when restrictions were first eased. But, the Omicron variant and, I must say, overly cautious decisions from various governments which heavily impacted travel, put a stop to that. Thankfully, things are looking a lot better now. In fact, the bounce back from the omicron variant is much swifter than initially anticipated and ride volumes in the first three months of the year are up more than 50 percent from those registered in the first quarter of our record year in 2019.”
Swift growth in customer journeys in 2022
When analysing the swift growth in customer journeys registered this year, Dr Bezzina highlights the increase in travel as a key factor. “With the airport once again becoming a popular pick-up and drop-off point again and an uptick in demand for longer rides, the average price per ride is also increasing steadily. This is paving the way for healthier EBIDTA margins”, he says, before adding that, “The return to working from the office and a generally more positive atmosphere is encouraging people to go out more, especially in the evenings. The further easing of restrictions announced this week is welcome as it will certainly further strengthen consumer confidence and further support the recovery in tourism.”
The current positive outlook would not have materialised had it not been for several key decisions taken at the height of the pandemic, many of which are proving their worth up to this day. “eCabs has always been a financially prudent business but the impact of the pandemic made us even more focused on taking a responsible approach to our business and operational decisions in swift fashion, and pushed us to continue fine tuning our operating costs,” explains Dr Bezzina. “A leaner and more dynamic operating model is certainly helping us to cope with inflation and the supply chain challenges that are now affecting Malta and the global economy.”
From a ride-hailing business to a technology platform
Aside from improvements in efficiency, a major focus for eCabs in recent months has been its technology company, Cuorium Technologies. “Becoming an international player in the mobility space means eCabs must continue its transformation from a Maltese ride-hailing business, to a technology platform deployed in various territories, serving customers and fleets anywhere in the world. We have invested heavily in this area over the past two years and the results we are seeing in Malta, with its complex infrastructure and demanding customers, prove that both our technology and our business model work,” says Dr Bezzina.
Cuorium Technologies is, in fact, at the heart of eCabs’ plans for growth. “Our experience in Malta confirms that this technology can be taken into any market and we’re now working hard to raise the funding we need to move into carefully selected international markets. Whilst the interest has been extremely positive from various corners of the world, strategy leads our decisions.”
“2022 has started very well for eCabs and the outlook for our Malta operations is very positive. On this basis we have set ourselves the ambitious target of doubling the number of journeys we delivered in 2019. This, inevitably, means that we need to attract as many partner drivers as we can. We already have more than 1,400 partner drivers in Malta using our platform and will continue doing all we can to offer the best possible working conditions. Our engagement with drivers is also key to reducing the carbon footprint of our business as we work towards fulfilling our commitment to have a fully electric and hybrid fleet by 2025, something which is a key strategic priority for us. This year, eCabs will also be buying 15 electric vehicles for its own fleet,” continues Dr Bezzina.
The eCabs Malta CEO concludes, “A stronger than ever post pandemic recovery remains our key priority but despite the challenges, we didn’t lose sight of our long-term strategic goal. eCabs is merging from this challenging period in the best shape ever and is ready for an exciting and prosperous future.”
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