CMO at eCabs Simon Debono recently spoke to BusinessNow.mt about the state of the cab market in Malta and the importance of multi-modality.
There are at least 10 ride-hailing businesses in Malta now. Being a locally established company that preceded the mobility services and is thriving in it, how has the growing competition impacted and transformed your company? If an 11th or even 12th service sets up do you notice any impact anymore?
Competition is always healthy. It keeps you on your toes and forces you to be the best you can be. When Bolt entered the market back in 2017 it forced the company to accelerate the transformation that had already started. eCabs back then and eCabs today are two completely different animals.
Our growth has not subsided either. Be it from a product transformation perspective, our ambitions, or our growth in local volumes. I don’t see that changing, even if others attempt to enter the market.
Do you think supply in Malta has started to outpace demand and that the market is saturated with ride-hailing and taxi services?
Market saturation is a market decision. We’ve seen ride-hailing apps appear and disappear and we’re pretty sure we’ll keep seeing the same thing happening. You mentioned a number of ride-hailing businesses in Malta. New York has about 10 in a city with a population just under 19 million. To put to scale, Malta has around one ride-hailing service per 50,000 people. New York has around one ride-hailing service per 1.9 million people.
Through your company’s efforts to internationalise in 2023, what key differences are you coming across from a regulatory framework compared to Malta? Is there something in Malta’s regulation that is encouraging a still-growing quantity of services?
Over 13 years we’ve been through multiple cycles of regulation. Today we have a liberalised market and treat every player, new or otherwise, with the required respect. What we have been through over these years gives us the invaluable experience to set foot in new jurisdictions. The industry is in its infancy, so legislation is being shaped the world over and varies considerably from one to the other depending on the market maturity.
What do you expect the market to look like a few years from now, with more or fewer ride-hailing services?
We believe that the future will give us a consolidation of a few strong brands in the local market, especially considering the size of the market. But we also believe that not enough is being done to discuss what the future should look like. We strongly advocate for the country to make the necessary efforts to push for multi-modality. Not enough is being done. It is a narrative we have been advocating for years now and is a future that needs to be designed. It is not just going to fall from a tree on our laps.
We absolutely support and applaud initiatives that include other forms of mobility, however, the necessary infrastructure is needed. It is pointless beating around the bush and having wool consistently pulled over our eyes.
We need a network that connects villages with more than asphalt for cars. An infrastructural framework needs to be designed which enables scooters, bicycles, and walking, to be coupled with buses, taxis and ride-hailing / ride-sharing. It is totally non-existent right now, and so we keep drowning in our clogged roads and fumes.
You can read the full article on multi-modality on BusinessNow.mt.