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Roberta Metsola European Parliament eCabs Matthew Bezzina

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola visits eCabs offices

On Monday 29th August, eCabs welcomed the European Parliament President Robert Metsola. During her stay, the President went around the offices to meet members of staff, with a particular focus on technology, and discussed the future of the mobility industry in the EU with the organisation’s heads.

“It was a pleasure to share our ambitious vision and our internationalisation programme which is set to start in 2023 with President Metsola. We held meaningful discussions on our ESG agenda, the opportunities and the goals of our company, as well as technology and the future of the mobility industry within the European Union. It was also lovely to see how warmly our team greeted her and how well she interacted with them”, said Matthew Bezzina, eCabs CEO.

On her part, the European Parliament President wished eCabs success and further emphasised the importance of solid values in today’s business strategy, “Sustainability, innovation, green. Three characteristics which, in today’s world, should be the basis of any policy or project enacted by both public and private enterprises. Qualities that the Maltese company eCabs has embraced over the past years. This morning we spoke with team members at eCabs about how the European Union can do more for businesses, enterprises, and companies in Malta and across Europe”.

As Malta’s largest ride-hailing firm, eCabs remains committed to leading the industry with innovative technology solutions guided by ESG principles. Key actions include drastically reducing the business’s carbon footprint whilst cultivating a multicultural team of technologists to fuel growth on an international scale.

In the press:

Malta CEOs

eCabs in record start to 2022

eCabs in record start to 2022

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.

eCabs 2022 tech

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.”

Partner Drivers

“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.”

In the press:

Malta Today | Business Today

eCabs Chief Technology Officer

eCabs appoint Chief Technology Officer

Technology arm poised for steady growth with appointment of Luca Di Michele as Chief Technology Officer.

Mr. Luca Di Michele has taken over the stewardship of eCabs’ technology team as Chief Technology Officer. He will be leading a growing multi-cultural team of software engineers from 13 nationalities. The team is building and shaping eCabs’ mobility technology platforms together with a growing extended team composed of QA specialists, product specialists, business analysts, and data analysts.

This appointment follows the company’s recent announcement of its corporate restructuring exercise. This saw the appointment of Andrew Bezzina as the new CEO for eCabs’ local operations. Matthew Bezzina is now leader for global operations and CEO for Cuorium Technologies, eCabs’ Technology arm.

Luca Di Michele joined eCabs in June of 2018 as a Senior Developer, moving on to Head of Development in September of 2019. In this role, he headed the team of developers at the newly set up Cuorium Technologies.

“Exciting times ahead of us” – eCabs Chief Technology Officer

“The company has been going through interesting phases of renewal and transformation over the past few years. I feel privileged to have been an integral part in shaping this transformation. We have built an awesome team of professionals here whom I am proud to have as colleagues. They are all driven by the same passion to see their creations come to life. And being given the liberty to explore and lead new technologies . We have exciting times ahead of us,” says Luca Di Michele, eCabs Chief Technology Officer.

eCabs Chief Technology Officer

Matthew Bezzina laid praise to eCabs’ new Chief Technology Officer saying, “Luca fully deserves this position. He has been given the space to grow. He has shown incredible ownership and leadership in building the technology that drives our platform with his team. Lucshares the same love and passion towards the brand as we do, and today knows this business inside out. We are fully confident that together with his growing team, we will keep our technology on its steady path, making an international success of it in the exciting years that lay ahead of us”.

In the press:

Times of Malta | Business Today | Who’s Who

eCabs technology

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 joined eCabs’ technology team as Head of Programmes a year and a half ago. She explains how fundamental technology has been in the growth achieved by eCabs in the past years. She also describes 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, tech always interested me. 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. I 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. ”

A robust technology infrastructure

Technology remains fundamental in eCabs’ growth journey. As the organisation keeps investing heavily in this area, it bids to consistently improve its efficiencies in operations. Thus it ensures a seamless service delivery to its clients. It also brings 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. This also enables us to lay out our long-term vision for the organisation. eCabs’ primary strategic goal is to internationalise its product portfolio. It 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. 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.”  

eCabs technology

New exciting challenges for eCabs technology

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”.

The future is female

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 quips 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 is 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.”

In the press:

Business Today

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