Thus far Uber have been charging around the world getting in legal scrapes. We have seen this strategy in the UK, Germany, France, the Philippines, etc., but in Central and South America this approach does not appear to be paying off, with Easy Taxi providing serious competition.
In Colombia, for example, the government decided that all taxis now require a digital meter. This was very similar to the debate in the UK, if an Uber taxi can tell you the charge before you get in it, then surely it can’t be run on a meter?
Uber’s approach is to continue, business as usual, until a given country just accepts or gets used to it. It brings market pressure to bear, confident that consumers will become too attached to low price taxis for there to be enough public pressure to ostracise the company.
In Central and South America, however, there are other concerns. In these markets, by being insensitive to local culture, Uber is losing its edge over competitors like Easy Taxi. In some LATAM countries there have been plenty of instances of passengers being abused – and even murdered – by taxi drivers. This means that generally speaking, licensed taxis are by far the preferred choice. If you’re going to get a taxi it’s far better to pay a little more to know you’ll be safe.
Because Easy Taxi works with licensed taxis in each of the LATAM countries it functions, it avoids this problem. At the moment it is currently in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. This breadth is proof of the success of operating according to local culture.
Easy Taxi is also already pushing ahead with plans to introduce a service where passengers can bring their pets along with them. Its ‘Easy Mascotas’ scheme will start with 12,000 drivers in cities such as Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Medellín, Palmira, Pasto, Santa Marta and Valledupar.
This, I must say, is the very type of customer-appeal that I can’t imagine being on Uber’s radar. While it might seem trivial to a foreign eye, it makes perfect sense for anyone who has spent even a little bit of time in latin America – where it is not uncommon for a pet to be shown more love than a fellow human.
So, while Uber has offered its concept to the world, it may well be too big and unwieldy to capitalise on local knowledge in that way in which companies such as Easy Taxi can.