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Taxi Times International - October 2015 - English

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CONFERENCE CONFERENCE worst, whilst saying “credit card, credit card”, with a big smile the driver produced a brand-new Verifone payment terminal from under his seat. No problem there. But not everything is what it seems in the Russian Federation’s taxi world. Many taxi companies apply very visible – sometimes garish – colours and designs plus roof signs advertising their own and other (commercial) products. ILLEGAL TAXIS The International Eurasian Taxi Forum is held every year in August – so far only in St. Petersburg - and attracts about 600 representatives from all over Russia. It is held in a hotel and includes a trade show – part vehicles and part other equipment (about 40 exhibitors) - and a lengthy conference part, which easily stretches into the evening. Some debates were quite fierce and easily ran over time, but all bore the imprint of good cameraderie and clearly had the intention to improve the Russian taxi trade. Most conference attendees were from the taxi industry, with also quite a few suppliers, politicians and local regulators. So in that respect it was quite close to a traditional European or American conference and trade show. Illegal taxis? Or competition by new (illegal) parties? A rapidly growing landscape in apps? Insufficient or dated laws? Every country has its own taxi-problems and solutions. But, as I said, these days there are many themes which are identical in many countries. In Russia, like everywhere else, there’s also a strong demand for ‘a level playing field’ with equal rights and duties for Above: Many politicians, operators, regulators, suppliers and drivers from all over the Russian Federation had flocked to the Forum Taxi. Below: For a conference with 600 attendees the Trade Show was rather limited. TAXI FORUM ST. PETERSBURG DEMANDS ‘CLEARER AND TIGHTER REGULATION’ About 600 attendees discussed a large variety in taxi-topics at the two-day International Eurasian Forum Taxi in Sankt Petersburg (August 6–7). Their main demand: an end to illegal taxis and proper regulation. In the beginning of the ‘90’s, when I made my first presentation to the Annual Meeting of the American taxi-association TLPA, I claimed that in its basic structures the taxi industry is the same the world over. My remark was met with (some) laughter from the disbelieving taxi operators in the audience, but that could (also) easily have been because in my presentation I showed a slide of the Mercedes E200 – a luxury car in the US - as Europe’s main taxi model. It took about ten years before the American operators were also convinced that there is a great similarity between taxi operations worldwide. Yet, we can all still learn a lot from each other. But after a recent visit to the Russian Federation, I began to doubt my own words. When I attended the International Eurasian Taxi Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, August 6 and 7, I saw few similarities. True, the taxi drivers at the airport arrivals hall, trying to find customers (an international phenomenon, surely?) whilst saying ‘Official taxi, official taxi’, wore badges with a slight variation on the international taxi checker band logo. Yet, when the pre-ordered taxi driver dropped me at the hotel, I searched in vain for a taxi meter in his Kia taxicab. There was a wide array of electronic equipment on his dashboard (including the ubiquitous dash cam widely used in Russia for insurance purposes and a number of smartphones for dispatching and communication plus a navigation system), but no meter. Instead the driver pointed at one smartphone fixed to the windscreen where I recognised an amount in ruble. I later learned that the trip length and fare in Russia are measured with GPS-data in the dispatch centre and then sent on to the driver’s smartphone. Fearing the PHOTO: Wim Faber PHOTO: Wim Faber TAXI COOPERATION IMPROVES COMPETITION IN ST. PETERSBURG A taxi conference is nothing without a visit to a ‘live’ taxi company or dispatching centre. St. Petersburg taxi company ‘Semerochka’, created by director general Alexei Gusev, provides a good example. He and his commercial director Alexandr Olhov, explained to Taxi Times how every day the drivers are medically checked in their facility, which is part of a large Kia dealership. Small wonder then that all cars are Kia’s too. But there is a large variety on offer for the drivers, both large and small Kia models. Another area where drivers are checked is in the behaviour on the road and when it comes to providing service. In each case there is a ranking and being on top of the Top 10 of speeding cabbies is frowned upon. Gusev has not only developed an app for taxis, but also a new fleet, ‘Taxi Seven’: he is sure the cab trade can beat the likes of Yandex, Uber and Get Taxi. It should also be easier, using the app, to share trips between the 42 partner companies. The development programme has taken 2 years and cost the company 10 million rubles, which it hopes to recoup in two to three years’ companies participating in the project time. TaxiSeven. The company sets its own Semerochka is a member of the IRU’s rate for that: “As a rule, it is from 5 to Global Taxi Network and works with 35%” says Gusev. eCab to promote international taxi travel. Gusev is sure that this is the only way to The application has been live in St. Petersburg for two months and, according taxi apps. “If we do not rebuild under compete with the increasingly popular to Gusev, the profitability of the taxi has the new format, in a couple of years increased by 10%. “Our solution makes it the owners of taxis may be left without possible to unite all taxi companies of St. orders at all”, says Alexei Gusev. Petersburg, reduce costs, improve service for passengers and create healthy competition” says Gusev. TaxiSeven includes applications for client and driver, as well as an online resource for the exchange of orders between taxi companies. Even competing taxi companies get work, to ensure that the app system keeps busy all the time. Semerochka gets 10% of the orders given Gusev (left) and Olhov are convinced their business to another taxi company. model is the only way forward for the taxi trade. Partners may also transfer trips and clients to other taxi 16 TAXI OCTOBER / 2015 17

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