|Click and go: More people, regardless of age or occupation, are using app-based motorbike taxi services like Uber and Grab. VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng|
HCM CITY – With companies such as Grab or Uber, it’s never been easier to summon a motorbike taxi (xe ôm).
Motorbike taxi services are used not only by tech-savvy riders of any age but also by many millennials who love having a convenient ride home amid rush-hour traffic.
Compared to traditional xe ôm services, GrabBike and UberMoto offer more benefits, including reasonable prices, convenient booking, cleaner helmets, transparent receipts and no bargaining.
“I feel safer when I know who’s giving me a ride in advance – what their name is and how they look and what their bike plates are,” Trần Quý, 24, a frequent user of UberMoto, told Việt Nam News.
Since complaints and suggestions can be sent to the companies’ service centres and most are handled professionally, who wouldn’t like grabbing their phone and using the service right away?
Besides app users, motorbike taxi drivers who have signed up for the service have more opportunities to pick up passengers and earn stable incomes.
Tám Lắm, a customer from Thừa Thiên Huế Province, visited HCM City and booked a motorbike taxi at Miền Đông Bus Station in Bình Thạnh District to District 12.
“If I were to get a traditional xe ôm, it would cost me VNĐ200,000 (US$8.9) to take me and my wife on one bike to District 12. But with GrabBike, I can save half the cost and we each have our own ride,” he told Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper.
To book a motorbike taxi, users download the app, choose the pick-up and drop-off destinations, and wait for a confirmation call. Most available xe ôm drivers in the area can reach riders within 10 minutes.
Since there are more than two companies that offer app-based motorbike taxi services, the price is competitive, giving passengers more incentives to choose one service over another.
Specifically, while GrabBike takes VNĐ12,000 (US$0.5) for the first three kilometres and VNĐ3,800 (US$0.17) for each kilometre afterwards, Uber charges VNĐ3,700 (US$0.16) for each kilometre plus VNĐ200 (US$0.009) each minute.
Uber’s minimum charge per round is VNĐ10,000 (US$0.44) and its cancellation cost is VNĐ5,000 (US$0.22).
Xe ôm is a familiar mode of transportation in big cities such as HCM City and Hà Nội, due to its convenience and costs.
It is preferrable for people who travel short distances and want to avoid crowded streets at peak hours.
Because local demand for the xe ôm is high and the job requires nothing but a driver with a bike and a driving license, more people, especially those with low incomes, are joining the business.
Technically, anyone can be a xe ôm driver. But with Uber or Grab, anyone from a university student to an office worker can do the job without necessarily thinking that they can live on the earnings.
Fierce competition between app-based drivers and traditional xe ôm drivers has made it difficult for traditional drivers to earn much.
Nguyễn Văn Cường, a traditional xe ôm driver whose wife is a factory worker, said that he could no longer make enough money to pay rent or buy enough milk for his children.
“If I can’t earn VNĐ200,000 per day, I’m on fire.” he said.
Tốt, Cường’s colleague, said that he used to have many passengers, including housewives going to the market every morning and office workers to eateries every afternoon.
“I used to earn enough to cover my family’s monthly expenses and even more to go drinking with friends every day. Now I only make enough to have a drink once a week,” he said.
Multiple clashes have occurred between app-based motorbike taxi drivers and traditional ones near Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport and bus stations, where traditional xe ôm drivers tend to pick up passengers.
Since services provided by GrabBike and UberMoto are arguably better than their counterparts, more people have switched to calling for motorbike taxis via apps.
Thus, traditional motorbike taxis need to step up their game to refrain from getting kicked off the streets.
In fact, many of the drivers have chosen to become a part of Grab and Uber.
As Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday is approaching, the demand for xe ôm rides has increased significantly, with more people needing to shop for the holidays.
Cường, who began to lose money as a traditional xe ôm driver, said that he had recently joined the app game.
“This Tết, I’m able to buy presents for relatives in my hometown. My children will be having new clothes as well!” he said. – VNS