Apps leaving oldschool drivers in the dust

December, 04/2016 - 09:00

Đinh Trần Hiếu, 23, is a fresh graduate who has taken up work as a Grabbike driver while waiting for a full time job. For him, driving for Grabbike is beneficial in a number of ways.

Viet Nam News

by Mộc Miên

Đinh Trần Hiếu, 23, is a fresh graduate who has taken up work as a Grabbike driver while waiting for a full time job. For him, driving for Grabbike is beneficial in a number of ways.

“I just need a motorbike in good condition, a smartphone, and after doing some administrative procedures, I can become a Grabbike driver. I can even make money from the first day of work.” Hiếu said.

“It’s much better than the traditional motorbike taxi service. I don’t have to stay in one place and wait for customers. With just a Grab app, I can reach customers anywhere I go,” he added.

In reality, Grabbike and UberMoto have been successful in attacking traditional motorbike taxi drivers. Normally, traditional drivers in a particular area are local residents who sit with their bikes on the pavement and carry customers within the area to anywhere they want. But now, Grabbike and UberMoto drivers don’t need their own waiting spot, they can sit anywhere even in a café and catch customers through the mobile applications.

“It’s hard for a traditional driver to attract customers along the road because of the customer’s fear of insecurity. But if they stay in one place, they cannot generate enough income. Grabbike and UberMoto allow drivers to reach more customers and make them feel secure,” Nguyễn Thu Linh, an office worker, said.

Linh’s opinion is common among the rising number of users. They also mention that the prices offered by Grabbike or UberMoto are lower.

“Using traditional services is less convenient for those who don’t like bargaining or calculating the distance. Grabbike or UberMoto have fixed prices for a certain trip, which makes it easier for both customers and drivers. Not to mention that for short trips, for example, under 2 kilometres, a traditional driver will start the engine at VND25,000-30,000, much higher than Grabbike or UberMoto services,” Linh added.

Though prices listed by Grabbike or UberMoto seem relatively low, their drivers still make decent money, because the waiting time is shorter so the number of trips increases. Each day, Hiếu can make around VND200,000-300,000, which is a good amount compared to other jobs.

“Because of low transportation fees, customers often give me a tip, so the total money I make in a month is rather high,” Hiếu said.

Despite the benefits, Grabbike and UberMoto drivers are exposed to as many risks as traditional drivers, sometimes even more. Grabbike or UberMoto drivers have to travel to pick up customers so it’s common for the customer to cancel. Sometimes they cannot make contact with the customers, so time, money, and fuel are wasted.

Customers reneging on payment is another issue. Nguyễn Duy Mạnh, a senior student who drives for Grabbike, said, “One day I drove a man to an apartment building. He said that he was going in to get money to pay me, but I waited for a long time and he never came back. I couldn’t contact him again.”

The convenience that Grabbike offers, especially on the narrow streets of Hà Nội, are undeniable, but not everyone welcomes the technological innovation, particularly “traditional” xe ôm or motorbike taxi drivers who don’t own smartphones.

Some of them complain that this new form of high-tech motorbike taxi driver has affected their livelihoods, with incomes significantly reduced.

“I haven’t had any customers for six hours, after parking my motorbike here since early morning,” said 62-year-old Đặng Xuân Sơn. Sơn is the main breadwinner for his family of four and has worked as a motorbike taxi driver in Nghĩa Tân Ward in Cầu Giấy District for 10 years.  

He said working as a “traditional” motorbike taxi driver is very hard now due to the severe competition with Grabbikers. Sơn’s main customers now are people without smartphones or the elderly who have not caught up with technology. He himself does not either possess or know how to use a smartphone.

“I used to have some loyal foreign customers, but don’t see them these days. They might book their driver through Grabbike now,” he said. “I don’t know how I will be able to support my family in the years to come.”

The familiar sight of the motorbike taxi drivers on every Hà Nội street corner might be lost someday, when tech-savvy customers switch completely to Grabbike and other transport apps. It would be sad, but it is part of the inevitable technological trend, with new developments changing our lives everyday. VNS