UK MD of Volkswagen-backed taxi app Gett on accelerating away from rivals while driving business
9 min read
27 October 2016
To mark the launch of our Black Cab Entrepreneurs series in partnership with taxi app Gett, we sat down with the company’s MD of Western Europe, Remo Gerber, for the first of our backseat video interviews.
Transport in London has changed greatly over the past few years. The most notable developments include the rise of on-demand taxi app bookings and ride sharing, the removal of cash payments on buses, and the long-delayed arrival of the night tube.
And while taxis and double-decker buses are arguably chief among iconic vehicles in the city, that hasn’t stopped the rise of Uber.
Gett, meanwhile, is using Uber-esque technology, but doing so in a way that benefits London’s cabbies. It means consumers and businesses alike are able to use the Gett taxi app to book taxis and track vehicle whereabouts, while cab drivers are able to meet the needs of today’s connected customers.
Gett’s UK MD Remo Gerber told Real Business exactly how he defines the business and the company’s mission. “Gett is a very innovative, fast-moving company. We’re a mobility, transportation and on-demand company with a big vision,” he said.
He noted that the company is “redefining how mobility works” and said the London operation of the taxi app business is “very proud”.
Having launched out of Israel, Gett now serves some 25 cities across the UK, in addition to boasting operations in the US and Russia. And in five years of service, the company has exploded, according to Gerber.
“In the last five years, we’ve gone from zero to a half a billion-dollar company – especially in the last two years,” he said. He recalled the challenges of explaining the proposition to drivers, detailing a “why would we need this?” type of attitude, but evidently it’s one that has long passed based on the firm’s nationwide expansion.
“In the beginning it was the chicken and egg situation, where if you don’t have enough drivers, no matter what you want to do to incentivise customers, it can be an off-turning experience,” Gerber detailed.
He explained that the relationship between the taxi app and the drivers has evolved, however.
“Over time the relationship has become stronger. There have been some challenges of course, so there’s been listening on both sides. We have a strong point of view that we need to drive the industry forward.
Clearly, Uber is one of its main competitors, so the subject moved onto the US business, which has been keen to make its presence in the UK felt. Gerber admitted that there are similarities, but also major differences that set the taxi app apart from Uber.
“I would say we have a different audience, but also an overlapping audience. We have a very discerning audience that really likes black cabs and knows what they stand for – speed of travel, quality of drivers and safety at night,” he said.
“On the other hand, there’s also an overlap of people using a combination of both. People using a black cab in many cases as a professional tool for business or [Uber when] they have to get a train and so on. Our job is to make sure this is not the case and ultimately it’s all [travelling] in black cabs,” Gerber continued.
Find out how Gerber responded to our quick-fire questions in the video below:
Another element on the consumer side that Gerber is proud of is the ability to pre-book a taxi for any time within a two-week period. But when it comes to the corporate side of Gett’s business, which sees a service provided to large law firms, consultancies, Uber isn’t a worry for Gerber.
“On the corporate side we don’t see Uber as a competitor,” he said. “There are way more conversations versus Addison Lee, as we’re really coming in with a taxi proposition to compete with Addison Lee’s offering.”
Calling Gett’s corporate business a “full end-to-end solution”, everyone from partners to PAs can book and track journeys, which Gerber noted simplifies internal billing and invoicing.
Transportation of passengers is the biggest area of Gett’s operation, but it’s certainly not the only one. With Gett Courier, the firm has shipped everything from Veuve Clicquot champagne to salads from Chop’d across London, before eventually realising (a) not everyone wants a salad for lunch and (b) Removing strict parameters offers customers more variety.
“What we built just over a year ago was a very versatile platform to start offering more products and services to our customers. Of course, the champagne was a great launch experiment and the first one to create something that’s very desirable – a cold bottle of champagne with two glasses in ten minutes at a very competitive price,” said Gerber.
“The bigger principle behind that is the global on-demand economy. So when you look at the taxi on-demand economy in the four markets we’re in, you’re talking about a $30bn market – that’s big. If you look at an on-demand economy, it’s about a $300bn economy in those four markets.
“The next milestone we launched was the point-to-point delivery option. Now through the app you can order a courier and deliver something from A to B – we don’t care what you’re delivering. Rather than define the product, it’s very easy for users to send things around,” he said, reeling off items such as laptops, passports and keys.
Like Uber and food delivery rival Deliveroo, Gett has had its fair share of institutional funding. The black taxi operator secured a huge $300m investment from Volkswagen in May, which Gerber said will continue expansion while teasing the companies’ shared vision for “very big plans”.
As for whether the night tube will be a problem for the business, Gerber isn’t convinced, and is hopeful it may actually stunt the growth of Uber. “It’s a brilliant thing for Londoners, but people wanting cabs will continue to use them. The night tube will be two lines initially and five lines later on, but London has a very diversified transportation need and it will not solve all of them.
“I think it will have a big impact, but equally people are using taxis during the day when the tube is working – if anything, it might shift the balance because now it may make more of a difference at the lower end of the market. So people who are getting into cheaper options such as mini cabs and so on might make a bigger shift onto the tube in that market segment, versus people who like the quality and service of a black cab.