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Uber launches on-demand transportation service in Bangkok

AFTER CONDUCTING a soft launch for the past month, Uber, a US-based technology company providing an on-demand transportation service via a mobile application, yesterday officially launched its service in Bangkok.

Founded in 2009, Uber was first launched in San Francisco in 2010 and now has a presence in 35 countries worldwide, including 20 cities in 11 Asian countries. Thailand is the latest market to be penetrated.

The concept of Uber is to connect drivers with vehicles for hire with passengers via the Uber app and network.

Uber recruits drivers into its network - both those working for transportation companies and individual drivers who have a commercial driving licence.

On the passenger side, Uber encourages users to download its app, which is available both via iOS and Android, and then use its service for pick-ups around the city.

Sam Gellman, head of Asia Expansion at the company, said Bangkok - being such a large and fast-growing city - was a good market for Uber's service.

"We want to be in every big city in Asia. We only stepped into Asia last year, in Singapore, and now we have a Uber service in 20 cities - and we will keep on expanding," he said.

The fare for using the Uber service is 1.5 to 2 times higher than for normal metered taxis in Bangkok, and starts at Bt45 per journey.

The fare is calculated by both distance and time, at Bt9.20 per kilometre and Bt2.50 per minute, respectively.

At this initial stage, passengers are required to pay the fare by credit card or by Bangkok Bank debit card. However, the company is working to expand payment methods, he added.

"We offer a choice of transportation for those people in Bangkok who prefer not to grab a taxi. Ours is more of a premium service than a normal taxi. We offer luxury vehicles such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Mercedez-Benz E-Class, with good drivers, in order to provide passengers with a good experience when using Uber service," said Gellman.

The company gets a 20-per-cent cut of the transaction value from drivers, which covers the cost of marketing and investing in the technology platform.

Currently, Uber service is available in more than 80 big cities around the world.

Gellman said Uber was now planning to recruit three people to join its local team in Bangkok, including a general manager.

Uber itself does not own or operate vehicles, nor does it employ drivers.

With the Uber app, it helps licensed transportation companies to utilise their unoccupied vehicles to take jobs requested by Uber's passengers, he explained.

"Since we offer a premium choice for people, we do not compete with local taxi services and airport and hotel limousines. On the other hand, we work with them to help them utilise their unoccupied vehicles via our service," said Gellman.

Uber has two classes of service: Uber Black, a premium service, and Uber X, a lower-priced and affordable service for the mass market.

For now, it has only launched Uber Black in Bangkok, he said, adding that it had not yet decided which other Thai cities it wished to expand into.


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