Saigon cab firm takes on Uber with unexpected weapon: grapefruit

By Thi Ha   March 17, 2017 | 05:47 am PT
Saigon cab firm takes on Uber with unexpected weapon: grapefruit
Vinasun has launched a new service on taxi trips: selling grapefruit. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Huyen
There's no need to be bitter when you can sell grapefruit to passengers.

With Uber and other app-based car-hailing services becoming increasingly popular in Vietnam, one local taxi firm has decided to improvise in order to give its drivers a competitive edge.

Vinasun, the country’s second biggest taxi firm, has found a way to boost its drivers' incomes by turning 800 cabs in Ho Chi Minh City into mobile grapefruit stalls.

A kilogram of pomelo, a green-skin grapefruit, sells for VND64,000 ($2.81)

“Drivers receive a bonus for selling large quantities of fruit,” a driver said. 

The taxi operator typically keeps 80 percent of the revenue from its grapefruit business and awards the remaining 20 percent to the drivers, said executive officer Ta Long Hy.

Vinasun drivers are making on average between $2 and $4 a day from selling grapefruit, he estimated, adding that the best sellers can add up to $17 to their daily incomes.

Since ride-hailing companies like Uber and Grab appeared on the scene, traditional taxi drivers have seen their incomes rapidly plunging. 

Traditional taxi companies have been lobbying the government for a lower VAT levy to allow them to compete with cab-hailing apps. The government has, however, turned down the request saying there's no grounding to claim traditional taxi companies have to pay higher taxes and fees than their ride-hailing competitors.

Uber and Grab cut into at least 10 percent taxi operators' revenue last year in Ho Chi Minh City, the local association of taxi companies estimated.

The number of private minicabs, mostly offering transportation services via car-hailing apps, has reached 20,000 in Ho Chi Minh City, twice as many as the number of traditional taxis.

Last year Vinasun, which has around 6,000 cabs and operates chiefly in Ho Chi Minh City, launched a counteroffensive against the ride-hailing menace: its own app.

Passengers using Vinasun’s ride-hailing app can easily recognize their minicabs with a 'Vcar' logo, Vinasun's luxury version. They will be offered the option to fix the price at the beginning of a journey rather than rely on the taxi meter, according to Vinasun.

Vinasun Group, which has been listed on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange since 2008, made VND4.3 trillion in revenue ($189 million) last year, down 6 percent from 2015.

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