“Hailo works with the UK’s licensed and trustworthy taxi drivers, and approves each driver individually”, it says on the Hailo-homepage.
But recently the app, which is reputed to have signed up roughly two-thirds of London’s 26.000 taxi drivers, confirmed it is also interested in recruiting private hire drivers of which there are many more in the British capital (over 60.000). This recently led to a violent backlash against the app, which had gained popularity for only recruiting black cab-drivers. Some taxis prominently displaying the Hailo-logo and the company’s London offices were vandalised. In an open letter to the ‘driver community’ by Ron Zeghibe, co-founder and chairman, Hailo points out that, as it is now a global business, Hailo has to prepare for actions from new players: “These companies are not always playing by the rules and the rules are not always being enforced, yet they are popular amongst passengers and they’re taking customers away from traditional taxis in their thousands. Drivers like you are losing their livelihoods because passengers are moving to apps that don’t offer taxis as an option. It’s happening in London. Let’s do something about it.” Zeghibe points out that when Hailo was started (by London cabbies) it was a straight fight between private hire (the London minicabs) and the licensed taxis. “The easy option is to pretend nothing has changed – that taxis can somehow win by going it alone. But that would be to fail the industry and every driver in it. Instead, we will do whatever it takes to grow work for taxi drivers and keep black cabs relevant to the changing demands of passengers and businesses.” So Hailo has applied for a private hire operator’s licence, in order to further improve its coverage in the executive account sector: “There is no point burying our heads in the sand – people want a choice and taxis need to be in the mix. A taxi-only app will get isolated and customers will take their money to services without any cabs on offer. It is already happening. Let’s win back that work.”
“Taxis will always be front and centre of Hailo”, Zeghibe concludes. “Together we’ve done over five million jobs and this is just the start. Let’s move with the times and work out how to win together.”
Meanwhile GetTaxi was quick to issue a statement that it would only do business with licensed taxi drivers: We’re proud to only work with iconic black taxis and drivers with the knowledge to make sure our service is safe, reliable and made of the best.”
• GetTaxi hopes to exploit Hailo’s change of tack: these Hailo-cabs might be less popular on London’s ranks.