Jeremy Butler (Independent Taxi & Private Hire Consultant) provided a great kick-off for the 2015 TAXIintell Update conference, drawing his knowledge from 20 years working in the UK’s private hire (Addison-Lee), taxi (One Transport/RTG) and app-sector (Hailo). Below is a summary.
Butler started off by saying that he wondered why everyone is suddenly so interested in his work in the taxi sector: “Our industry has never been more high-profile than now. Most of the past 15 years people knew that I worked in the taxi and private hire area, and didn’t particularly care. The last two years suddenly everybody wants to know. What’s happening with Uber…..Things have changed rapidly. There’s a lot of passion in the trade. It’s also a very emotive industry.”
Race to the top: For 200 years the black cabs have been utterly dominant. Some measurements still based on hackney cab. Iconic. About 10 years ago, London had its own ‘taxi wars’ and private hire broke that virtual taxi monopoly. From 2001 the local London regulator created a level playing field and there was choice. There was choice and also greed, especially in the black taxi trade. In 10 years the private hire sector took over – even in the corporate sector. It was all a question of price. And now there’s change again, the e-hail industry. Uber is challenging the taxi and private hire industry. It is easy to get sucked into their marketing and they would like us to believe that Uber is unstoppable. But is their business model sustainable? Is it a corporate product? Uber doesn’t have a product for the corporate market. At least not in the UK. There’s always been room for a low-cost and a low-quality product.
Race to the bottom: Monopolies do not work. Consumers demand choice. I passionately believe in this industry, and that we give choice. They’ve spent a gazillion dollars and they’ve done our work for us. Now everyone knows about the taxi industry. It’s up to us to exploit that. After years of underinvesting we’ve caught up. Service is the key. But we also have to accept change. Our industry is not exempt from change, just because it is historic. We have to change with it. I have had to change. Now there’s consolidation, there’s aggregation…. Last week in London I hosted a breakfast for about 30 taxi and private hire suppliers. Before they would gladly have stabbed each other, but now they have realised they have to work together.
Consumer behaviour: Let’s take a quick look at the shared economy, companies like AirBnb. In London two platforms have just opened to pool trips and passengers. But human nature is: people don’t like to share. We already had that software way back at Addison-Lee. People don’t like to share taxi space. There is more than one market globally.
The cream always rises to the top. I believe that we will see it through. As an industry I believe we are strong enough. My message is: stay strong as suppliers, as an industry, because quality will always win out.
- Jeremy Butler: “Stay strong. Quality will always win.”