Taxi app boss ‘obliterating’ traditional service

Chris Elsheikhi, North UK general manager at Gett Taxi. Picture: Jane Barlow
Chris Elsheikhi, North UK general manager at Gett Taxi. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A CONTROVERSIAL taxi firm has sparked a row after its boss boasted that it was “obliterating” the traditional black cab industry.

Gett Taxi, which connects passengers directly with “freelance” drivers, said more than 120,000 people had used its app-based service since it launched in the Capital just three-and-a-half months ago.

It said that made the Capital his firm’s best-performing market in the UK outside of London, with more passengers than any other British location, including Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds.

Chris Elsheikhi, who runs Gett’s operations in Scotland and the north of England, predicted that 70 per cent of black cab drivers in Edinburgh would be working for Gett Taxi within the year.

He said he was in talks to take over contracts for at least two major corporate clients from existing cab firms and said 200 drivers in the city were picking up fares from his app.

But the bold claims were today rubbished by the boss of the Capital’s biggest cab firm Central Taxis, whose drivers, as well as those with City Cabs and Comcab, are banned from accepting work via third-party apps.

Mr Elsheikhi insisted his firm and rival Uber, which offers a similar service, would soon be dominating the city’s taxi market.

He said: “One in five people in the UK own a smartphone, but in Edinburgh that rises to 88 per cent, partly because there are so many students in the city. Edinburgh will end up being the first Gett v Uber city when it comes to taxis.

“We’re not just getting business from people who would have hailed a cab on the street – we’re also getting people who would have rung one of the cab firms previously.

“We’re signing up new drivers all the time. Technology is having an impact on the industry and moving towards obliterating the way people have traditionally booked a taxi.

“This is a company that’s really disrupting the marketplace. Getting a taxi is probably the most mundane thing around, but we’re making it interesting and attractive.”

Gett Taxi launched in the Capital with an offer of £5 capped fares, with passengers now taking advantage of discount codes being handed out in bars during the summer.

But Tony Kenmuir, director at Central Taxis, insisted the rival firm’s business model was not sustainable in the long term and pointed out that his own company has a successful app service.

He said: “Let’s say I set up a stall outside Harvey Nichols and gave away bottles of Chanel No 5,” he said. “I’d expect some people to take a free bottle instead of walking inside to pay for one.

“The question is whether or not my business model is sustainable and I’m a serious, long-term competitor for Harvey Nichols.”

Mr Kenmuir said Gett “aren’t invested in our community” because profits aren’t reinvested in services in Edinburgh, and the firm has just a few staff in the Capital.

He added: “Central Taxis is a non-profit making, co-operative association of 465 local taxis, with 1200 local drivers and we employ around 80 local staff in our offices.

“We only exist to gather in the work and distribute it to the drivers who collectively own the company.

“We don’t think in terms of obliterating anybody; we’re just working together to provide a safe, reliable service to our community and earn our livelihood as a collective of local business people.”

Gett, which has announced plans to expand into providing other time-saving services via its app including takeaway and dry cleaning delivery, has published figures which show a 300 per cent year-on-year growth around the globe.

Controversial global brand Uber is expected to launch in the Capital imminently, and has already been granted permission by the council for a dispatch office in Edinburgh.