Webit Story, Taxi Apps of Istanbul and Some Pictures

Eugene Suslo
Oct 07, 2014

Marcos and I just got back from Istanbul where the Webit Congress took place. The event was really good and full of great people. It took place in the amazing facility right at the seaside of the modern european part of the city. Combine that with turkish hospitality and delightful food in an endless number of restaurants and you get the picture.

Webit, Istanbul

 

TaxiStartup was one of the semi-finalists of the Founders Games and we had a table where we met lots of interesting people and made a bunch of contacts. What I personally appreciate about that conference is that it like no other gathers the people from America, Europe, East and Middle-East. There where plenty of interesting and significant speakers, and generally I enjoyed their presentations, but some could have been richer on unique views and content.

 

Dr. Yaser Bishr, Executive Director of Strategy and Development at Al Jazeera Media Network

 

Enough said, let’s get back to our taxis.

The market of mobile booking apps in Istanbul is represented by Bitaksi and Uber. Bitaksi is focused solely on taxis, while Uber provides a chauffeur driven brand new white Mercedes E-class. Uber has a capacity of 25 cars, however only 4–5 cars are on the roads at any given time, thus considering that Istanbul is a huge city (I mean HUGE) with a lot of traffic (and I mean A LOT) you can easily wait for an hour for your ride. And since Uber doesn’t have a pre-booking that makes it not very usable. Have you ever heard about “on-demand ride in 40 min”? Me neither. Uber is not perfect and very much vulnerable as they try to expand quickly. Only a few days ago they have announced push notifications, a feature that has been offered to the TaxiStartup customers for quite some time.

Uber just introduced push notifications

 

Bitaksi has quite a lot of cars. The map in their application shows a crazy amount of pins, while the actual number varies from 350 to 3000 cars depending on who you are talking to. Our personal experience is that you can always quickly find a taxi in the city center, however you can’t adjust your address or pick a POI, and I wasn’t sure whether we were calling a taxi to the right place, since GPS could be wrong. A taxi driver was 1 min away, however he choose to go around the highway probably for some errand, then was going back and forth somewhere nearby but eventually didn’t arrive – cancelled after 10–15 min waiting. He also should have called, but probably was scared of the international phone number. Even though they use some advanced map data from the local provider (actually they use Yandex api, which uses that local provider API) it still needs some improvements.
Bitaksi shows driver’s picture, name, rating (why? it’s not like you can choose a driver) and vehicle’s number plate. Taxis are everywhere in the center of Istanbul, so mobile booking app is not required there. There has been at least 5 taxis passing by while we were waiting for a Bitaksi driver. However I think that is not the case in the distant parts (and the old city where taxi driver will bleed you white) since as I mentioned Istanbul is huge and hosts about 20mil people and there is only 18.000 taxis. For comparison there is 8 mil people in Lima and 150.000 taxis. The reason is the government regulations. Similar to New York instead of medallions they have plate numbers and the total number of taxis is limited while the limit is met. Again similar to NYC that brought a price for the plate to an insane EUR400.000. Combined with the fact that only individuals are able to own a taxi plate number and only one that leads to all sorts of weird stuff like owners lease plates to the companies, companies lease to drivers, who have it for 24h, so they drive for 12h and lease to another driver for the other 12. Yeah, I know. And no contracts, obviously. So when you are in a taxi in Istanbul remember that you never know who is responsible at the end.
 
Taxi in Istanbul

 

Despite of a few difficulties the market is still very interesting for many, and there are at least 4 other players who are thinking about competing with Bitaksi. Since Istambul is still rapidly developing it looks like a good time to enter the game.

 

15 meter yacht parking right next to the night club

 

Our team will be looking closely on how the Turkish market develops. I can’t disclose anything at that point, but just say we have some plans for it.
 

 

Regards,
Co-founder, Eugene Suslo