Now Meru to offer special services to key customers

09 Feb,2012

By Preethi Chamikutty


From zero to 5,600 radio taxis in under five years, with a presence in four metros to boot, has helped Meru Cabs become the largest such service in the country. With Rs300 crore in revenue, Meru has raced ahead of competitors like Easy Cabs and Mega Cabs, with the company even claiming that it is the third largest radio taxi operator in the world. The sauce of this success is no rocket science, at least on paper: a clean car, a knowledgeable driver, non-negotiable fares and a tamperproof meter.


“You provide these things to the customer and he will be happy,” said Gavin D’abreo, who heads marketing & sales for Meru. This, of course, is just the beginning, and as Rajesh Puri, CEO, pointed out: “This industry is still at a nascent stage and there is a lot of upfront investment that needs to be done. Technology has been a major investment for us to improve our service offerings.”


So what next for Meru, now that it has established a sound base in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru? Well for starters, turning profitable is the priority, with Mr Puri expecting to be in black in three out of four cities at the end of the quarter ending March. Beyond that, identifying new revenue streams by offering specialized services is the way to scale up operations.


Meru, which has partnered with the airports in the cities it operates in, is now testing out a service called Meru Select in Hyderabad. This is aimed at giving its regular users a guarantee of up to 80 per cent of getting a Meru cab when they book for one. The trigger for Meru Select: only 5 per cent of its customer base gives Meru about 60 per cent of its revenues.


“Because of limited inventory, customers have complained to us about the non-availability of cabs when they order for one. We work on first come, first serve basis, but our loyal customers get an additional assurance of getting a cab with Meru Select,” explained Mr D’abreo.


Meru Corporate, aimed at corporate customers who want more than a service from point A to point B as being offered by Meru currently, is another service being tested. Meru Corporate is targeted at executives who have to travel from one meeting to another across the city in a day.


A preloaded plastic card will be given to the eligible executive, which will be swiped by the Meru driver at the end of day’s travel. Some 21 companies have so far expressed interest in this service and Meru is in the process of giving the finishing touches. Other services being planned are transporting kids in absence of their parents as well as a service for medical emergencies.


Also on cards are expansions into Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Vizag. However, such growth won’t come easy. One reason for that are restrictions – fares, distances and licences are regulated by the government. Another hindrance in growth, according to Mr Puri, is finding drivers. And then there’s competition. Mega Cabs, the oldest brand in the radio taxi business, is present in seven cities. Then there’s Easy Cabs -present in four cities – which are available at malls, hotels and even hospitals. Niche services like For She, an exclusive ladies taxi service driven by lady chauffeurs in three cities, are also available.


Yet, there are brands – like Gold Cabs and Star Taxi – that have not been able to survive the tough regulatory environment and the investments that need to be pumped into not just vehicles but the technology back end. Meru estimates the size of the radio taxi business in India at 9,500 cabs across Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru & Hyderabad, which is growing at 50-60 per cent per annum. Nabankur Gupta, founder, Nobby Brand Architects, a brand consultancy, reckons the radio taxi space has tremendous scope for brand building.


“What exists today is commodity service with a name; a brand can be built only if customers come back to a brand for the experience they get. Security and assurance of good service will help build stronger brands in this space,” said Mr Gupta. He suggested having two levels of service offerings – one level is a limousine kind of service, which is about exclusivity and pampering; the second level is the existing sedans that can cater to the mass market. Mr Puri of Meru agrees there is a demand for super premium service in India, but the constraints are not just restricted to acquisition of vehicles. “To have differentiated cabs, there has to be a differentiated pricing system and a backend IT infrastructure to support it. Technology is the most important aspect of our business.”


He adds that evidence of Meru’s tech edge is that its drives can do “six duties a day compared to 2-3 duties of others. Our backend alerts them about the next job nearest to where they are positioned,” explained Mr Puri.


Mr Gupta says in countries like Singapore and Hong Kong radio taxis have made a big difference and have also replaced the public taxi fleet. “Black & yellow taxi drivers should be spoken to and, if they can be taken over, we will have a much better taxi service in our cities,” he suggested.


Source:The Economic Times
Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Post a Comment 

One response to “Now Meru to offer special services to key customers”

  1. whitecabs says:

    White Cabs Provides India’s best and cheapest car rental &
    hire services in Hyderabad. Indica, Quallis, Scorpio, Mercedez, Honda City
    and Innova on rental basis.