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Ride-hailing services transform Vietnam's transport culture

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(29 Jun 2017) LEAD IN:Vietnam's motorbike taxis are seeing their business dry up as customers increasingly opt for ride hailing services like Uber and Grab-Taxi. In some cases motorbike taxi drivers are venting their anger in attacks on the new competitors. STORY-LINE: Nguyen Kim Lan used to make a decent living shuttling customers around Hanoi on his Honda motorbike. But his clientele has dwindled as young and tech-savvy Vietnamese increasingly use ride-hailing apps like Uber and Grab to summon cheaper, safer motorbike taxis.The expansion of the ride-hailing services across Southeast Asia has shaken up traditional motorcycle taxi services that are a key source of informal work for people like Lan, who says his income has fallen to just 20 to 30 percent of what it used to be. "Nowadays, my frequent customers all book Grab and Uber, they don't come here anymore, before, office workers after their office hours they would come here for a ride, but now they just sit at their office and are picked up at the door," he says. As elsewhere in the region, motorbikes are Vietnam's main form of transportation, especially in the capital and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. They can manoeuvre through crowded, narrow city streets more easily than cars and are less expensive to buy and run.Having invaded the conventional taxi market, ride hailing apps like Uber and Malaysia-based Grab are now elbowing aside motorbike taxis, called Xe Om, with their UberMoto and GrabBike services.Vietnam, a communist-ruled country of 93 million, has about 45 million motorbikes, the highest rate of motorcycle ownership per capita in Southeast Asia. Some 3.1 million new motorbikes were sold last year. Practically everyone has mobile phones, and cheap Internet access has enabled most Vietnamese city dwellers to get online. Nguyen Tuan Anh, chairman of Grab Vietnam says the company has seen a sharp increase of GrabBike drivers from 100 when they first launched in late 2014 to more than 50,000, with more than 100 drivers joining every day."There are a lot of people who need this service as passengers and they can't afford the price that has been charging them and it's not fair for them when you travel a short distance and you will be overcharged. So GrabBike brings transparency to that and that's why customers love it. They know that they are not being cheated by the drivers and that should be the way, that's the product that the market wants." But Tuan Anh knows of more than 100 cases where GrabBike drivers were attacked in the past year, often by Xe Om drivers worried about losing business. Bus stations, hospitals and schools are hotspots for conflict. In one case, a GrabBike driver was stabbed in the lung. In another, police fired warning shots to disperse crowds of Xe Om and GrabBike drivers who were battling near a bus station in Ho Chi Minh.Similar problems have been reported in Thailand and Indonesia. Tuan Anh says GrabBike tells its drivers to be cautious and to seek help from police. Many Vietnamese seem keen to use such services despite the potential for conflict.Tran Thuc Anh, a 21-year-old video games designer, says she switched to using GrabBike to commute from bus stations to and from her office about six months ago.It costs her half as much as using Xe Om did, she says. "GrabBike is very convenient, I just need to be online to book a bike without going around to look for a traditional Xe Om, it's therefore is very convenient."Many GrabBike drivers originally worked as Xe Om. Not all are willing to sign up. Older motorbike taxi drivers say they don't know how to use online apps or lack the cash to buy smart phones. Others are put off by the cheaper fares GrabBike charges. You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4103858 afa6732d5734132ba18dce750e4a91b7 HZ Vietnam Grab Bike Ho Chi Minh Vietnam Southeast Asia Hanoi Business
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