‘It’s become a mug’s game in London to play fair,’ says Hailo co-founder Ron Zeghibe

The ongoing taxi war between black cabs and transport apps such as Uber has meant that in London it has “become a mug’s game to play fair", according to Hailo co-founder and chairman Ron Zeghibe.

Speaking at Hailo’s inaugural press event #FutureLondon, where the taxi app announced a raft of new platforms and features and a new focus on business clients, Zeghibe said that the lack of regulation around the onslaught of new ride-sharing apps means the public interest will be shaped by the companies rather than the government.

“We need local government to redefine the public interest in terms of personal transportation based on the new technologies,” he stressed. “But the change being caused by the new technologies is too rapid and profound for the current legal and legislative processes to cope with in real time.

"Without the enforcement of current regulations and directors, the new tech companies will end up defining the public interest in the London market going forward whether we like it or not.”

He went on to say that players in the market should not be allowed to “pick and mix” regulation to suit their business model while “some players have to, or choose to, obey the rules in full. It’s become a mug’s game in London to play fair.”

Zeghibe took a swipe at Uber and stated that Hailo believes in “constructive disruption” and is using technology to improve the taxi service as whole, rather than “destroying what already exists”.

The company, which is celebrating its third birthday, announced its ambitions for focussing on business customers using black cabs, and said it will do this through new innovations such as a refreshed app and website. Hailo also revealed that it would begin operating in Liverpool, Leeds and Singapore.

Via one of the newly announced functionalities, dubbed Pay with Hailo, users will now be able to hail a cab on the street and pay using their Hailo account when using any of its 14,000 strong fleet of cars. The company has also partnered with Apple to use its iBeacon technology to push notifications to users.

Additionally, customers will be able to switch between business and personal card accounts with Hailo for Business, while the newly introduced Hailo Hub allows multiple bookings for clients, guests and customers.

Also speaking at the event was Gary Bramall, the recently appointed chief marketing officer, who announced that Hailo has partnered with Harrods and Citizen M for the launch of Hailo Hub, said that the expansion into Asia signifies the next step on the Hailo journey.

“Asia in particular signals a market where we can start to see car ownership becoming a thing of the past as we find faster, cheaper more efficient ways to support an increase in city migration and tackle wider world environmental issues.”

The expansion announcement comes after Hailo recently pulled out of its operation in North America as it struggled to compete with Uber and Lyft and the lack of regulation governing the taxi business.

Speaking to The Drum, Tom Barr, Hailo chief executive said that he actually felt “liberated” when he made the decision to terminate in the US and Canada.

“It was very liberating; we could continue to fight and fight and fight in that market but I looked and we were not making much, if any, money there.”

Barr revealed that Hailo will eventually return to North America “when it sorts itself out”.

“In America the regulatory environment is more dispersed; it doesn’t have the same relationship with the industry that we see in Europe and Asia… It’s always an open door but right now it doesn’t make sense for us.”

Barr said that in Europe and the new Asian market Hailo is “very well connected” and has “done a lot” with the governments in France, Spain and Ireland in particular.

As part of its new focus on the business customer, Barr said that it is working on a campaign that will be geared towards the B2B market, and it will not be advertising on billboards or rolling out a consumer campaign.

Hailo also announced the findings of its recent research into the changing nature of people’s relationship with the city through technology.

The Hailo Future Cities report identified key trends such as the fact that one in seven people in the UK (14 per cent) claim they now book all of their transport via their smartphone. The study also found that people in the UK are becoming more reliant on their smartphone for navigation with one in six (16 per cent) claiming they would be unable to get around an unknown city without using a navigation app.

The ride-sharing app also said that it is “ripping up the rule book” when it comes to Hailo for Business, and is shunning all additional fees that rival cabs place on corporate accounts such as administration fees and obligatory gratuity.

Last month, Bramall told The Drum that he will avoid the “aggressive” marketing tactics of Uber as he plans his roadmap for Hailo.

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