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Seamless app experience, lower fare with Gojek booking

SINGAPORE — It was with heightened anticipation that I proceeded to book my first Gojek ride on Thursday (Nov 29) evening, hours after the Indonesian ride-hailing firm’s beta (or prototype) service launched here.

Seamless app experience, lower fare with Gojek booking

TODAY Senior Journalist Kenneth Cheng puts Gojek's beta, or prototype, mobile application to the test.

SINGAPORE — It was with heightened anticipation that I proceeded to book my first Gojek ride on Thursday (Nov 29) evening, hours after the Indonesian ride-hailing firm’s beta (or prototype) service launched here.

After downloading the mobile application and feeding in my credit card details, I booked a ride at about 7.20pm from the Mediacorp Campus near Buona Vista to Forum the Shopping Mall along Orchard Road.

The fare for the 6km journey? S$7.

I decided to save the S$5 voucher given to me as a DBS Bank cardholder for another ride next time, in order to compare prices across different operators fairly for this assignment.

As part of Gojek’s partnership with the Singapore bank, customers of DBS or POSB will receive perks including a S$10 voucher credit, which they may use on their first two trips (S$5 a trip).

In the first few weeks of the beta app launch, there will be no dynamic pricing, where fares rise when demand goes up.

Within a minute of my request for a ride, a driver accepted my booking, but I was slightly taken aback that he was 11 minutes away. Perhaps, it was because not too many drivers around my pick-up point were using the app yet.

By comparison, the estimated waiting time on Grab, the dominant ride-hailing player, was five minutes, but the trip would have cost slightly more at S$10.

A ComfortDelGro taxi was the priciest, at an estimated S$12 to S$15.50 by the meter, or S$15 for the flat-fare option.

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The Gojek driver arrived about 10 minutes later, just a minute short of the specified time. He gave his name as just Mr Tan J C.

It turned out that my photojournalist colleague Nuria Ling and I were the first passengers the 42-year-old picked up since he turned on the app after 4pm on Thursday.

Gojek said that its service is being rolled out to “batches” of users to balance ride demand and service capabilities, with DBS clients receiving priority on the waitlist.

The firm has also trotted out several incentives for drivers, including promising them minimum earnings of S$30 for every hour they have the app running during peak periods, and S$15 for non-peak hours.

Drivers also earn a minimum of S$20 for every trip they complete on Thursday and Friday.

Despite my S$7 fare, Mr Tan received S$16, after Gojek took its 20-per-cent commission.

Mr Tan, who also uses Grab, said that he signed up for Gojek because he wanted an alternative, so that he did not have to be a “slave” to Grab alone.

He said Gojek’s app for drivers is quite similar to Grab’s in terms of design, and drivers ought to give it “some time” as it is new.

He plans to keep using the app so long as it eventually imposes dynamic pricing and provides good incentives.

After the 10-minute ride to Orchard Road, I was shown a breakdown of the fare and an option to rate the driver, similar to how the Grab app runs.

All in all, Gojek appears to be a reliable alternative for commuters, and the app was generally responsive and fuss-free from start to end.

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The fare was low for the distance travelled, but given that the firm is exploring dynamic pricing at a later time, the price gaps could narrow between the rival ride-hailing firms over time.

For now, Gojek’s beta service covers more than half of Singapore, including the Central Business District, Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Buona Vista, Clementi, Changi, Jurong East, Punggol, and Sentosa. Users have to start and end their journeys within the areas covered.

While this may be inconvenient if I were travelling outside the designated areas — to Bukit Batok, for example — I may simply take public transport, or hail a taxi or use Grab if I am in a hurry.

Transport economist Walter Theseira from the Singapore University of Social Sciences believes that Gojek decided to limit the areas it covers initially to ensure that user experience, such as the time taken to match rides, will be as good as — if not better — than Grab’s.

“I suspect they’re quite concerned that if they try to compete on the entire market, there may be teething problems… people may have difficulty making a booking, it may take a long time for drivers to be matched, drivers may have to drive a long distance, and so on.

“All of these problems, if they occur, would be disastrous, because once you create the impression that the app isn’t as good, you may not be able to grow very well.”

Still, those who live or work outside the designated zones could find the coverage restrictive.

Having said that, commuters are the winners at least in the coming weeks. There are perks for DBS customers — numbering more than 5 million here — and there are no dynamic fares, so they should savour it while it lasts.

 

AT A GLANCE: WHAT RIDERS CAN EXPECT

  • In the first few weeks, dynamic pricing — a model used by rival firms such as Grab — will not be adopted and fares will be distance-based, Gojek said. It is exploring introducing dynamic pricing at a later date to be determined.

  • The minimum fare for Gojek rides is S$6. Its base fare is S$2.70, and rate per kilometre travelled is 65 cents. It will not add a per-minute charge as other companies in the industry do.

  • By contrast, Grab’s JustGrab fixed-fare service and GrabCar private-hire car service do not have minimum fares, and charge a base fare of S$2.50 and a 50-cent per-kilometre rate. There is also a 16-cent per-minute rate.

  • The selected districts in Singapore covered by Gojek were chosen based on population density. Coverage will be enlarged progressively through the beta phase — which will last several weeks — until the service is available islandwide.

  • The beta app can be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores

  • When registering to use the app, DBS or POSB customers, who are given priority, may enter an access code — “DBS” followed by the first six digits of their Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card.

  • These bank customers will be the first users to be allowed to book rides. Other commuters who are not the bank’s customers may download the app during this test phase, but may take longer to gain access to the service.

  • The company will use feedback from drivers and riders to fine-tune the product.

 

 

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