Hailing a new era: how Taxicode is targeting agents
(Published in TTG – 29.09.14)
Ten years ago, Taxicode founder Jonathan Kettle had already embarked on a career in travel technology – briefly installing software on servers for the Galileo GDS.
Following that, he built up an SEO agency and three years ago returned to travel tech with Taxicode, and its network of 10,000 minicabs operating in 400 towns and cities in the UK.
The company is poised to sign a partnership with a GDS, as well as a major player in the expense management software market; and it has also just become an Abta partner.
So why has it taken three years to target travel agents? The key is the network. Kettle says he wanted to build up a reliable base of taxi companies, via consumers. “We’ve built up a robust network of 400 companies across the UK, and we’ve been capturing feedback as to how they perform, with 10,000 reviews so far, and how fast they respond to feedback.
“If they get bad reviews and miss their performance targets we will drop them from the network; if they miss a pick-up, or we receive a complaint we fine them.”
Kettle claims Taxicode is the only online national taxi booking service. Currently, 95% of Taxicode’s business is B2C, but Kettle is aiming for 95% B2B business within two years.
Kettle likens the business model to that of eBay. Different taxi companies can load their own prices into the system, for example using a price per mile model. Users type in their destinations, and only the companies rated at least eight (out of 10) are entered into an automatic bidding process. Agents can use the API for free, or simply set up an account on the website.
PDF receipts can be issued for agents’ customers, as confirmation for the driver, and overbranded with their logo, while the price can be left out – as agents will simply add their margin to the booking fee.
Lower prices are key, says Kettle. “Chances are, we’re 30% cheaper than Addison Lee, and 65% cheaper than a black cab,” he claims, citing the fact that many taxi companies “bidding” for London enquiries will in fact be from outside London, and have lower rates; they would simply drive in from, for example, Oxford or Reading, and back out again if it were an airport transfer.
“We’re the only firm with UK coverage, that queries the journey price at both ends. We’ve even had one person book a taxi from Aberdeen to Heathrow,” he adds.
Despite the extensive media coverage of taxi apps such as Uber and Hailo, Kettle says travel agents, and in particular TMCs, should look beyond the headlines and take note of the lucrative pre-bookable sector Taxicode operates within.
Uber, which allows people to see where the closest car is to them, and pay a set fare via credit card, has been banned in Belgium and just had a ban lifted in Germany, while in London black cab drivers staged a protest in June, over licensing issues.
Yet the total taxi market is worth around £9.2 billion in the UK, believes Kettle, and about £2.5 billion of that is attributable to the hailing/black cab sector in London, he estimates. And London itself commands £3-£4 billion of the total value.
“Apps like Uber or Hail look cool, but are more expensive. We’re in the market where travel agents need us,” he says. “Taxi technology is hot at the moment… but we’re the only company with UK coverage.”
In the three years since founding the company, the company has grown to seven people in its Fleet-based office. And with a 150% rise in bookings every quarter, year-on-year, Kettle is confident agents stand to benefit using Taxicode to help customers enjoy a more connected travel experience.
THE TAXI MARKET IN NUMBERS
The taxi market is worth £9.2 billion in the UK. To put that into context, the toothpaste market is worth around £400 million.
Only 31% of London businesses have an account with a taxi firm, with 84% preferring to flag one down in the street.
Companies spend 3% of their business travel budget on taxis.
Taxicode has so far generated 2.6 million telephone enquirers direct to taxi companies.
It has taken £4 million in taxi bookings via its online booking engine. The average fare is £55.