HERALD: You are a local company which continues to work from the State despite several challenges. What makes you do so?
UTKARSH SUDHIR DABHADE: GoaMiles is a Goan start-up company and is a proud contributor to ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Swyampurna Goa’. Our technology platform is completely indigenous. We have completed 32 months of operations in Goa and it has been a challenging journey. The GoaMiles family which started with 40 cabs and 10 employees is now having 2200 Goan ownership cabs. We have shown utmost maturity while dealing with the challenges at hand. I being a third-generation transporter strongly believe in sustainable passenger mobility. The ethos of this belief is in zero commission from taxi owners, zero ownership on the vehicle and promotion of local bhumiputra. This has kept me in good stead in Goa and I want to take it across India.
HERALD: What new or innovative ideas have you adopted in the taxi service business?
USD: GoaMiles has certainly made a difference to the people's lives, especially tourists and locals using our services. Just imagine 99 per cent of tourists come from outside Goa to enjoy tourism activities in Goa. We have GoaMiles taxi information counter at airport, which helps all tourists to avail all necessary information. GoaMiles is an app-based platform, so we do not need to issue any receipt or collect cash at the airport counter.
On the new tech innovation front, we have implemented nanotechnology sanitisation for each cab. This ensures extra care to fight with COVID-19. GoaMiles have built state of an art command and control center to monitor each and every trip. We also have an emergency button in the mobile app to raise security alarms and SOP driven mechanism to handle the situation. We would be going full throttle with new technology for tourism - VAS (value-added services) to give a mesmerizing experience to tourists.
HERALD: Price control must a challenge for you especially when tourists who are so used to Ola and Uber. How do you convince them?
USD: Today's customers want 100 per cent transparency, which is key in our business model. Our customers are very happy to have fixed prices as compared to the dynamic pricing logic implemented by other players in this domain. Customers can by cash/credit card/ payment apps and several other online modes of payment thereby preventing exchange of cash between driver and passenger. This is so relevant during present COVID times. Our business model for taxi owners is based on a fixed kilometer rate, hence the price control happens automatically and so does the consumer happiness index.
Irrespective of the tariff charged, our customers do not mind paying a little more, provided he gets whatever he wants and this is precisely what we do. We also improvise by always giving them the best.
HERALD: Do you think that your market should be competitive? If so, how and why?
USD: Yes, the right to choose any taxi service must lie with passenger and no one can dictate terms to the tourist. The consumer is loyal to the brand provided you enrich the service offerings. Today consumers are much smarter as he does a lot of research before coming to Goa, so you have to be competitive.
HERALD: How are you tackling the pandemic and agitations in your sector?
USD: COVID-19, has affected tourism and transportation business adversely. We have prepared a strong SOP to handle the situation. Another initiative we have taken to clean and sanitize our cabs regularly to maintain hygiene and enable our customers with safe travel across Goa.
Regarding taxi agitation, I believe they have not understood the business model of GoaMiles. We have received a great response from local taxi owners and even in this pandemic time, taxi owners are joining us. App taxis are the way ahead for Goa and GoaMiles welcomes entry of players like Ola and Uber as competition is always good for the trade. Today I am happy to mention that we are number one taxi operator in terms of business generated and passengers served. We are also happy with the firm stand of Goa Government while dealing with the taxi strike.
HERALD: In the face of the agitation, what support are you receiving and from where?
USD: GoaMiles has received great support from Government and consumers. We have also received huge support from Industry associations like GCCI, TTAG, GTA, GOA IT and ITES Association, CII and other trade associations. The State government is also keen to send positive signals to investors who want to set up base in Goa and strong industry friendly approach of Goa government will go a long way in achieving this.
There is great administrative support from GTDC, Goa Transport department, Goa state police, Airport Authority of India-Goa, and State Government of Goa.
HERALD: How many people are being directly benefited through your business?
USD: Regarding benefits to local people almost 20,000 people are directly linked to GoaMiles. We have 2200 cabs and almost 3800 drivers registered with us. Approximately five members in each family. All our cab owners are Goan since they are the legitimate permit holders and Goa transport department issue permit to locals on certain checks. All our drivers are badge holders; these badges are issued by the State governments' competent authority. Important to note 99 per cent of our 44 employees are Goans.
We have successfully completed 7,00,000 trips which means almost two million tourists along with local people have traveled with us. They have benefited from fixed and transparent service along with better safety and comfort. This complements mutual benefit to the tourism industry and people associated with it.
HERALD: How is your company is different, and what do you offer to Goa? Who are your major clients?
USD: GoaMiles is yet to make profits despite three years of operation due to disruptive events like pandemic etc. My business vision is to create a sustainable transport economy across the country and GoaMiles is the first step. Others in this domain work on commission from drivers, we do not. Others in this domain apply dynamic surge charges which are very difficult for passengers to digest, we follow government rate. Others are promoting company-owned cars which are cutting opportunities for single-car owners to become entrepreneurs, we promote the driver cum owner model more. We have no monopoly thought and hence our strategy is more service and customer-centric.
GoaMiles aspires to establish Goa as a sustainable tourism economy hub. Transport is an integral part of Goa tourism and we have taken it as first charter to improve the taxi travel for better, make it affordable and available across the State. Soon we will come up with tourism value-added services. Tourists visiting Goa and locals commuting on business or social visits are our major customers. There is certain industry segment and hotels also become our customers in the past few months.
HERALD: Do you think Goa has the right ecosystem for technology-based taxi services?
USD: Absolutely yes, Goa is a State and is a big city too. It’s up to the perception of the people looking at Goa. For them, Goa is a big tourist destination. We need to understand the population of approximately 1.6 million Goans, there are almost eight million tourists. Transportation is the second largest cost for them, what they need is transparency. Goa tourism ecosystem demands the best technology to enable them to travel anywhere anytime and that too hassle-free. People want doorstep service and technology-based platform is the best solution.