Monday, May 27, 2024

Pinoy-owned firm sets out to compete in booming ride-sharing market

A new Filipino-owned transport network company called UTOL, short for Unified Transport Operations League, is joining the list of firms in the local ride-sharing market dominated by regional player Grab.

At a Filipiniana-themed media launch at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday, April 30, top executives said UTOL will cater to four-wheeled vehicles for the meantime but is keen to provide motorcycle taxi services as well once the government allows the grant of franchises to new players.

“We will focus on supporting our vehicle drivers. This is one of the aspects of the industry that aren’t being focused upon by other transport network companies. For example, if our drivers need immediate access to UTOL due to emergencies for any reason, we have a team ready to respond to their request,” said UTOL chair and CEO Roland Maningas.

To provide better services to the riding public and partner drivers-operators, UTOL has collaborated with different companies such as vehicle maintenance, cleaning services, and even insurance providers to provide comprehensive insurance to the vehicles at a lower price.

The company is also in talks with automotive dealers to form partnerships and become accredited vehicle suppliers for UTOL partner driver-operators. This will include financing for vehicles that would be used by drivers under the UTOL network.

“We have an existing transportation company so we are keenly aware of the needs of driver-operators when they are on the road. With UTOL, we plan to expand and improve the services we currently offer to our own fleet. We want to build a fruitful relationship between UTOL and the driver-operators as partners in building a better future. This is why the name of the company is UTOL. We want to highlight that the company is an extension of family,” he added.

By professionalizing the behavior of vehicle drivers and ensuring that quality standards are met, the company said it can differentiate itself from the field with customers knowing that they will get a smooth and safe transportation experience at a fair price.

The UTOL app, which is now downloadable for Apple and Android devices, was developed by a team of an all-Filipino IT team. The public launch is scheduled on May 8, 2024.

UTOL said it has already signed up TNVS driver-operators into their platform, but the doors are still open for prospective applicants.

“There are two main requirements that applicants need to provide if they apply as an UTOL TNVS. These are the OR/CR of the vehicle to be registered and a professional driver’s license. For the vehicle models that can apply, UTOL follows the guidelines of the LTFRB regarding TNVS requirements. However, ideally, UTOL would prefer Toyota Vios applicants as these are easier to service for UTOL’s own mechanics and spare parts can easily be found and stocked,” Maningas said.

The company plans to expand to other cities in the future, but the management team decided to focus first in Metro Manila for its operations.

“We first want to perfect our operations in Metro Manila but it is our plan to expand to other cities and provinces. If there is a demand for ride-hailing in that particular city, then we will look into developing our presence there,” Maningas shared.

The company noted that there is still a large untapped market in the country, especially in the other regions.

“There are only a few transport network companies and they are the ones responsible for connecting the driver-operators to the passengers. So right now, demand outstrips supply, especially during public holidays and special occasions such as the Christmas season. The number of TNVS isn’t enough as of the present,” said Orly Ocampo, head of UTOL’s legal department.

To ensure the safety of its passengers, UTOL app has a “special feature” that puts a premium for the well-being of its passengers as well as the driver.

In case a passenger feels unsafe inside the car, he/she can just press the help button on the app and an UTOL representative will immediately call the passenger or the driver to address their concerns.

In the same way when a driver feels something is not right with his passenger/s all he had to do is press this emergency button, and the management will be there to the rescue.

“We at UTOL want to uplift passenger convenience while at the same time, provide better opportunities for our partner driver-operators and their families,” Maningas said.

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