Wheely is a cab booking service that will look familiar to users of Hailo, Uber and Adisson Lee’s services, offering booking apps on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and web. The service currently operates in Moscow with a fleet of black Mercedes cars and – after a trial in London in 2012 – is due to re-launch there in mid-June, offering lower costs (30% less than black cabs), hybrid cars and free 4G-powered WiFi.
That trial period gave the firm an opportunity to learn an important lesson and develop what founder Anton Chirkunov argues will be its competitive advantages – the firm now uses its own proprietary dispatch software and has recruited its own fleet of drivers. Previously, Wheely (like its competition) had aggregated and re-sold capacity from established providers. This provided access to lots of drivers, but didn’t offer a reliable supply at peak times. “We had to decline too many journeys”, he says, “because we didn’t control our own capacity”. He believes the new approach provides a better mix of price and service-level.
Currently Wheely have about 100 drivers working in Moscow – within the Moscow area they claim a typical response in 16 minutes (2 cars we requested both arrived in 10). They’ll have about 45 vehicles when re-launching in London, but Chirkunov acknowledges they’ll need to scale-up as demand grows. Drivers – he says – are keen as Wheely has lower overheads, allowing drivers to retain more of the fare (currently 80%). The firm also helps connect new drivers with vehicle suppliers to get them started.
Wheely is targeting Istanbul and New York for its next launches.