The cab-hailing app Uber officially launched its services in Myanmar this morning. Rather than pitting private vehicle owners against traditional taxi services, as it has done in other cities, Uber’s model for Myanmar is designed specifically for taxi drivers.
“We are excited to launch in Myanmar, serving riders, drivers, and the city of Yangon. The city has shown itself a leader in embracing innovation and progressive regulations,” said Mike Brown, Uber’s Asia Pacific regional general manager.
To avoid adding more cars to Yangon’s clogged roads, Uber’s current arrangement with the Yangon Region government does not allow Uber rides in private vehicles. All Uber drivers must have National Registration Cards, and all vehicles must be registered taxis with red license plates.
“We see private vehicles as our greatest competition,” said Sam Bool, Uber’s expansion general manager for Southeast Asia.
Uber aims to further tackle Yangon’s congestion problem by relieving drivers of the need to roam around town looking for customers. Ideally, this will leave only occupied taxis – rather than all 70,000 of Yangon’s taxis – on the road at any given time.
Taxi driver Ko Nay Myo Aung, who is a registered Uber driver, said he is thankful for being introduced to the app by a friend.
“I have experienced a lot of ups and downs in this career. Driving around to look for passengers is very inefficient, and it doesn’t earn me much,” Ko Nay Myo Aung said. “After a few weeks using the app, I’m so pleased with the opportunities it is bringing me.”
To customers, the company promises to offer locals and tourists “safe, reliable, and affordable rides at the push of a button.”
Moreover, Uber hopes to raise safety and comfort standards among taxis. Vehicles signed up with Uber will be required to have air conditioning and to have seat belts in front and in back, among other safety requirements.
Customers who request rides using the Uber app will be able to see their drivers’ contact information and license plate number. They will be able to select cash or electronic payment as preferred payment methods, and these preferences can be edited.
Myanmar is the 76th country where Uber operates and the seventh among ASEAN countries.
Uber faces competition from Grab, which launched a trial service in Yangon at the end of March, and from local ride-hailing start-ups Hello Cabs and Oway Ride. Hello Cabs reportedly raised several million dollars in funding at the end of April.
Uber’s managers at the launch event said “several hundred” drivers are already signed up and ready to offer rides in Yangon. Oway Ride reportedly partners with 1,000 registered taxis.
US Ambassador Scot Marciel and Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein attended the launch ceremony at the Yangon Gallery this morning, where Uber representatives summoned the country’s first official Uber ride for the dignitaries.