Top image credit: Fikri Rasyid/Unsplash

Admittedly, when I caught wind of news that Gojek was making its entrance into the Singaporean market, I was pretty damn sold.

While off-peak Grab fares are typically way cheaper than taxi fares, booking a Grab during peak hours is a total nightmare, no thanks to surge pricing.

This wasn’t the case when competition and promo codes were rife.  

Granted, there are other ride hailing apps such as Tada and Ryde around in the market, but they’ve never stood a chance against Grab.

This is why Gojek has been so highly anticipated amongst Singaporeans. It’s our saving grace from the clutches of Grab’s tight hold over the ride hailing app market. In the larger context of the Southeast Asian app market, Gojek is a close competitor of Grab; a force to be reckoned with. Of course I was more than ready to pin all my hopes and dreams on finally keeping within my monthly budget, what with Gojek’s ability to bring down the market price of rides.

So you can imagine how crushed I was to learn that Gojek admitted this: “Once things stabilise, we hope that pricing will not be the key determinant for people using us”; an admission that they will have to eventually conform to surge pricing, and to the phasing out of our beloved promo codes and discounts.

As a frequent Grab user myself, I get how frustrating these price hikes can be.

However, let’s also consider the reality.

To survive as a business, Gojek eventually has to ensure that prices are high enough to sufficiently compensate staff and drivers (not to mention, answering to investors), while at the same time low enough to satisfy consumers. This is a precarious balancing act, and is something we need to come to terms with before cultivating unreasonable expectations.

Surge pricing is the inevitable long term outcome of incentivising drivers to complete more trips, thereby allowing them to make a respectable living, and increasing the reliability of the ride hailing service. At the same time, it ensures that even during rush hours, consumers are guaranteed a ride, especially the ones who are willing to pay more for one.

At the end of the day, when the high of discount codes have passed, ride prices across all platforms will level out. And with the supply of drivers being moderated (read: limited) by the Land Transport Authority through the Private Hire Car Driver Vocational Licence (PDVL) qualifying test, along with unrelenting waves of demand for ride hailing services, we should expect that fares would naturally climb.

It’s no coincidence that Grab recently rolled out its new GrabClub programme, now with Gojek waltzing into the market. It allows subscribers to enjoy ride and food discounts on the app, should they decide to pursue more invested, long-term relationships with the platform. It’s basically a Starbucks membership card on steroids, and for private hire cars.

We Singaporeans are a sensitive bunch when it comes to convenience and price. We would tolerate a thirty minute queue for a gimmicky bubble tea fad, but the moment the MRT breaks down, a shit show erupts.

But let’s be real for a second. How many of us would actually stop using Grab or Gojek once the latter’s beta testing phase is over? Many of our privileged lifestyles have been cushioned by the utter convenience of these taxi apps, and a reality without one is … unfathomable, even though it’s one that we’ve lived through before.

Remember when getting a cab meant roaming the pavement and scouring road intersections in desperate hopes of sighting a neon green “taxi” header? Or the plague of drivers ‘changing shift’ when you needed them the most?

This is no longer a reality for most of us. We have reached a “new normal” of non-public transport options, yet in typical Singaporean fashion, we continue to feel entitled to demand the whole world of these ride hailing apps.

We forget that it’s still a service, and that consistently dirt cheap fares would be harmful to these businesses in the long run.

So if, like me, you find that the convenience brought by ride hailing apps is indispensable to the maintenance of your sedentary lifestyle, and you know that you’re in it for the long haul, subscription to long-term reward programmes might just be the smarter game play here. Reward systems such as the new GrabClub programme and Tada’s feedback reward programme could potentially save you a shitton of money.

However, if unlike me you have a heightened sense of fiscal responsibility, and only utilise these services when fares are lower, then by all means, milk Gojek’s beta-testing prices for what it’s worth. Though bear in mind that it’s only temporary, and the days of promo codes and crazy discounts are never coming back.

Or, just use public transport.

Have a love-hate relationships with ride-hailing companies? Tell us about it, community@ricemedia.co.

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