Taxi and ride-hailing services have been undergoing a revolution for over a decade, and there are no signs of it slowing down. The revolution hit Malta in 2017 when Bolt (then Taxify) disrupted the market, accelerating the transformation local companies such as eCabs were already undertaking.
It’s 2022 and Malta boasts at least 10 active ride-hailing services with Forus being the latest addition and Heetch being one of the first companies to exit the market after barely six months of operations. Is this possibly an early sign of market saturation?
BusinessNow.mt reached out for comments to eCabs and Bolt regarding the current state of the market and to listen to their perspective on the mushrooming quantity of competitors, how this has impacted the direction of their respective businesses, and how they see Malta’s market evolving.
With regards to the large number of ride-hailing companies, Simon Debono, CMO at eCabs remarked, “New York (also) has about 10 in a city with a population of just under 19 million.’’ To put to scale, Malta has around one ride-hailing service per 50,000 people and New York has around one ride-hailing service per 1.9 million people.
This does not seem to concern either Bolt or eCabs, the latter of which has adapted to the revolution noting that “our accelerated growth has not subsided either, be it from a product transformation perspective, our ambitions, or our growth in local volumes. I don’t see that changing, even if others attempt to enter the market,’’ while a Bolt spokesperson remarked that ride-hailing is not a winner-takes-all market.
One may hazard a guess that in due time the number of players in the ride-hailing field will start to decrease in Malta as the market starts to consolidate around a set of strong brands, with eCabs’ CMO sharing the same view. However, Mr Debono expressed that “not enough is being done to discuss what the future will look like.”
Both eCabs and Bolt share the view that Malta’s future is one based on multi-modality, integrating scooters, bicycles, and walking along with buses and ride-hailing/sharing.
But when it comes to the national implementation of multi-modality, Mr Debono noted that a strong infrastructural framework is needed: ‘‘It is totally inexistent right now, and so we keep drowning in our clogged roads and fumes.’’
It is most often the case that when a new ride-hailing service launches in Malta, it is an international company expanding its operations, which is how Bolt came around. However, even Malta’s own eCabs has started the process to internationalise its service beyond Malta’s shores in 2023.
Reflecting on the regulatory framework, eCabs’ CMO said that the industry is still in its infancy with regulation taking different shape and form across the world while highlighting that Malta’s own regulatory framework is “a liberalised market and treats every player, new or otherwise, with the required respect.”
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