By Shiran Illanperuma
Sri Lanka-based transport mobile application PickMe announced yesterday the launch of services in Sinhala and Tamil.
In a trilingual press conference and presentation at their office the local start up also hinted at future developments including expansion into new cities and the introduction of new fleets.
The app which was developed by Digital Mobility Solutions Lanka (PVT) Ltd, was released in June this year and has drawn comparisons to international tech giant Uber which began services in Sri Lanka in mid-October. Commenting on the difference between its larger international competitor, CEO Jiffry Zulfer said: “Our technology is different. We have a live meter which provides our passengers a picture of how much they will spend. We don’t want to hide that”.
Zulfer also added, “We understand the local industry and consumers. What we like to do is make sure we come up with a product that suits the Sri Lankan economy and the Sri Lankan people. Being a homegrown company we are also solving our own problems with the passenger and the driver. All in all, we as a company are evolving and we want to make sure that this technology broadens to the whole of Sri Lanka”.
Another significant difference between the two platforms is the lack of credit and debit card compatibility on PickMe. With 20% of Sri Lankans owning a card, Uber has decided stick with its international card-only policy. Zulfer however said that card compatibility would be “coming soon” to PickMe. With overwhelming demand in Colombo and a recent expansion to Katunayake, Zulfer noted that plans were afoot for the application to go island-wide. “On a daily basis we are getting calls from people all over Sri Lanka wanting to drive for us or asking why there aren’t vehicles in their area. Yes we do have plans to go in the whole island”.
When asked about plans to expand to services in other vehicle types Zulfer refused to disclose details but told the Daily FT, “Give us some time and we will expand to other areas. We have some interesting fleets coming up soon”.
According to Zulfer there are over 3000 vehicles on the road using the PickMe application, with thousands of passengers being transported every day. The app itself finds drivers within a 2km radius of the user, or 1km during peak hours. The average pickup time is about 10-15 minutes.
PickMe’s business model means that it does not directly employ any of its 3000 plus drivers. Instead drivers have to pay to register and then pay a subsequent subscription fee based on whether they work full-time or part-time. Zulfer called the drivers’ payment scheme a ‘hybrid’ as it also involved a cut of daily fares.
Pic by Upul Abeyasekara