State-backed transportation company Mowasalat will roll out its fourth taxi franchise this week, advancing on its plans to increase the number of cabs on Doha’s roads by 1,000 before year-end.
The first Capital Taxis, operated by Ibin Ajayan Group, were initially supposed to hit the streets in August or September and have green roofs, according to an announcement made earlier this year by Mowasalat’s CEO.
An Ibin Ajayan Group spokesperson told Doha News that the taxis will now have dark-grey roofs, but declined to comment further.
However, the company’s consultant CEO told Gulf Times that the taxis will distinguish themselves from the competition by providing better customer service. Ravi Pillai was quoted as saying:
“Almost 100% of our taxi drivers have previous experience in the GCC states, including Qatar and they are extremely familiar with the road conditions in the region, in particular in the country.”
Pillai also told the newspaper that the drivers are offered the “best package” and are hired on a salary basis, adding that additional monetary incentives would be offered to those who continue to go beyond the daily monetary income target set by Mowasalat.
Customer service is a sore issue for many residents who use Karwa taxis, and complaints about rude drivers who overcharge or refuse certain customers are common.
On the other hand, most taxi drivers here say they are overworked and underpaid, which leading some of them no choice but to cheat passengers to eke out a living.
Franchise fees cut
Mowasalat first began talking about introducing franchised taxi groups to “increase competition” in 2011. However, all taxis that operate under the Karwa brand must charge rates set by the government.
This may change by 2017, when Mowasalat hopes to step back from operating taxis and privatize the industry, serving instead as a regulator to a total of six franchises.
Advancing on this plan, the Ministry of Transport said earlier this month that it would slash taxi franchise fees by 33 percent in a bid to help support public transportation services, according to the Peninsula.
The reduction came into force on Oct. 1 and will last for the next five years.
However, many franchises told Doha News that they had not heard about the rate cut, and were not yet sure how they would spend the windfall.
However, a spokesperson from the Profit Group, whose company began introducing yellow-roofed taxis to Doha last month, said:
“We make sure that our drivers are paid a decent wage. The remaining money will be used in maintaining the quality of our taxis and ensuring that they are always on the road.”
Expansion by numbers
Currently, some 3,000 turquoise Karwa taxis are operating on Qatar’s roads. Mowasalat’s gray-roofed cars account for around 1,200 of them, while the maroon-roofed Al Million and blue-roofed Al Ijarah taxis collectively operate roughly 1,800 cars.
By the end of this year, the Profit Group and Ibin Ajayan are expected to launch 500 new taxis each, with both companies rolling out some 50 cars a week. If all goes according to plan, Mowasalat’s taxi fleet will reach some 4,000 cars by the end of the year.
The expansion comes as Karwa celebrates 10 years of operation.
Mowasalat also aims to more than double its taxi fleet to 7,000 for the 2022 World Cup in a bid to cater to the one million fans expected to attend the tournament.