The new taxis will be managed by Profit Group, which will introduce 50 new taxis this week. The company plans to increase the fleet by an 50 additional cars each week until it reaches a target of 500 by the end of the year, a spokesman told Doha News.
Profit is the third private operator to operate taxis under the Karwa brand.
It already runs more than 1,500 cabs in Dubai under the “Cars Taxi” brand, making it the second-largest fleet operator in the emirate. Profit will brand its Doha taxis under the “Cars Taxi” name as well.
The fleet of yellow-topped taxis was initially slated to be run by Petro Qatar. However, those plans were scrapped last summer after the company was found to not have met licensing requirements.
By the numbers
There are currently around 3,000 turquoise Karwa taxis on Qatar’s streets, including 1,200 grey-roofed cars run by Mowasalat.
Al Ijarah operates 1,000 taxis with blue roofs and Al Million has around 800 with maroon tops. The first two franchisees were brought on board in 2012, after Mowasalat announced an expansion to its fleet in a bid to deal with increasing demand for its services.
Earlier this year, Mowasalat announced it had appointed two additional operators – Profit and Ibn Ajayan, who would each bring an extra 500 cars on to the streets before the year end, to bring the total Karwa cab fleet to around 4,000.
Ibn Ajayan was supposed to start running the first 300 of its green-topped taxis by August or September. However, a Mowasalat spokesman told Doha News they were not yet operational. A revised date for the launch is still pending.
Earlier this year, Mowasalat announced that it planned to entirely privatize the Karwa taxi service by 2017, as it withdraws to become regulator.
It is now looking into contracts with two more franchisees, to create a total of six private operators to take over the running of Karwa – a brand it has run for the past 10 years. The details of these firms have not yet been released by Mowasalat.
Taxis have long been a source of frustration in Qatar, especially over weekends and in the evenings, when passengers say they struggle to get a taxi.
In a bid to streamline the booking process, which is currently operated by the individual firms, Mowasalat said it had plans to set up a unified call center for all Karwa taxis, providing advanced booking services to customers through an electronic system.
Cab drivers who refuse to use the meter, or claim it is broken, are another regular focus of passengers’ ire.
Last month, new tamper-proof meters started to be rolled out across the Karwa taxi fleet, which link directly to the company and flag up any attempts by a driver to interfere with the meters.
However, drivers say that they are often forced to charge higher rates in a desperate attempt just to cover the QR200 a day rental fee many of them have to pay Mowasalat just to drive the taxi.
Drivers operating on commission only must make a minimum each day to be able to keep driving the cars, and with fares so low and traffic so congested, drivers often have a difficult time meeting or going beyond those earnings.
Cab search app
Meanwhile, one entrepreneurial resident is planning to bring his own solution to the problem of tracking down taxis, with the launch of mobile phone app QCab.
Inspired by online transportation booking services like Uber and Careem, which have increased competition in Qatar’s taxi market this year, Palestinian expat Tariq Abdul Hameed Awadallah and his business partners hope to start testing the service soon.
It would allow passengers to search for and book vehicles in their area, but would only work with Karwa cabs and not private limousines.