Ipoh-based taxi hailing app Wowora is looking to compete with ride-hailing giants Uber and Grab in Malaysia’s fringe markets, banking on fixed price rates to attract passengers who may be turned off by the ride-hailing companies’ surge pricing mechanism.
According to its website, Wowora follows the taxi rate in each state it operates in and does not seem to change its pricing for peak hours. Notably, it is currently only present in Langkawi, Sabah and Sarawak — apparently skipping the Klang Valley where there is more population but also much heavier competition against a more concentrated number of Grab and Uber drivers.
It promotes itself as a platform offering transportation services with reasonable pricing as well as more systematic service. Users are also to provide anonymous feedback to rate drivers.
Wowora was founded in 2016 and promotes itself as a legal service that is approved by the Land Public Transport Commission (or SPAD), highlighting the technically illegal status of ride-sharing platforms like Uber and Grab (notwithstanding the federal government’s implicit support of the service providers).
In Langkawi, its base rate begins from RM7.00 for a four-seater vehicle and it offers up to an 11-seater on the island, whereas in Sarawak and Sabah it only offers four-seaters and six-seaters (base rates begin at RM10.00 in East Malaysia).
Wowora charges a fixed rate per km travelled in each state based on the vehicle type (refer to price rates here). However, passengers who booked but subsequently cancelled after a driver has confirmed the request will be charged RM5.00.
Wowora has only seen lukewarm reception at the moment, with its app on Google Playstore only downloaded over a thousand times so far. However it is planning further expansion into Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor, Perak and Melaka soon, according to its app description.
It would be interesting to see if Wowora can be significant competition for Uber and Grab in fringe markets such as Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, where the latter two service providers had only recently entered. Ride-sharing has not gained as much popularity there when compared to the Klang Valley, for example.
If Wowora’s price transparency model gains traction in these fringe markets, it may be set for an eventual acquisition by either Uber or Grab if the app could build a sizeable user base. Alternatively, a future collaboration as opposed to outright acquisition may also be on the cards, given a past attempt by Uber and the Malaysian Taxi Alliance (which was ultimately aborted due to protests).