At the end of 2016, Boris Pilichowski and Nicolas Andine stumbled across an incredible opportunity. A taxi comparator mobile app had just failed in the highly competitive e-hailing market. However, the concept of aggregating a very fragmented supplier base, and making it easy to compare and access in a single marketplace, was very appealing to them.
They re-incorporated Karhoo in early 2017 in partnership with the Renault Group, with a mission to build the leading platform for B2B mobility intermediation.
On this week’s Mobility Moments, we talk to Pilichowski and Andine, the co-CEOs at Karhoo.
What are Karhoo’s key services and benefits?
Today, Karhoo is the leading worldwide mobility marketplace for taxi and private drivers companies. Our mission is to connect big brands and their millions of customers with thousands of mobility providers throughout the world. We offer a range of technical interfaces and pre-built digital user experiences to book and manage rides on web and mobile.
Using Karhoo, travel brands can offer airport transfers and in-stay on-demand mobility to create convenience for customers and generate ancillary revenues. Any organisation purchasing high volumes of rides for customers or employees can do it more efficiently and cost-effectively through our marketplace.
How does the platform differ from rival services?
We believe that we have a unique proposition in terms of the number of mobility partners – more than 2,500 fleets in 125 countries – and the modern experience that our technology platform can provide. Our platform aggregates and unifies a fragmented mobility market and enables state-of-the-art e-hailing or on-demand experience everywhere we operate, including loyalty programme integration, mobile payment, and vehicle tracking.
We perform the financial settlement between the distribution channel and fleet operators in various currencies and in accordance with local tax regulations. It is overly complex to organise travel at a global scale; Karhoo makes it simpler through aggregation and standardisation.
How fast is Karhoo growing?
Each and every month we’re connecting more dispatch systems (used by fleets to price rides and allocate them to drivers) and onboarding dozens of fleet partners across the globe. We constantly implement additional settlement currencies and local tax rules to support our expansion. We already have a wide and deep coverage in Europe and we’re increasing our focus on the U.S. and the GCC region in the near future.
In addition to directly engaging with large brands, we have also experimented with distribution agreements with strong regional players to expand outside of Europe. We see great leverage and value in such partnerships.
How did Karhoo adapt during the Covid pandemic?
Covid-19 has been the most disruptive crisis ever experienced for mobility: we are in the business of making it easier for people to move. As a company, we have risen to the challenges of these unprecedented times: while we had to disinvest, we have done it in a caring way with our employees and our partners. At the same time we did use the low operational activity to enhance and optimise our platform, and engage with more partners eager to find ways to accelerate growth when the pandemic is over.
We actually had a record quarter at the beginning of 2021 in terms of new connections: 25 dispatch systems, 150 fleets, 5 brands. We were also blessed to have strong, long-term minded shareholders. Today, with clear signs of recovery, we are proud that Karhoo stands stronger than it has ever been.
What are the key findings of your White Paper?
Our free, publicly available whitepaper: Global Distribution Systems for the Taxi/PHV Industry explains how the commercial framework commonly used in Travel and Hospitality would equally apply in the mobility space: aggregation of fragmented suppliers; ease of discovery of available options; end-to-end integrations facilitating the management or bookings; and centralised, managed payment flows.
Pattern recognition is a very important guide to understand transformation in industries, something we learnt in our early years of investing. Taxi and private hire companies can learn about the opportunities of diversifying their digital distribution channels without changing anything to the way they operate today.
What are Karhoo’s next steps?
The second half of 2021 will put Karhoo back at pre-Covid levels of growth, boosted by a combination of the general mobility rebound and the new projects with major Travel and Hospitality brands that were established during the pandemic. Continuous geographical expansion and our sustainable growth will remain our focus.
What will urban mobility look like by 2030?
Powerful trends are in play modelling what urban mobility will look like in the future. The most profound is the awakening to the broader impacts of mobility on air and sound quality, public space and private lives. On-demand delivery and the rise of e-hailers have increased the number of vehicles, with a quantifiable impact on our environment. Regulators and government agencies are acting, limiting the use of commercial fleets and forcing the adoption of clean vehicles.
At an individual level, consumers are also more sensitive and willing to engage in sharing (car, bike, ride) and active modes of transport (walking, cycling).
Technology is changing mobility. The advent of smartphones combining computing power with geo-localisation and payment capabilities has transformed the way we consume it today, making it more convenient and accessible. We see that trend abating with so much innovation technology can bring to arranging moving from A-B. Technology however will fundamentally influence the manner in which we move: electrification is already happening; and of course autonomous driving.
Urban mobility in 2030 will be multi-modal, relying on a strong public transport sector complemented by a range of eco-friendly, electric and autonomous on-demand options like taxis, carsharing and minibus ‘pooling’.
With relative maturity coming to this industry, the challenge will be addressing the various convenience and price points of end-users, in an eco-minded manner, rather than a single one-fit-them all approach. This is where we believe Karhoo, as a marketplace opened to all participants, has a unique role to play now and in the future.