Uber First Steps into Cambodia?

Uber, the world’s biggest ride-hailing service, has been in negotiations since April with Cambodia Ministry of Transport as well as with authorities of Phnom Penh Municipality to get the authorization to launch its services in the Kingdom. In May, the company received approval to create an local affiliate.

Cambodia daily newspaper “Phnom Penh Post” reported last week that Uber just launched a “test-mode” version of its smartphone application in Phnom Penh. By then, Uber would become the first international ride-hailing company to operate in Cambodia. It will stand in competition with Cambodian-owned Exnet Taxi.

The Phnom Penh Post let one of his reporters try the new service. According to the Post story, it is already possible to book and complete a ride in the capital using the Uber app through a special promotional code provided by the company. So far, in the test phase, rides are provided for free.

According to the receipt from the free trip, Uber charges a base fare of $1, with further charges levied according to the distance and duration of the trip. At the end of the trip, riders have the choice to pay the fare digitally from a bank account connected to the app, or in cash – a feature that Uber has made available in other cash-dominated markets.

US-based Uber operates ride-hailing services in over 570 cities worldwide. In Southeast Asia, Uber operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar (since this year) and now Cambodia. Phnom Penh would be the 39th city in Uber network in Southeast Asia.

Uber is meanwhile increasingly confronted to the ire of taxi drivers who lobby governments in the region to regulate, even to ban the ride-hailing giant, accused of breaching laws. Cambodia, like much of the rest of Asia, does not have a specific law for ride-hailing platforms.

Uber would then turn into a serious competitor to Cambodia based Exnet Taxi. The local ride-hailing app- which was so far the only available in the Kingdom- only works with existing taxis. However, according to its facebook page, Exnet Taxi receives many complaints about drivers. Customers find them unreliable, as they cancel often rides if they do not know or find a location.

Uber will then need to commit itself into serious training of its drivers if the ride-hailing platform wants to assure the quality of its services. Many Cambodian taxi drivers often come from the countryside. They barely know how to read, especially a map and find themselves unable to use an app.

(Partial source: Phnom Penh Post)