Just the mention of Uber brings out detractors who quickly point out how much money the service continues to lose. However, given the big-name investors and the fact that Uber opens a new city every five days, one simply cannot discount this company that loves to disrupt the status quo.
In the spring Uber introduced a flat rate of 700 rubles (currently $10.96) for travel from any of the three major Moscow airports to the centre of the city. That is easily a third of what most official Taxi drivers charge.
Facing stiff competition from Yandex (Russia’s “Google”) Taxi service, Uber came close to being driven out of Russia earlier this year. Uber steered clear of the regulatory off-ramp by agreeing to use officially registered taxi drivers and to share travel data with transportation authorities.
The Israeli-based Get.taxi (Gett.ru) is another popular app that allows Russian riders to arrange ride sharing with drivers.
Another ride sharing company that is growing rapidly is the Paris based Bla Bla Car, in which riders not only pay for the ride, but as it is primarily a city to city or region to region service, riders must promise to talk with the driver to help them stay awake on the longer distances. Thus, the “Bla Bla” in the name.
When logging in to BlaBlaCar.ru, riders can see who is traveling to the same city, and then select the driver based on the price and times of travel. For identity purposes a photo of the driver is shown.
As Russian cities have banned the practice of “gypsy taxis” over the years in which ordinary drivers would stop on city streets and haggle with hitch-hikes for the fee, these transportation alternatives have begun to gain footholds in Russian cities.
So far, officials have done little to shield local taxi companies from competition, proving yet again the power of the Internet to disrupt and innovate.