The minicab sector may not be the most high-tech industry, but one man is single-handedly trying to change its perception, with an app and website that give consumers more choice than ever before. minicabit founder Amer Hasan tells Colette Doyle why competition is healthy and reminisces about his appearance in front of a panel of Britain’s best-known investors.
Inspiration can come from a variety of sources and for minicabit CEO Amer Hasan it struck when he did a stint as a mini-cab driver while studying at London’s Imperial College in the mid-1990s. It was an interesting time – his hires included the Guatemalan ambassador and actor Simon Callow, who was “very talkative”, he recalls. More importantly, it planted the idea in his mind that the minicab industry was ripe for change. When he left Vodafone five years ago, the same inkling was still buzzing around in his head; since there was no Uber or Hailo at that time and all the available options were low-tech to say the least, he felt it was the right moment to bring minicabs “kicking and screaming into the digital age”.
At Vodafone, Hasan looked after global internet partnerships with Facebook and eBay and then later moved on to launching apps, so it made sense for him to set up minicabit as a website first and then an app; “back in 2010, e-commerce on mobiles wasn’t as strong as it is now, it has accelerated hugely since then,” he notes. It struck Hasan as rather odd the way that the minicab market was perceived: passengers could book flights, theatre tickets and a hotel online, but not the travel in between, as there was only a phone number to call rather than a dedicated app.
Pretending to be an MBA student with a project on transportation habits, Hasan phoned round some arenas and stadiums to try and find out more about how concert-goers accessed such venues. Unsurprisingly, he found there was always a mad scramble to get a cab when the event ended. His research paid off and he was able to sign up venues such as the O2, Wembley Arena and Earls Court Olympia; in return they were in a position to gain valuable marketing insight into their customers’ travel habits. The addition of a cab journey into the mix on a night out “helps enhance the whole experience”, as he points out.
In the next instalment of this series, minicabit founder Amer Hasan tells Colette Doyle how he got his company to stand out from the crowd…