The taxi industry is fortunate to have many forward-thinking and innovative people in the business. One such person who fits this bill is Sherbet Taxis CEO Asher Moses, who has won a string of back-end awards thanks in large part to his app and growing fleet of green electric taxis.
We caught up with Asher to discuss the past few years and where the London taxi industry is headed in the long term.
The pandemic has had a serious impact on the taxi industry. How did Sherbet Taxis get through all the confinements and, looking back, what were the main lessons of this period?
The lockdown was a challenge not just for Sherbet, but for all licensed fleet owners, especially those of us who had invested heavily in electric taxis. In fact, the “challenge” understates it. At times, the pandemic was absolutely chaotic.
We had taxis that came back every day due to lack of demand. We had to rent parking lots to store unused vehicles and then we had to allow the drivers to keep their taxis at home because the taxis left in the parking lots were vandalized. Some fleet owners had components stolen from their inactive vehicles, and we weren’t able to decommission taxis quickly enough.
We had to reinvent our business. We couldn’t sell advertising and the donut effect meant people were at home rather than downtown. So we transformed our app to meet the needs of people who needed to get to hospital appointments safely. This has helped us enable some of our drivers to earn a living while helping the most vulnerable in our city.
You have to be resilient in this game. Having been in the industry for over 35 years, we have seen recessions come and go and we have seen many attempts by corporations to take over our industry, which always fail because , as we all know, a suit can’t talk to a taxi driver.
But a key lesson from the pandemic is that as a business owner, you can’t trust the government, the mayor’s office or TfL with their promises to go green and go green. electricity and to provide support. As a businessman, you must be ready and prepared to take the big risks involved in sustaining the taxi business. I think the taxi industry should come together to applaud the many fleet owners who, like me, have truly dedicated their lives to establishing the trade and investing millions of pounds in converting to electric. We give access to drivers who cannot afford a taxi, and who cannot or do not want to make a financial commitment. We invest on behalf of the government for trade, so all we are asking for is more government support in the future and that the public and the taxi driver community support us.
Since the covid restrictions have been completely lifted, how is business?
We are about 18 months away from normality and there is a renaissance for taxis. Rentals are at their highest occupancy in a long time,
because there were far fewer vehicles on the road than before the pandemic. But the drivers will come back. Once you’re a taxi driver, you’re still a taxi driver and the demand we’re seeing right now has to be captured on the supply side.
One of the reasons for this renaissance is that during Covid people loved clean, green and safe taxis – not for the technology, but for the personal approach. The nature of black cabs having separate cabs with individual air conditioning has eased many people’s fears of catching Covid from a driver. It was a slow start – start and stop – but it’s in full swing now.
Another reason why our Ride app is in such demand is because people are much more aware of corporate social responsibility and want to work with ethical brands and be seen in clean, green taxis like ours. We are a premium application but above all we are a brand with values, a recognized brand, both thanks to our fleet but also thanks to the impeccable owner-drivers that we recruit to work on the driver application; our delivery and service are second to none.
Also for the media part of the business, advertisers want to be seen on green and ethical taxis and we are in that right place. As a brand in the taxi industry, we are doing very well now. We’ve been up and down with drivers during the pandemic, but we continue to work together with our drivers to support the black cab business.
What more can be done to accelerate the deployment of black electric taxis in the capital?
The truth is, I think taxi owners and fleet owners have really done their part. They invested in the mayor’s strategy in hopes of garnering more support. Personally, I am shouting as loud as possible to the city, the capital and business owners to get on board and support people like us who are investing in electric taxis and investing in the mayor’s strategy to go green.
Besides more consideration from the government, we need a lot more people to love the taxi business and shout on our behalf, so it’s also about the passengers. We should take the time to give them the best experience; with a smile, with excellent service and with a fair price. We need them to support us, we have to remember everyone and never leave them with a bad memory. These are the customers who will scream and scream for us, especially at Sherbet. In fact, they already do. But above all, we need policy makers in London to like electric black cabs and establish legislation to allow easier deployment and expansion of the fleet.
Your latest ad campaign, which compares Sherbet’s green credentials to those of ride-sharing company Uber, has sparked a lot of debate. What was the thinking behind it and what are you looking to achieve?
To be honest with you, it’s very difficult to come up with marketing budgets when you’re trying to grow, not every business has a huge budget, so you have to come up with innovative and creative strategies. Sherbet is fortunate that our vehicles provide a fantastic canvas to build our brand and capture the attention of Londoners. And creatively, what better way to get your point across than bouncing off another brand that doesn’t deliver on its promises. Uber doesn’t have a good reputation in London, just empty hopes and promises. They have blinded our politicians and Transport for London with the hope of technology to lead the capital, when the truth is we already did, we still do and we will continue to lead.
But aside from being a smart marketing ploy, the goal is to call out Uber, say “look, they’re fuming, they put out a lot more kilotons of emissions than we do.” It was brave, it was scary to park in front of their offices, but honestly, everyone should call Uber; the Mayor, TfL, MPs. Why are they obsessed with a brand that doesn’t respect gambling in the capital? They have thrown so much discredit on our Capital and on our politicians, should I remind them of the Uber Files? So, in addition to raising awareness of Sherbet, we hope this campaign will help persuade the government to invest in the iconic asset that is the Licensed London Electric Taxi, to be proud of what it achieves today and to understand that we can really lead the charge in this area. Region.
You and Sherbet Taxis have recently received a plethora of awards. Do you think the taxi industry could do more to celebrate success?
I really feel like the taxi industry could do a lot more to celebrate its successes.
Sherbet is recognized because of the iconic Licensed London Electric Taxi, because we modernize it, because we innovate. We embrace technology and data, we reinvest in our business. We are more than a fleet of taxis, we are a taxi solutions company with a fantastic team who believe in us, and we are accelerating.
But all this is not just for us. We would love to work with others, but it’s a very difficult industry to work together, unfortunately. We’re all great business people, we want to do things our own way, but respect to all of us, we’re all here for the long haul. Yes, there is so much to celebrate; we’re electric, we’re fully trained, we’re iconic, we reduce emissions. We win awards not just for Sherbet and for my customers and my drivers, but for the business.
You are a very forward thinker. How do you see the long-term future of the taxi industry in London?
I pride myself on constantly learning about technology, AI and business intelligence, in order to keep up to date and know what the future holds. It’s so important for me to be avant-garde. The next 20/30 years are going to be thrilling and exciting.
For the long term future of the London taxi industry, we can continue to thrive as long as we accept and respect who we are and what we do, which is to provide a green and clean taxi service in the greatest capital of the world. We must continue to show how special we are through customer service, customer retention and customer development. And you have to understand that we are no longer a taxi, we are part of the world of mobility, with buses, coaches, trains, mini cabs, etc. As long as we find our place in the world of mobility, we will be there. Those who don’t want to fit in will be left behind. If we can accept that we have to fit in there, we will carve out a future business. London Licensed Electric Taxi is special in so many ways, and we’re here to stay.