Meru on Facebook Messenger! First move or last ride?
Meru Cabs has recently announced that their tie-up with Facebook to offer cab booking services through Facebook Messenger. The company also said it will allow users to book cabs through keywords and Meru Messenger Bot service. It also claims to be the “first cab service” to do so.
But is there a reason why others, including market leaders didn’t think of this?
Here's the processto book a cab via Facebook Messenger.
Facebook messenger users have to search “Meru Cabs” on Facebook Messenger under ‘Bots and Business’ section and begin interaction. Then the user has to go through the process which involves an initial mobile number verification (one time) and the user starting a chat with Meru Messenger Bot to book a cab. Once the location is shared on the chat box, the user is then directed to choosing sedan (Meru) or hatchback (MeruGenie) cab available for the trip with the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival). Once confirmed, the Meru Messenger Bot responds on real time basis with the cab details along with the chuffer’s mobile number.
The first move that it claims comes too late as the cab service has been facing increasing competition from taxi-hailing apps such as Uber and Ola. Meru Cabs market share was 14% till August last year, according to a Business Today report. This could be even lower now considering the increasing growth and popularity of Uber and Ola in the country.
Ola share during the same times was around 60%, according to investor Softbank in a presentation last year, while Uber official claimed to have nearly 40% market share as of March 2016, according to a Mint report.
App over Facebook?
Competitors Ola and Uber are way ahead of Meru Cabs in terms of app downloads. While Meru Cabs has over 5 million app downloads, Ola has nearly 50 million downloads on Google Play alone.
The Ola app has been downloaded more than twice as much as Uber in India, according to a survey by Which App, which would peg it to at around 25 million downloads.
With Meru Cabs nowhere in the app race it has moved to making its services available on Facebook Messenger. But will this help?
Siddhartha Pahwa, Group CEO, Meru Cabs said, “Simplifying our customer’s lives and addressing all their requirements is our priority at Meru. With this new feature, the process of booking a cab has become as convenient as chatting with a friend on Facebook messenger. Now, Meru Cabs is available to 150 million Facebook messenger users to book cabs in India.”
The important question here is when taxi services can be booked through apps why will anyone log into Facebook Messenger and book a cab? One has to wait and watch.
While the intention of Meru may be right that by trying to make its services available on various platforms, the move might have come too late with the juggernaut of Uber and Ola in India.
And with just 5 million app downloads as against Ola’s 50 million, the customer verdict might already be out there.