Tuesday 07 December 2021

Malta Taxi – under new management

HandsOn Systems is always in for a challenge but, with Malta Taxi, the legacy taxi service provider in Malta and Gozo, the challenge was far greater. According to HandsOn Systems CEO Geoffrey Farrugia, it is certainly not insurmountable, and he is all out to change perceptions.

Malta and Gozo’s original taxi provider, the Malta Licenced Taxi Association, has been rebranded Malta Taxi. Apart from its new brand image, there is a new app, new website (www.maltataxi.mt) and a constant presence on social media, including Facebook and Instagram.

“Everyone knows that the white taxi has been providing this service for generations, with the taxi being handed down from father to son (and also daughter),” Geoffrey Farrugia, CEO of HandsOn Systems said. With 250 licenced taxis in Malta and 50 in Gozo, they are a unique breed.

“They know every nook and cranny of these islands and are extremely hard-working,” Mr Farrugia added. “Some of them regularly put in 12- to 15-hour days. You will find their booths at Malta International Airport, in Valletta, Sliema and Paceville. And they are the only transport service provider that can use the term ‘taxi’.

“Unfortunately, their sales practices, customer orientation and behaviour, apart from their unpredictable pricing and failure to update their technology, meant they were, like dinosaurs in the market, on the brink of extinction. The covid-19 pandemic, with tourism drying up, made things worse.”

Enter the young, enterprising new CEO of the white taxis, Malcolm Ciantar, and the key decision earlier this year to approach HandsOn Systems, who have over a decade of experience working with taxi companies and other transport and logistics companies not just in Malta but around the world.

“From my conversations with Geoff, there was a clear way forward,” Mr Ciantar said. “We needed a completely new start. That means a new fleet policy so that no taxi can be more than 10 years old; new uniforms for the drivers; clean vehicles, including daily air fresheners; and a transparent, traceable technology platform to put us on a par with – if not get ahead of – the competition.”

So, no more tatty clothes and worn-out cars; each driver is now identifiable through the app. If he over-speeds or drives dangerously, he is immediately suspended. If you forget an item of luggage or a personal belonging, like a mobile phone, it is easy to make contact with Taxi Malta.

Customer feedback is also encouraged, either through the app, their website or through Facebook. There is also a new generation of taxi drivers coming through – all local and in their 20s, with a different, more professional approach.

On his part, when Mr Farrugia was approached by Mr Ciantar, the thought did occur to him whether he wanted to partner up with an entity with such a poor reputation. “I always believed that the bigger the challenge, the more the satisfaction you get from the result, and the greater the feeling of accomplishment,” he said.

HandsOn Systems are fully committed to the Malta Taxi project and have taken over not just the marketing but have partnered up with the client to underline their commitment. Among the benefits for the taxi drivers is optimised usage of their time and better route planning, since in many instances, they will not be driving back empty from a destination where they have just dropped off a client.

“Our mission as HandsOn Systems is to be fully committed to putting Malta Taxi on its feet again and to guide and support Malta Taxi on its digitalisation journey,” Mr Farrugia said. “Through our experience and technology expertise, we can make Malta Taxi a strong taxi operator in the local market once again.”

Mr Ciantar is impressed with the high quality and responsiveness of HandsOn Systems. “Our clients can now book a trip not just through the app but also through our website, having first been informed of the cost. We are never further than a phone call or e-mail away and we are taking all feedback seriously,” he said.

Part of the marketing campaign that has begun to promote Malta Taxi has been discounts over the weekends and on public holidays, and the use of Maltese words such as mela, grazzi and bonġu. Among the host of new services in the pipeline are company rates for staff transport and a loyalty scheme to promote local travelling and help reduce traffic.

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