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Former U.S. operator Russ Golyak is broadening his Pacific Rim horizons with a technology consulting gig in Singapore. But he still has a strong eye for chauffeured service.
When you think of the limousine industry in Southeast Asia, an image of a “tuk tuk” probably comes to mind. But not in Singapore. Even when you can still catch a scenic city-sightseeing tour in a bicycle side-cart driven by a charming old Chinese man outside the Raffles Hotel, it’s not the first thing that grabs your attention in this country full of opulence and wealth. You don’t need to look past the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, with its impressive surfboard-shaped pool stretching across triple 57-story towers overlooking the city skyline. Practically every four- and five-star hotel has a fleet of the latest model BMW and Mercedes-Benz flagship sedans at the disposal of their guests. Some even go a step beyond with a Rolls-Royce Phantom or a bright red Ferrari parked up front begging to be taken for a ride. But it’s not what caught my attention. The ability to book a ride on a smartphone did.
Sure, you can call in a booking, or even book yourself online or via e-mail just about anywhere else in the world. But it’s time consuming and requires more interaction than a busy professional cares to spare. Why not use an app?
In Singapore, the population is obsessed with the iProducts from Apple. iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch can be spotted just about anywhere without even looking for them. So it makes perfect sense that this little island city-state would be an early adopter of such technology. Strict cultural discipline already in place certainly helps. In addition to bus stops, there are numerous taxi stops (which look identical to the bus stops) littering the commercial business district with ‘Please Q’ signs reminding tourists you can’t just whistle a cab wherever you fancy as you would in New York City or London.
However, an educated consumer would simply push the app button on a personal iPhone and the central reservation system would quickly update on how soon one should expect a ride downstairs. It’s a helpful feature, although you pay for the convenience as with anything else in Southeast Asia. While the app is free, the booking adds a $2.50 SGD convenience surcharge to your final bill every time you use it. Once on location, the cab service rings your phone to let you know your car is waiting.