Uber, Grab beat Vietnam’s motorcyle taxi drivers on their own turf

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Uber, Grab beat Vietnam's motorcyle taxi drivers on their own turf Uber, Grab beat Vietnam's motorcyle taxi drivers on their own turf A motorbike taxi driver takes a nap in front of a property advertising poster in downtown Ho Chi Minh city. Photo by AFP

As more locals embrace ride-hailing apps, xe om drivers, mostly old and poor, find themselves on the losing side.

The growing popularity of app-based transport services like Uber and Grab has eaten into the incomes of many motorcycle taxi drivers in Vietnam.

Some have even predicted that these newcomers could eventually put old-fashioned drivers, now usually referred to as "traditional" xe om drivers, out of business.

Thanh, a middle-aged driver in Hanoi, said in the past the weeks before the Lunar New Year had always been busy for him, but this year everything changed.

“A large number of migrant workers and university students would be rushing back home ahead of Tet," Thanh said, waiting for his next passenger. "I couldn't drive them all. But business has slowed this year.”

Drivers like Thanh have blamed the advent of transport apps like UberMotor and GrabBike. Tam himself is not sure how he can adapt to the changing times.

“Most people seem to have ditched old-fashioned drivers like me,” Tam told VnExpress.

Uber and Grab are leaving traditional motorcycle taxi drivers at the curb. These apps let the user secure a driver and know the fare before hitting the road.

Many xe om drivers reportedly cannot meet technical requirements to join Grab or Uber networks. Some don't have a smartphone to pick up passengers while others don't think they can catch up with the new tech.

“Young people now use high-tech devices," said Thanh, who thinks he's too old to learn how to use a smartphone. "So they can easily hail a ride with Grab or Uber drivers, who come to their home and pick them up."

The driver said this year he had to work longer hours on the street to make some extra cash.

Thanh said he used to earn at least VND200,000-300,000 ($9-$13) on a normal day and up to VND600,000 before Tet. But now he earns around VND100,000 only.

His fellow drivers have even turned to another job and he said he may just stay at home to help his wife at her shop.

“Last year was hard. I don’t even know how the new year will turn out,” the driver said.

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