Kakao unveils deluxe call taxi service

October 20, 2015
Kakao unveiled its new luxury taxi service, KakaoTaxi Black. (Courtesy of Kakao)

Kakao unveiled its new luxury taxi service, KakaoTaxi Black. (Courtesy of Kakao)

By Yoon Sung-won

Kakao, provider of the nation’s top mobile messenger service, KakaoTalk, plans to launch a mobile deluxe call taxi service.

For the company, which also operates Korea’s most sought-after mobile call taxi service, KakaoTaxi, the new service, “KakaoTaxi Black,” will be the first business model to generate profit based on its 30 million call taxi service users here.

“KakaoTaxi Black will provide the best service for those who need a deluxe taxi for diverse purposes, from business to daily lives,” Kakao Chief Business Officer John Jung said during a press conference in Seoul, Tuesday. “With the deluxe call taxi service, we will contribute to expand and diversify the overall demand in the local taxi industry and will make it as the first profit model of the KakaoTaxi service.”

The deluxe taxi that will be provided through KakaoTaxi Black is different from the existing black deluxe cabs that cost more than ordinary taxis.

The new deluxe taxi service was introduced after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation revised enforcement regulations in September. Under the new service, operators do not need a taxi meter, payment equipment and external taxi sign. It is only available on call or through reservations, according to the government.

Kakao signed an agreement with the Seoul Taxi Association and Highend, a deluxe taxi operator, in August to collaborate in recruiting and training drivers, buying cars and developing a mobile application as a platform. The move is in contrast to Uber, a global call taxi service that has clashed with the government and local taxi drivers.

KakaoTaxi Black will be tested using about 100 Mercedes-Benz E-class cars and 200 drivers, trained by Highend, once the Seoul Metropolitan Government finalizes approval. Under the service, customers can use in-car amenities such as mineral water and cell phone rechargers.

Although Kakao said it is unclear when the service will be approved, it expects it to be available this month.

For now, users can call a deluxe taxi only when they start within Seoul, said the company. It said it plans to expand the service by cooperating with more regional governments.

Kakao will update the existing KakaoTaxi application to support the new service. Users can call a deluxe taxi using this app and make a payment with the company’s mobile payment service, “KakaoPay.” The basic rate will be around 8,000 won and the extra fare will be charged following an agreement between the operators and the government, Kakao said.

With this service, the company will generate commission profit. The exact commission rate was not disclosed.

Meanwhile, Kakao said it does not plan to charge commissions on the ordinary KakaoTaxi service.