Despite official resistance, ride-sharing services enjoy huge levels of public support for their cheaper pricing, efficiency, convenient service and creation of flexible part-time jobs.
The ongoing reaction of the Thai government and taxi industry to this disruptive use of technology can be likened to the famous “Five Stages of Grief” theory – first expounded by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. She described the series of emotions experienced by terminally ill patients prior to their death as moving through five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Ride-sharing services spell the death of the traditional taxi industry. We can currently see countries including the US, Brazil, India, China and now Thailand progressing through the stages of grief.
But much like death, the march of technology into previously protected industries is an immutable fact of life. We do, after all, live in a capitalist world and if a new entrant to the market can create demand by providing a better, cheaper service – then the market will inevitably incorporate them.
The reasons that Uber and GrabCar have been quick to attract customers here in Thailand are so obvious they barely need repeating. Thailand’s existing taxi services have been widely criticised as costly, unfriendly, inefficient, dangerous and at times just plain unavailable – as we know only too well in Phuket.
The Thai people’s love of smartphones is well documented and we constantly hear how Phuket is rapidly evolving into a “smart city”. So why don’t we just skip the first four stages and go straight to the inevitable acceptance of this new technology?
Because of Phuket’s taxi mafia! I hear you cry. Well, it may just be that ride-sharing services finally achieve, through sheer market force, what successive governments have so far failed to do – break the taxi mafia’s stranglehold on Phuket.
So we may have to wait a bit longer but it seems the outcome is as inevitable as our own mortality.