“The taxis here are unbelievably expensive,” exclaims Jambu Palaniappan, the head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Uber, a rapidly growing Internet taxi service.
The remark is followed by a flowing discussion on whether the fact that taxi services are subject to licence in Finland is in the best interest of customers, drivers or licence holders.
Palaniappan arrived in Helsinki on Tuesday to speak at the start-up seminar Arctic15, but he and Dominick Moxon-Tritsch, the head of public policy at Uber, are in the Finnish capital also to convince authorities and policy-makers to revise the local regulations in order to facilitate the launch of Uber in Finland.
The Finnish Taxi Owners' Federation has estimated that there is no demand for the online taxi service in the country.
Uber, Moxon-Tritsch underlines, strives to adapt to the different operating environments across the world. In London it operates in an entirely regulated environment, in Paris it supplements the overburdened metro system, and in Barcelona it relies chiefly on competitive pricing, Moxon-Tritsch tells.
In Stockholm, where the taxi sector has been de-regulated, Uber is growing rapidly.
“Helsinki is interesting, because people here are relatively well-off and technologically advanced,” Moxon-Tritsch explains.
He also reveals that that the objective of the discussions between Uber and national decision-makers is to determine whether the legislation governing taxi services remains relevant in the Internet age. Meanwhile, Uber can also share its experience-based knowledge of what de-regulatory measures have proven successful in different countries.
Established in 2009, Uber currently operates in over 110 cities in 35 countries. “On six continents, from Stockholm to Johannesburg, From Bogotá Columbia to Sydney Australia, to India and four Chinese cities,” lists Palaniappan.
Thousands of Finns, he points out, already use the application abroad. “The same app works anywhere.”
Juha-Pekka Raeste – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photo: Kimmo Räisänen