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THE Q&A: Sherbet’s Asher Moses discusses lockdowns, trade recovery and the long-term future of taxis

The taxi industry is lucky to have several forward thinking and innovative individuals within the trade. One such person that fits that bill is Asher Moses, CEO of Sherbet Taxis, who have been picking up a cluster of awards in the background thanks largely to its growing green electric taxi app and fleet.

We caught up with Asher to discuss the last few years and where the London taxi industry is heading in the long-term.

The pandemic had a severe impact on the taxi industry. How did Sherbet Taxis get through all the lockdowns and looking back now what were the key learnings from that period?

Lockdown was a challenge not just for Sherbet but for all licensed fleet owners, especially those of us who’d invested heavily in electric taxis. Actually, ‘challenge’ is understating it. At times, thepandemic was absolutely chaotic.

We had taxis coming back on a daily basis due to a lack of demand. We had to hire car parks to store unused vehicles, then we had to allow drivers to keep their taxis at home because taxis left in the car parks were being vandalised. Some fleet owners had components stolen from their idle vehicles, and we couldn’t decommission taxis fast enough.

We had to reinvent our business. We couldn’t sell advertising and the doughnut effect meant people were at home instead of in the centre of town. So we transformed our app to cater to people who needed to travel safely to hospital appointments. This helped us keep some of our drivers earning their bread and butter while helping the most vulnerable in our city.

You have to be resilient in this game. Having been in the industry for over 35 years we’ve seen recessions come and go and we’ve seen off many attempts by corporates to take over our industry, which always fail because, as we all know, a suit can’t talk to a cabbie.

But a key learning from the pandemic is that, as a business owner, you can’t put your trust in the Government, the Mayor’s office or TfL with regards to their promises about going green and going electric and providing support. As a businessman you have to be ready and prepared to take the big risks involved to sustain the taxi trade. I think the taxi trade should come together to applaud the many fleet owners out there who, like myself, have really committed their lives to establishing the trade, and investing millions of pounds on converting to electric. We give access to drivers who can’t afford a taxi, and who can’t or don’t want to commit to finance. We are investing on the Government’s behalf for the trade, so all we ask is for more government support going forward and for the public and taxi driving community to back us.

Since the covid restrictions were completely lifted how has business been?

We’re about 18 months into normality and there is a renaissance for taxis. Rentals are at their highest occupancy for a long time,

due to there being far fewer vehicles on the road than pre-pandemic. But the drivers will come back. Once you are a cab driver you are always a cab driver and the demand we’re seeing now must be picked up on the supply side.

One reason for this renaissance is that during Covid, people loved the clean, green, safe taxis – not for the tech, but for the personal approach. The nature of black taxis having separate cabins with individual climate control alleviated many people’s fears around catching Covid from a driver. It was a slow start – start and stop – but it is booming now.

Another reason our Ride app is in such demand is that people are so much more aware of corporate social responsibility now and they want to work with ethical brands and to be seen in clean, green taxis like ours. We are a premium app but above all we are a brand with values, a brand that is recognised, both due to our fleet and also with the pristine, clean, owner drivers we’re recruiting to work on the driver app; our delivery and service is second to none.

Also for the media part of the business, advertisers want to be seen on green, ethical taxis and we’re in that sweet spot. As a brand in the taxi trade we are doing very well now. We were up and down alongside the drivers during the pandemic, but we continue to work in collaboration with our drivers in support of the black taxi trade.

What more can be done to speed up the roll out of electric black cabs in the capital?

The truth is I think taxi owners and fleet owners have really done their bit. They have invested in theMayor’s strategy in the hope they would get more support. I am personally shouting as loud as I can to the city, to the capital, and to business owners to get on board and support people like us who invest in electric taxis and invest in the Mayor’s strategy to go green.

As well as more consideration from the Government, we need a lot more people to love the taxi trade and shout on our behalf, so it’s also about the passengers. We should be taking the time to give them the best experience; with a smile, with excellent service and with a fair fare. We need them to support us, we need to retain each one and never leave them with a bad memory. It’s the customers who will scream and shout for us, especially at Sherbet. In fact, they’re already doing just that. Above all though, we need decision makers in London to love electric black taxis and set legislation allowing easier roll out and fleet expansion.

Your latest advertising campaign, which compares Sherbet’s green credentials with those of the ride-hail firm Uber, has sparked much debate. What was the thinking behind it and what are you looking to achieve?

To be honest with you, it is very hard to find marketing budgets when you are trying to scale, not every company has a huge budget therefore you need to find innovative and creative strategies. Sherbet is lucky in that our vehicles provide a fantastic canvas for building our brand and getting Londoners’ attention. And creatively, what better way to get your message out than to bounce off another brand which isn’t delivering what it promised. Uber doesn’t have a good reputation in London, just hopes and empty promises. They have blinded our politicians and Transport for London with the hope of technology to lead the capital, when the truth is that we were already doing it, we are still doing it, and we will continue to lead.

But as well as being a clever marketing strategy, the objective is to call Uber out, to say “look they are fuming, they are pumping out way more kilotonnes of emissions than we do”. It was brave, it was scary, to park outside their offices, but honestly, everyone should be calling out Uber; the Mayor, TfL, MPs. Why are they obsessed with a brand that doesn’t respect the play in the capital? They have brought so much disrepute to our Capital and to our politicians, need I remind them of the Uber Files? So as well as building awareness for Sherbet, we hope this campaign helps persuade the Government to invest in the iconic asset that is the Licensed London Electric Taxi, be proud of what they are achieving today and embrace that we can really lead the charge in this area.

Yourself and Sherbet Taxis have received a plethora of awards recently. Do you think the taxi industry could do more to celebrate success?

I truly do feel like the taxi industry could be doing so much more to celebrate their successes.

Sherbet is being recognised because of the iconic Licensed London Electric Taxi, because we are modernising it, because we are innovating. We are embracing tech and data, we are reinvesting into our business. We are more than a taxi fleet, we are a taxi solutions company with a fantastic team who believe in us, and we are accelerating forward.

But all of this is not only for us. We’d love to work with others, but it’s a very hard industry to work together in sadly. We are all amazing business people, we want to do things our own way but respect to all of us, we are all in it for the long term. Yes there is so much to be celebrated; we are electric, we are fully trained, we are iconic, we are reducing emissions. We are not only winning awards for Sherbet and for my customers and my drivers, but for the trade.

You’re a very forward thinker. Where do you see the long-term future of the London taxi industry?

I am proud to be constantly learning about tech, AI and business intelligence, in order to keep myself up to date and know what the future is bringing. It is so important to me to be forward thinking. The next 20/30 years are going to be thrilling and exciting.

For the long-term future of the London taxi industry, we can keep thriving as long as we accept and respect who we are and what we do, which is provide a green, clean, taxi service in the greatest capital in the world. We have to keep showing just how special we are through customer service, customer retention and customer building. And we must understand we are not a taxi anymore, we are part of the world of mobility, along with buses, coaches, trains, mini cabs, and so on. As long as we figure out how we fit in the world of mobility, we’ll be around. The ones who don’t want to fit in will be left out. If we can accept we have to fit in there, we will carve out a future business. The Licensed London Electric Taxi is special for so many ways, and we are here to stay.


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