The fleet of Taxi Rouge, Phnom Penh’s newest cab service, hit the road just two weeks ago. Its Cambodian-born, French-raised chief executive officer, Aum Rithyrith of Rithy & Reiko Co, Ltd, spoke to the Post’s Chan Muyhong about his return to Cambodia and why he decided to jump into the increasingly competitive taxi business.
How did Taxi Rouge get started?
I have been observing the development of our country and our city Phnom Penh for a while with the idea to do something that could help some of our people find a job and also encourage them to work harder by themselves with more commitment.
Taking taxis myself most of the time in Phnom Penh and overseas, I started to compare them and wanted to understand more about the business to find out whether it was possible to improve the quality of the equipment and customer service, plus at the same time encourage more people to take taxis.
Why call it Taxi Rouge and why set it up in Cambodia?
I chose Cambodia because I felt that our country is now on the move and it is our duty and responsibility to contribute to its development.
I called it Taxi Rouge because I wanted to evoke our past, when most of our parents used to appreciate and learn more French than English. It is an easy name to remember, either in Cambodian, French or English, and the colour makes the taxis able to be seen from far away.
What are you doing to make Taxi Rouge different from your competitors?
Taxi Rouge is aiming to equip its fleet only with Toyota Prius hybrids, which would help us use between 30 per cent and 40 per cent less petrol compared to normal cars; it is time to think about our environment for the good for our citizens. Our cars are comfortable and have air-con that works perfectly – something really important in a hot country.
Also, I have introduced a new method that none of the existing companies are practising, to encourage our drivers to work harder for themselves. Each car has two drivers – one each for the day and night shifts – and each one knows exactly the fixed amount that they have to pay every day. Whatever more they make they keep for themselves.
By doing it this way, they understand clearly that they are working for themselves – like they have their own business – and they will work harder.
It is a new approach in Cambodia, but this is the way many taxi companies are doing it in other countries.
How’s business been since the launch?
We started on July 18 with 12 cars, all Toyota Prius hybrids. Today we have 14 cars and aim to reach 36 cars before the end of this year. We have been making revenue since the first day. One car can bring us a net profit of $33 per day.
We are targeting people all around Phnom Penh city. For now, we would prefer to concentrate our efforts to develop our company in Phnom Penh and to do well here, but for sure we would like later to go to the big provinces like Siem Reap.
In the next three years, I hope that I can reach annual profit of $2.4 million with 200 cars; we expect one car to earn $1,000 per month.
With four taxi companies already competing, as well as tuk-tuks and City Hall’s plan to introduce 40 more buses, what makes you think Taxi Rouge can be so successful?
We will be successful because the way we do things is different, because our cars are different and because of our quality service. More and more people will want to take our taxis as they will understand that they are convenient and the price is affordable and not more expensive than a tuk-tuk.
I cannot see any competition between a bus and a taxi company. Both can co-exist as they are not doing exactly the same thing. Buses will never go into the small streets, unlike taxis, which are smaller and can access these, so they are much more convenient.
As for other taxis, I like to take on challenges and I feel that is good to have competitors as it helps you improve yourself and stay alive. But above all it is good for the customer.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.