Taxi app Hailo appoints new country manager for Japanese market

R to L: Hailo K.K. CEO Ryo Umezawa, Dai Okui, VP of Business Strategy Department at Hikari Tsushin
R to L: Hailo K.K. CEO Ryo Umezawa, Dai Okui, VP of Business Strategy Department at Hikari Tsushin

See the original story in Japanese.

UK-based taxi hailing app Hailo was launched in the Japanese market in Osaka in 2013. Hailo Networks Japan, the local subsidiary of the UK company, has been restructured as a new company called Hail K.K.

The new company appointed Ryo Umezawa as CEO and fundraised from Hikari Tsushin (TSE:9435). Coinciding with that, Dai Okui, VP of Business Strategy Department at Hikari Tsushin, will also join the management board. Umezawa is a serial entrepreneur and has been involved in many projects in Sakebii and Accelbeat as well as serving Tokyo-based incubator J-Seed Ventures as a managing director.

Details about the amount Hailo K.K. fundraised have not been disclosed but it is likely to be a seed fund injection because the company’s disclosed capital amount is about six million yen ($50,000).

What is the key differentiator from their rival Uber and how they can overcome possible conflicts with local taxi operators or drivers’ unions? Umezawa explained that Hailo’s service can be more easily accepted both for taxi drivers and consumers.

For instance, taxi hailing services like Uber in Japan charter a local hired-car service and split their working hours to provide the service for each of their customers.

Hailo was launched in London by three taxi drivers and three entrepreneurs. Originally launched as a social network platform for taxi drivers, it is now driving users to taxi drivers. Umezawa explained:

Our focus on helping taxi drivers earn more revenue is the same in Japan as in the UK. With our app, you can see where they have been picked up or will be picked up by which taxi driver, which gives you relief and trust. That is probably one reason more female costumers use taxis via our app.

Hailo K.K. has partnered with 38 local taxi operators, which proves that their business model is becoming accepted by taxi drivers in Japan.

Dai Okuda, VP of Business Strategy Department at Hikari Tsushin, explained why his company has partnered with and invested in Hailo K.K.:

We can help their user acquisition by promoting the Hailo app at our stores or by letting our customer reps promote it to restaurants we serve. Because we sell telecommunication services, we can also encourage taxi drivers using the Hailo app to buy a smartphone from us.

Upon the establishment of the new business entity, they will soon launch the service in Tokyo. While they are a small team comprised of four persons in Osaka and three in Tokyo, they are hiring a sales manager and an office manager in Tokyo. So if you are interested in their business, it is highly recommended that you contact them.

In Tokyo, taxi apps like Uber and local taxi operator‘s are in fierce competition, so it will be interesting to see how Hailo performs.

A Hailo taxi in Japan. (This photo was taken in Tokyo where the service is still being prepared.)