Archive for June 2009

How can $1m help the Taxi industry?

LTA recently announced that it will be setting aside 1 million dollars to help the Taxi Industry. As we all know fewer people are taking Taxi lately due to the recession, high fares, H1N1 etc etc. I’m not going to debate on why we should be using taxpayers money to save an industry. A lot of people have already done.

But I can’t help but wonder, can the $1m help the Taxi industry? In his letter to ST Forum, Jeremy Yap, Group Director for LTA Vehicle & Transit Licensing, states 3 aims of $1m fund.

First, it aims to improve the service levels of taxi drivers, so as to enhance the overall delivery of service to commuters, by co-funding initiatives such as programmes on good service behaviours.

Second, it encourages the industry to do more to stimulate demand, by co-funding initiatives from the taxi companies for up to one-third of the cost of the promotional activities, but this will expressly exclude any direct subsidy of taxi fares.

Third, it serves to improve demand through improving convenience and accessibility for taxi commuters during major events like the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Singapore River Hongbao, by supporting additional infrastructure facilities such as temporary taxi stands.

In short, that means training for Taxi drivers, marketing and building more Taxi Stands.

First question, do we need to give Taxi drivers more training? Training is good. It improves the service standard of Taxi drivers. We all heard of the poor service standards by some taxi drivers. But those are just black sheep. And besides, is poor service standard the reason behind the fall of taxi ridership? Answer is No. The service standards has been improving over the years, yet the ridership has been dropping lately. Service standard is not the reason behind the fall.

Next question, do we need more taxi stands? More taxi stands are good. Especially after the stupid ruling where taxi are not allowed to pick up or drop off passenger at the side of the main road in CBD. Speaking of that stupid ruling, I really think it should be abolished. For the uninitiated, Taxi drivers are only allowed to pick up or drop off passengers at Taxi Stand or building driveways in the CBD. The ruling is supposed to be for safety of passengers, taxi drivers and other road users. I’ve lost count of the number of times I see foreigners trying to flag for a taxi along the main road in CBD. I even walked up to some of them to tell them that they can only board a taxi at the Taxi Stand, which coincidentally is either empty or having long queues. We can built a few hundred more Taxi stands in Singapore, but they are useless if there is no Taxi. Have you ever tried waiting for a Cab at Ngee Ann City Taxi Stand? It’s a nightmare. Sometimes, the waiting time is enough for you to take a train from Orchard to any part of Singapore. So will building more Taxi Stand help the Taxi industry? No.

Last question, do we need to have marketing and promotion campaign for Taxi? I can tell you straight away that the answer is no. Everybody knows what is a taxi. Everyone knows how to flag for a taxi or call a taxi. There is no need to run a marketing campaign to promote taxi ridership. Marketing can be good for some business. But you don’t need to run a marketing campaign for taxi. Everyone knows what is it already. Just because I see my favorite celebrity taking a cab on television doesn’t makes me want to take Taxi. And promotion isn’t going to help much. Giving another trip free or free goodies is not going to encourage me to take a taxi.

The problem lies with the Taxi fare pricing, especially the ridiculous 35% peak hour surcharge. If LTA is really sincere about saving the Taxi industry, try lowering the taxi fares. With cheaper rates, people will start taking taxi again. But then, lowering the taxi fares will pose another problem. Taxi drivers might not earn enough to make a living. And the only solution to that will be reducing the Taxi rental. Then the taxi companies will complain since they are earning lesser now. But taxi companies are already earning a lot nowadays. Do you know that taxi rental per day is around $100? It is impossible for the Taxi companies to reduce the rental because that will affect their profit. But what if LTA reduce the tax and license fee on taxi companies to cushion the loss in profit? Hmmm…. Maybe that might work.

Honestly, I’m not against LTA using $1m to help the Taxi industry. If it is a good method, I won’t even mind if they spend more money on it. But after reading the 3 aims of the $1m fund, I can’t help but think that LTA is going to throw the taxpayer money into the ocean without getting any results in return.

Come to think of it, there must be other ways to help the Taxi industry other than the one I’ve suggested. If you have any, feel free to throw them in the comment box. Hopefully someone from LTA will pick it up and put that $1m into better use.

Wear a mask if you are sick

Singapore has confirmed another 26 new cases of Influenza A (H1N1-2009) yesterday (22 June 2009). This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Singapore to 168. Of the 26 new cases, 17 were local transmission. Which means there is a chance of you catching the H1N1 even if you didn’t travel oversea recently.

So as a public service announcement, wear a face mask if you are feeling unwell and consult a doctor as soon as possible. I know you may think that you might looks ugly or weird while wearing a face mask. But actually, it isn’t that bad. Thanks to a flash application by a local company call H1Studio, we are able to see how we look like while wearing a face mask.

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I think I look pretty good while wearing a mask. Haha. (yeah, basically I look good when I cover my face) So, don’t be afraid to wear a mask when you are sick. Everyone will understand that you are doing your part to prevent an outbreak. Together we can overcome this H1N1 like what we did in 2003 for SARS.

Oh, and by the way H1Studio has nothing to do with H1N1 even though they call themselves H1. They do Augmented Reality, which I was fortunate to get a sneak peak some time last month. Pretty cool stuff. Will talk more about them when they are ready.

Samsung Omnia family

Finally got a chance to play with the 4 new Samsung Omnia phones that was launched during Samsung Unpacked. I was pretty surprised that the Samsung Unpacked event was only focusing on the Samsung Jet and there is totally no mention of the 4 new Omnia phones that Samsung had launched together.

The Omnia family is a series of Samsung Smartphone running on Windows Mobile. I like companies that have sub-brand for their products. It helps us understand some of the key features of the phone just by looking at the name. This sub-brand decision also explains why the previously named Omnia HD has been renamed as i8910HD, since it is running on S60 instead of Windows Mobile.

Anyway, I got a closer look at the 4 new Omnia phones at CommunicAsia last week.

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Omnia Lite B7300 seems like an entry level smartphone. You don’t have any fanciful specs or features. Comes with a 3.0 inch WQVGA TFT display. Its a full touch screen phone without any physical Qwerty keyboard or number pad. 3 megapixel autofocus camera. 3.6 Mbps HSDPA, WIFI, Bluetooth and A-GPS. Comes with the new TouchWiz 2.0 user interface. There is no mention of the pricing for the Omnia Lite B7300 yet, but I expect it to be at entry level pricing.

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Omnia Pro B7610 is a 3.5 inch AMOLED touch screen phone with a slide out Qwerty keyboard at the side. The AMOLED screen, like the i8910HD and Samsung Jet, is beautiful. The Omnia Pro B7610 is said to be running on a 800MHz CPU. Running on Windows Mobile 6.1, a fast processor will be useful. 5 Megapixel autofocus camera. 3.6 Mbps HSDPA, WIFI, Bluetooth and GPS. The Omnia Pro B7610 is designed for business users. There is a Business Card Recognition software for you to enter business card into your contact list. Support for multiple push emails account. Microsoft Office Suite for viewing and editing documents. There is even a Work & Life mode for switching between work and leisure time.

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Omnia Pro B7320 is another Omnia phone with Qwerty keyboard. But instead of a side slide out keyboard, the Omnia Pro B7320 comes with a portrait keyboard. 2.4 inch TFT screen. Note that this is NOT a touch screen. Comes with a 3 megapixel autofocus camera. 3.6 Mbps HSDPA, WIFI and Bluetooth. Sad to say, GPS is missing on this phone.

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Omina II (I8000), as the name suggest, is the successor for Samsung’s successful Omnia phone. Comes with a beautiful 3.7 inch WVGA AMOLED touchscreen. There is no physical Qwerty keyboard or number pad. 5 megapixel autofocus camera with dual power LED flash. New TouchWiz 2.0 user interface. 7.2 Mbps HSDPA, WIFI, Bluetooth and A-GPS. There is no mention of the colours anywhere in the press release and specs. But from the press kit, I saw a black and a while Omnia II photos. And the white Omnia II looks pretty nice.

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TouchWiz 2.0 interface in available on Omnia II, Omnia Lite B7300 and Omnia Pro B7610. It is not on Omnia Pro B7320 as it does not have a touch screen. One of the best thing I like about the new TouchWiz 2.0 interface is the Task Switcher. It makes multi tasking and switching between applications a breeze. Oh, the TouchWiz 2.0 interface is also on the Samsung Jet.

All the 4 new Omnia phones comes with Windows 6.1 professional. They are updatable to Windows Mobile 6.5 when the new OS is available.

Everyone is the media

Visited CommunicAsia last week because I was invited by 2 companies to attend their event. (Plus I wanted to check out some stuff happening at CommunicAsia) CommunicAsia is a tradeshow and open to trade visitors only, unlike PC show which is like a huge pasar malam. Registration with business card is required before you can enter. I registered myself as a local visitor with my Tech65 namecard and went in. I thought there won’t be any difference between local visitors and Press. But when I saw Daniel Goh at Samsung booth, the first thing he asked was “Why are you holding Local Visitor pass? You should get the Press pass.” Apparently, there is a big difference.

Some companies in CommunicAsia does not allow Visitors to take photos. Only the press are allowed to take photos of their products. Its weird because not all companies at CommunicAsia has this restriction. Feeling fustrated after being stopped from taking photos for a few times, I went to the registration counter to enquire how to get a media pass. Since I guess blogging and podcasting is classified as “New Media”, maybe I can get one. But I was told that the CommunicAsia organisers don’t issue media pass to bloggers unless I was invited by one of the exhibitors. Wah piang, so troublesome. But luckily for me, I knew some of the PR folks whose client are exhibitors at the CommunicAsia and I managed to get a media pass with some help. :) Thanks a lot to Aaron and Priscilla! :)

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With the media pass, I can take photo without anyone stopping me. But this is so stupid. Why is it that only the media can take photos of your products? Its not some top secret product. Product specs and photos are already online for everyone’s view pleasure. Some of them are already in the stores! I don’t know who set this no photography rules for non-media visitors. It could be the organisers of CommunicAsia or the Exhibitors themselves. This rule is doing them more harm than good. But there are some exhibitors who didn’t stop visitors from taking photos. I supposed they know that there is a new group of influencer on the rise, everyone.

Whoever stop the visitors from taking photos seems to forget that we are living in the internet age where everyone is the media. Anyone can be a blogger, tweeter, plurker, facebooker or simply an influencer in their social circle. Everyone is a micro influencer (and some not so micro). And as a company, you want these people to help spread words about your product. You want to let them have the best information so that they can talk about your product and influence people in their social circle. That is assuming they like your product. But even if they don’t like your product, they can also be your best critics and give you the best feedback to improve your product. And with good engagement, you might even turn that person into your company’s best supporter. There is nothing to lose here.

And it’s not just CommunicAsia. I always hear about people complaining that certain restaurant or shop doesn’t allow customers to take photo in their premises. I simply don’t understand why is there a need to disallow photography. Is your company a top secret military related business? It just doesn’t make sense at all.

Times has changed. The Main Stream Media is no longer the only form of media that influence people. It’s time for companies to learn and adapt to this new media and see how they can incorporate it into their existing marketing strategy. But remember, New Media is here to complement the Main Stream Media, not replace. We are already seeing many companies and PR agencies inviting bloggers to their launch events. This trend is here to stay. If you are free, watch this TED video by Clay Shirk about new media.

Remember, everyone is the media.

PS: Speaking of micro influencer, I was influenced on Twitter to try out McDonalds Milo McFurry last night. That was my first time trying out Milo McFurry and I’m loving it (despite the fact that it’s a little overpriced).

Happy Father’s Day

This has got to be the most creative ads ever.

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Anyway, Happy Father’s Day, no matter which brand you are using (or not using).