Fair Trade Company currently runs 200 city taxis and 60 airport taxis in Erbil. Photo: Fair Trade Company
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Hawler Taxi, also known as Kurd Taxi, will be the first and only taxi service in Erbil to offer app-based taxi bookings in the Erbil area and eventually across the Kurdistan region.
“We need to develop the transportation sector in the Kurdistan Region,” Ranj Ali, General Manager and co-partner of the Fair Trade Company told Rudaw English on Tuesday.
Although the application is still in the final testing phase, Ali said it should be ready to use “within a month maximum.”
Until then though, there are a few different numbers to call if anyone is interested in ordering a taxi 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Fair Trade offers many types of public transportation services across Erbil, including airport taxis, city taxis, buses or mini-buses for rent and VIP cars for special guests arriving in Kurdistan.
Airport mini-bus. Photo: Fair Trade Company
Ali said that Fair Trade owns all of its airport transportation services, but that city taxis are outsourced to current taxi drivers who meet certain criteria for working with them.
Ali said that the company takes customer service seriously and they provide a lot of services to ensure their own drivers as well as the outsourced city taxi drivers are fully trained in many areas such as safety, ethics, how to deal with passengers, traffic and driver training.
Training usually lasts a minimum of three months but is continuous and drivers are required to wear special uniforms for easy recognition. A special identification number is also given to each driver and displayed inside the car.
Additionally, all drivers are required to have background checks completed with the police and Asayesh (security).
Classrooms are available to train drivers in many areas such as language, driving skills, ethics, safety and customer service. Photo by author
“We really focus on providing the highest quality of service plus the safest, which is why all drivers are trained and an investigation is done on all drivers, permits from the government and our company are given [to be displayed],” said Nasir Debss, Manager and co-partner of Fair Trade. “Badges are available on each car for passengers to see which are approved by the Department of Transportation and Asayesh.”
Debss emphasized the fact that “safety and quality service” are two important points regarding their transportation services, especially for women traveling alone or expats who may be new to Erbil. Also, once the app is fully rolled out, there will be an SOS [an international code expressing distress] feature on it.
The SOS feature is to let the company know that there has been an incident or emergency and if pushed, a customer service representative will immediately call the customer. If there is no answer, they will then call the driver. If there is still no answer, the police will be dispatched immediately.
All customer service numbers are available within the taxi as well as the app itself.
GM Ali said that there are currently 60 Airport taxis available and those run between 150 to 160 rides from the airport daily, even though Fair Trade started their Airport taxi service just one day after the current flight ban went into effect in September.
Fair Trade outsources 200 city taxis around Erbil and have started operating recently with a few schools as well as having city taxis available at Park View and Lebanese Village for direct use with plans to have taxis available at more housing complexes throughout Erbil soon.
“Our plan is to cover all taxi drivers in Erbil which includes 40,000 taxis,” Ali said. “We want to improve the service of transportation in Erbil.”
Meters and GPS units are installed in all cars as well as free Wi-Fi services.
GPS units installed in cars. Photo by author
At this time, payment by cash is available, but Fair Trade is looking into different, electronic payment methods to be used in the future and prices are comparable to the local market. Additionally, they offer the customer a monthly payment option where an invoice is sent at the end of each month for the customer to pay.
Ali said their company also follows up with clients to make sure customers were satisfied with their services.
So far, Ali said, there have been no problems with any drivers and they hold a 100 percent satisfaction rate from their clients since the inception of the company approximately three years ago.
Currently Kurd Taxi/Hawler Taxi is only available in Erbil, but once the application is fully launched, Ali and Debss have hopes to also launch Duhok Taxi and Sulaimani Taxi in the future.
Speaking to one of the drivers for Fair Trade’s Airport taxi, Chia, he reiterated that the company focuses on safety and following traffic laws. “If the speed limit is 60 km/h, we cannot even go 61 km/h,” he said.
All drivers are required to wear special uniforms. Photo by author
Chia also said he learned a lot from the training provided such as "following rules, respecting guests and visitors, helping customers with their bags and quality customer service in general.”
Besides Kurdish, Arabic and English languages are also taught to the drivers during their training to accommodate the diverse customers traveling in the Kurdistan Region.
In addition to transportation services, the Fair Trade company also offers technology solutions, advertisement and consultancy for investments and business development.