Meru Cabs: For a 'hands-on' experience

By Sohini Sen , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 16, 2015
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Meru's new campaign talks about how booking a cab on its app leaves your hands free for better things.

Of all the things one can do with one's hands, hailing a cab is tops the list. Radio taxi operator Meru Cabs has used this insight to launch its first nationwide campaign on television. The humorous campaign pushes the app booking service from Meru, which lets one enjoy other activities in life.

"Meru is the leader in the segment it plays in. Being the leader, Meru's game is to expand the segment. Our insight came from the obvious hassle people face while hailing a cab. It is an observation other players have avoided or neglected," says Ashish Khazanchi, founder, Enormous Brands.

The campaign opens with the voiceover explaining that the same movement of the hand can be used to do various activities. It goes on to explain, with visuals, how one can dribble a basketball, feed the dog, do a puppet show, bless someone, paint something, catch a fish - anything. However, what most of us use it is only to hail a cab. Meru has a solution for this, which is to book through the app.

Rathin Lahiri

Ashish Khazanchi

While it is not the first time that the usage of apps have been promoted, it is the first time that Meru - one of the oldest in the radio taxi business - has had a national television campaign. The timing seems to be right as the company has recently ventured into more markets, entering one new market each month. For the record, Meru is now in 15 markets and hopes to be present in 22, by March end.

"We re-launched our app in 2014 with certain added features including a book in advance, current and inter-city feature. You can also pay through cash, card or by using the wallet. Moreover, our app has the added benefit of having a safety trip tracker. We realised that most people do not book through our call centre now. In fact, 50 per cent of our business comes from our app," explains Rathin Lahiri, CMO, Meru Cabs.

Meru has also seen a change in the way people use radio cabs. While earlier it was meant for special occasions or meetings, people now tend to book cabs for their daily commute as well. This change, according to Lahiri, has been brought about by smartphones. The brand has also noticed increased bookings on weekends for impulsive or unplanned travel. While the company's booking ratio was skewed towards planned bookings a year back, today, over 65 per cent are immediate bookings, made mostly through the app.

Meru is also planning to bring in hatchbacks under the 'Meru Genie' segment, which would compete with the auto rickshaws. The price for this sub-category would be Rs 90 for the first six kilometers and Rs 10 for every kilometer afterwards. For this campaign, however, the brand plans to use outdoors, radio and digital extensively.

Meru is not the first one to push its app service in the car rental industry. Recently, Ola had come out with its campaign asking people to use the app service to reach anywhere really fast. Another aggregator, TaxiForSure had campaigned for the app as something which can be used to avoid taking favours from friends.

"It is an intensely competitive market, which leads to consolidation as well, in terms of prices. Another challenge the whole industry is facing is to get a reasonable pool of trained drivers who know the right defensive driving technique and has proper etiquettes. Drivers are the face of the service, the ones who interact with our customers directly, so it is imperative to train them well," adds Lahiri.

In the Rs 80,000 crore taxi market, only 4-5 per cent account for organised taxi service. According to data shared by Lahiri, 15 million people in India use cab services and more than 120 million people own smartphones. Meru is trying to grow the market by inviting new users into the category - not just by call-centre bookings but also by the use of the app.

Does it impress?

Nitin Suri

Sabuj Sengupta

According to Nitin Suri, creative partner, From Here On Communications, the TVC leaves the viewer with the feeling that he is in so much more control of the quality of his life and what he can do with it, instead of letting all that energy go into the tedious act of running around after cabs.

"It's a nice idea - single-minded and nicely executed. In a market where almost all radio cabs are at par in terms of the services they offer, it's really a matter of staying top of mind. This commercial has that cut-through appeal. The situations are refreshing and the details leave you smiling and wanting for more," says Suri.

According to Hakuhodo's ECD, Sabuj Sengupta, the creative execution is quite engaging and entertaining. He feels that humour always works well with the Indian audience and so does this ad.

However, Sengupta is of the opinion that the TVC is a bit off strategy. "We can hail cabs in Mumbai and Kolkata. But, in Delhi, we have no such luck. Also, every cab service is operated through apps, so what is the USP that Meru offers? How is Meru any different? If it was the first app-based cab service to be launched in India, this strategy would have been perfect. But, with the plethora of such services being introduced to India lately, this ad feels a little weak on strategy," he explains.

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