Wunder explains business model amid resistance to its carpooling service

Posted on February 15, 2016

AMID OPPOSITION to its entry in public transportation service, European carpooling app Wunder said it will not drive out existing players in the sector.

Screenshot of carpooling app Wunder --
“We want to make clear the difference between Wunder and the for-profit model of TNCs (transportation network companies),” Wunder Chief Operating Officer Samuel Baker said in a recent e-mail interview.

“Unlike taxis, Wunder encourages carpooling along existing routes and sharing the cost of gas between private people,” Mr. Baker also said.

He said drivers only share a ride or two per day -- just enough to cover the cost of fuel -- and therefore “cannot make a profit.”

When the Germany-based firm announced its entry to the Philippines last week, online ride-hailing app Uber Systems, Inc. and the local taxi industry said Wunder should also secure government accreditation. Taxi operators also said demand for their services could weaken.

But Wunder argued it is not a TNC and “not a competitor to Uber.”

“Wunder is an online carpooling community, not a professional transportation company. Wunder drivers share empty seats in their car as they are driving to their chosen destination (for example work or home),” Mr. Baker said in his e-mail.

“When you request an Uber, that driver is getting paid to pick [up] the passenger and... take them wherever the passenger [wants] to go.”

Wunder estimates that a one-way taxi ride from Quezon City to Makati City would cost at least P200.

“That’s PHP 400 a day. For an average person it’s just not realistic to pay a private driver to take them to work and therefore they wait in long lines to get on the bus,” Mr. Baker said.

The company said sharing the cost of carpooling with a driver on the same route could cost the passenger about P60 to P70.

“There will always be a segment of the population who can afford the convenience of a taxi, Wunder is making commuting more convenient for those who typically take public transportation,” Mr. Baker said.

The company compared its business model to social networking sites.

“Perhaps the best comparison to Wunder would be a simplified app-based version of the Facebook or Viber group some people already use to coordinate rides with their friends,” Mr. Baker said.

“Another similar app is the government sponsored (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) Friend Trip app which connects people to share rides on their way to work.”

The company said its users are “verified members” of the Wunder community, similar to a group of Facebook friends coordinating a carpool together. -- Daphne J. Magturo