It has been two years this summer since taxi platform Bolt established itself in the Netherlands. Although the international company has already taken the necessary steps, that is not enough for country manager Lars Speekenbrink. In a conversation, he looks back on the past two years, unfolds his vision on how companies like Bolt can contribute to a liveable society and looks ahead to the future. “Ultimately, we want to serve eighty percent of the Netherlands.”
In July 2020 Bolt officially settled in the Netherlands. How do you look back on that?
“It was an interesting period. Before the launch of Bolt, we thought long and hard about when we would establish ourselves. We were of course in the middle of the first corona wave then. In the end, we made the choice to launch Bolt in July. In hindsight, that was good timing.”
“During the launch, we came with an investment. For example, we gave discounts to customers and bonuses to drivers. In this way we have been able to make a small positive contribution to the Amsterdam taxi world. In addition, we have felt very welcome since the launch. Hundreds of drivers wanted to work with us from day one. We have continued to build on that over the past two years.”
Are you satisfied with what has been achieved in those two years?
“The past two years have gone well. We have achieved good growth and now have a solid market share. We are able to run profitably. We are in a certain market share where on the one hand we have enough supply and demand and on the other hand we can be profitable. That is our foundation on which we can build.”
Do you want to expand even further?
“ In the long term, we want to reach about eighty percent of the whole of the Netherlands. We currently serve about forty to fifty percent, because we are mainly active in the Randstad and wanted to expand that in a good way. Ultimately, we want to expand our services to cities such as Eindhoven, Tilburg and maybe even Maastricht. However, the question remains whether there are enough drivers available. There must be enough drivers to meet customer demand.”
There is also some criticism of platforms such as Uber and Bolt. Not everyone is happy with your arrival.
“You can never do it right for everyone. There will always be people who disagree with us. That’s fine. There are different types of drivers, but also different types of markets. Certain drivers prefer certain types of rides at certain times of the day. There are many entrepreneurs in the taxi industry. Everyone can choose what he or she likes.”
“At peak times, such as nights out, there is a shortage of taxi drivers. One way to fill that shortfall is to raise prices during those peak times, allowing those drivers to earn more money. That way we make it more attractive for them.”
You also have certain ideas about how platforms like Bolt can contribute to a liveable society. Can you explain that vision?
“Many cities are built for cars. Some cities have eight parking spaces per vehicle, while vehicles are almost always stationary. That’s bizarre. Our vision is that we should stop building cities for that private car. Ultimately, cities must be built for people. People should be able to move comfortably. A private car plays only a small role in this. Of course there are always people who really need such a private car, but the size at which that takes place is unnecessary. My vision is that in urban areas we should get away from private cars as much as possible and move towards alternative means of transport.”
“Think of micro-mobility, for example. These are products such as electric scooters and bicycles. Then you also have public transport and for longer distances you can think of taxis, scooters and shared cars. If you can offer all that as a company within a single area, you can accelerate that transition and you can give people an affordable alternative to actually say goodbye to the private car.”
In that context, are there any new services or innovations planned?
“Yes, of course. We recently launched our electric bicycles in Enschede. We are also active in the north. For example, the municipality of Groningen has given us the right to launch our electric bicycles there as well. And when the national legislation is amended, we will also be working on the launch of our electric scooters.”
And in terms of sustainability? Ten percent of your rides are emission-free, is that enough?
“No, that’s definitely not enough. Ultimately, of course, we want to get to that one hundred percent. However, this requires a certain transition. We need to move from gas-guzzling cars to zero-emission vehicles. It is expected that more and more drivers will go through this transition in the coming years. We have to support the drivers through partnerships, to make it easier for them to enter that transition. Maybe in a few years we can even think about co-financing.” What do you want to have achieved in two years?
“I want to continue building in a stable manner. We will continue to consciously invest in the Netherlands, we want to grow. In the next two years we want to be bigger than our competitors. Ultimately, we want to be the largest taxi platform in the Netherlands.”
Will it work?
“There we will go for it.”
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