Regulator approves two more B.C. companies for ride hailing

Austin Zhang, CEO of Richmond-based Gokabu Group Holdings Inc. | Photo: Chung Chow

What happened: Provincial regulator grants ride-hailing licences to two B.C. companies

Why it matters: Uber and Lyft may have a bit of first-mover advantage but they’ll soon be getting some local competition

Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE:UBER) and Lyft Inc. (Nasdaq:LYFT) will soon have some company on Lower Mainland roads — this time from local firms offering ride-hailing services.

The Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) has given the nod to Richmond’s Kabu-Ride Inc. as well as Garrindar Singh Parhar, the latter of whom is operating as Apt Rides.

Kabu’s parent company, Gokabu Group Holdings Inc., had been offering rides in the grey market for three years until last September, when it suspended operations to abide by new provincial regulations and apply for a ride-hailing licence.

The company had been targeting the non-English-speaking market — specifically Mandarin and Cantonese.

“The question of whether Kabu is a fit and proper person to provide the proposed services is not straightforward,” the PTB said in its decision, noting its parent company’s history in the grey market.

“While the Board does not condone the operation of a commercial passenger transportation business in contravention of regulatory requirements, a past violation does not in and of itself operate as a barrier to granting Kabu’s application. Given the particular and unique circumstances of this case, and the fact that Kabu is a separate legal entity from GoKabu, the Board is satisfied that Kabu is currently a ‘fit and proper person.’”

The provincial regulator also noted in its approval that Kabu plans to offer services in Victoria, Nanaimo and the Okanagan by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, CEO Austin Zhang told Business in Vancouver last fall his company charges drivers “very low” commission rates and offers medical benefits.

He said the number of driver applicants was in the hundreds and expects drivers would make $25 an hour on average driving for Kabu Rides.

“As more new drivers join us, we plan to add French, Filipino, Punjabi, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, Spanish [-speaking drivers],” Zhang said at the time.

Parhar’s company, Apt Rides, plans to target the North Shore and Vancouver with its ride-hailing services.

The regulator noted in its approval that Parhar has 20 years’ experience in the transportation industry, starting as a taxi driver and moving up to become a senior dispatcher responsible for a fleet of 120 vehicles.

While Kabu Rides and Apt Rides got the nod, the PTB declined to grant licences to Payam Azad (operating as dba Transroad), Inorbis Corporation and Tappcar Inc.

In late January the regulator also rejected the applications of Kater Technologies Inc. and ReRyde Technologies Inc.

The only other B.C. companies to get approval from the PTB so far is Green Coast Ventures Inc., a Tofino-based company operating under the name Whistle.

It plans to offer ride hailing in smaller resort communities outside the Lower Mainland, such as Tofino, Ucluelet, Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish.