A new smartphone app, cALLme, has been launched for passengers to hail taxi drivers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). A collaboration between the Malaysian National Cooperative Movement (Angkasa) and Malaysian Taxi Drivers, Limousine and Car Rental Operators Association (Petekma), this latest offering is designed to help cabbies compete with the likes of Grab in the ride-hailing sector.

According to The Star, the move to develop the app was necessary for the industry in light of competition from larger, better-funded competitors, said Angkasa president Datuk Abdul Fattah Abdullah. He added that his organisation would provide training to both drivers and operators to take advantage of the system.

Petekma chairman Mohd Syahrir Abd Aziz said that cALLme would begin operations in KLIA and the neighbouring KLIA2 before expanding to major urban centres, with the next area being Langkawi. “It’s specially for registered taxis,” he added.

Present at the launch event at KLIA was transport minister Anthony Loke, who said that the app was meant to help modernise taxi drivers in order for them to compete with other parties. In response to the protests held by taxi drivers against “e-hailing” operators, he asserted that while those unhappy with the government’s policies had the right to dissent, the government did not want to victimise taxi drivers.

“We need to face reality. If we want to improve the taxi industry, we need to upgrade with the use of modern technology,” he said, adding that improving the industry’s competitiveness would be a better use of time and focus, rather than holding demonstrations.

Loke did concede, however, that competitors in the ride-hailing sector has brought several challenges to the traditional way of business. “We have 70,000 registered taxis, with 60% of these owned by companies. Many drivers are retirees depending on their daily earnings to support themselves and their families.”