For the first time in Oman, private cars are being allowed to run as taxis – currently only in Musandam. The homegrown ride-hailing app OTaxi has been granted a licence to offer taxi services in private cars in the governorate.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology issued a notice on the decision taken with the objective of improving public transport, stimulating tourism and boosting commercial activities in Musandam.
‘The ministry grants approval to operate OTaxi through private vehicles for the people of Musandam Governorate. This will also support small and medium-sized enterprises,’ the ministry said.
Started in 2018, OTaxi saw success in the first two years of its operation but was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Harith al Maqbali, CEO of OTaxi, said that by law, the company is allowed to only work with orange taxis. “However, now there is anexemption to the rule in Musandam,” he said, adding that orange taxi licences are mostly granted to low-wage earners and retired individuals.
“Due to very low availability of orange taxis in Musandam, the decision has been taken to allow any Omani private car owner – on the lines of Uber – to work through the OTaxi app.”
Maqbali revealed that the company has been permitted to offer its ride-hailing service in private cars inMasirah and Halaniyat Islands, too. “We intend to launch services there in 2022.”
On the impact of the pandemic, Maqbali said his business has been hit ‘really hard’. “It’s gone down by 60-70 per cent of what it was in 2019. We are yet to recover.”
The company currently has 1,800 active drivers in the sultanate, spread across all major cities, including Muscat, Sur, Nizwa, Sohar and Salalah. “I see immense potential in the Omani market and am betting on 2021 for things to turn around.”
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