18 April 2016

Taxi Tales III

I found myself rushing to an appointment and decided to take a cab. To be exact, I was already late. Bad time discipline. I was at VivoCity. And damn, "long the queue was", as Yoda might say.

But just across from the taxi queue however was a row of pristine MaxiCabs, waiting for passengers. This is really a market failure. Long queue of people, but no taxis. A queue of MaxiCabs, but no customers. What a waste.

$50 flat fare is the going rate for the MaxiCab. I was desperate enough. So I hopped into one. An expensive affair!  It turned out to be one of those fascinating cab rides. So I guess I paid for the conversation too.

The driver said he wasn't a full time driver but was helping a friend out as a relief driver. Curious, I asked what he did when he wasn't. Turns out he runs a business bringing in foreigners for medical treatment. I've heard of medical tourism, but had never met somebody who was in the facilitation business before. I was piqued.

He used to teach English to foreigners students to prepare them for enrollment to local schools. Over time, he found that some of the foreign students needed help with accommodation, so he branched into arranging accommodation. From students, he then progressed into medical tourism, bringing foreigners to Singapore for medical treatments, arrange transportation, accommodation and whatever else needed. He found that the upper strata from Vietnam and Indonesia would pay for such services.

His business is patchy, so sometimes he has no customers for the entire month. He would take it easy and offer his help as a relief driver to his taxi friends. On occasion, he would call on their help to provide transportation for his medical tourism customers. Or he might even drive the cab himself.

I thought about his stories, and drew some observations:
- He found a niche where he could provide a service that was desired.
- He capitalised on the language gap.
- He used a skill from one business for another, moving up the value chain from students to medical tourism.
- He had a lot of networks! [lobang king]
- In times of need, his network was also his safety net (in more ways than one).
- He was multi-skilled - teacher, driver, concierge.

The best part was, when I asked, "You must be really busy running this business?" He said, on the contrary, he had a lot of time and could take it easy most of the time, "eng eng cheng cheng". Sounds like a life? Regardless, the business sense was acute.

A taxi driver who is far richer than I am
Condo, wife, kids and a taxi


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


He is probably a Grasshopper brethren.

No goals; no planning.

One thing just led to another ;)

Taking taxis can be fun. I've interesting conversions with ex-construction business owner, ex Managing Director, and ex-Colonel taxi drivers myself.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a good way to live. Relaxed and in control of your own time. It is always interesting chatting with taxi, Uber and Grab drivers about what they used to know. Who knows, it might be something worth exploring in the future for me when there is less financial pressure!

Lizardo said...


He sounds like a "seize the moment" kind of guy. Some people work best simply moving from things to things quickly. Others think too hard, and may never take action. I think I am the latter. Hmmm ....

Lizardo said...

Finance Smith,

Always fascinating to consider alternatives.