Changes to legislation last July changed the Finnish taxi game overnight broadening possibilities for businesses and customers alike. Looking to expand into the EU, Yandex partnered up with Business Finland and Helsinki Business Hub for a crash course into the local transport industry, legislation and business environment of Finland. Equipped with regional business development support and its own smart mobility technology, Yandex seized the opportunity and launched Yango, their smart app for booking rides online, in Helsinki on November 9th. Despite the constant flow of new players entering the competitive market of ride-hailing apps, Yandex’s service is ready to take Finland by storm starting from Helsinki.
Yandex is one of the world’s largest search engines which successfully competes with Google in several markets, as well as a provider of other intelligent services powered by machine learning. In fact, its self-driving car was a cause for admiration at the recent CES in Las Vegas. With its parent company in the Netherlands, Yandex operates globally and is listed in the NASDAQ. Yandex.Taxi operates in over 900 cities in 15 countries, has 700,000 active drivers worldwide and celebrated its billionth ride last September. Looking to eventually conquer the world, in 2018 Yandex.Taxi began their western expansion into the EU, operating under the name Yango in Finland.
“Last July Finland became very attractive for online platforms like ours because of changes to legislation. New laws removed limits for the number of licensed taxi drivers allowed to work in the market, make getting taxi licenses easier and allow us to price our services freely, so we can offer fares which we find reasonable and which are much more attractive than traditional ones. Eventually we want to go global. We decided to expand to the Baltics first – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland – because they are close and familiar. So, in many ways, Finland was a logical step for us,” Head of International PR for Yandex.Taxi and Yango Natalia Zhuravlova explains.
Lower tariffs are made possible by Yango’s business model and a multitude of smart mobility digital technologies provided by Yandex. The company does not have any drivers or cars of their own as they partner with locally licensed taxi companies and drivers. But Yango is more than just a way to book a ride. It is an app that uses versatile state-of-the-art digital technologies to optimize routes and stand-by time resulting in more customers for drivers and smaller fees for passengers.
“Our platform uses our own AI and mapping technologies to help make the service efficient for everyone. Traditionally only about 10% of taxi drive time is active. In our service that number can be as high as 50% and even more, as our tech reduces standing time, optimizes distribution of orders, accounts for traffic jams etc. Therefore, we can provide lower prices for customers while drivers can earn more,” Zhuravlova elaborates.
An introduction to the Finnish ecosystem
Collaboration with Business Finland and Helsinki Business Hub took off after St.Petersburg International Economic Forum in May 2018. Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä met with Yandex executives who expressed an interest in expanding operations to Finland. Soon after, Helsinki Business Hub was involved to help support the launch which took place just six months later.
HBH helped us learn a lot about the market very rapidly and we received great support and profound knowledge about all aspects of business development in Finland.
Anton Petrakov, GR Director, Yandex.Taxi and Yango
“Helsinki Business Hub played an important role helping Yandex get necessary information about market development and current transportation, tax, and IT regulation in Finland. After we first met up, HBH experts collected all the necessary analytics for us and together with Business Finland organised our first trip to Finland, where we met with both state and city authorities and possible partners. We had a very fruitful discussion with the mayor of Helsinki Mr. Jan Vapaavuori who explained the city’s priorities in developing smart mobility and digital services for citizens. HBH helped us learn a lot about the market very rapidly and we received great support and profound knowledge about all aspects of business development in Finland,” GR Director of Yandex.Taxi and Yango Anton Petrakov describes.
Yango launched in Finland in the beginning of November, operating from the Netherlands through its parent company Yandex.Taxi B.V. via local partners. Finland will have a regional manager, but even without a significant Finnish staff Yango’s economical effect is noticeable. Its services provide jobs for local taxi companies, drivers, the Yango drivers’ hub personnel and other partners and have resulted in major investments regarding i.e. mapping and marketing. More importantly, Yango’s aim is to grow the entire taxi service industry in Finland.
Changing taxi culture via smart mobility
“Because of the high tariffs, taxis have traditionally been a luxury in Finland used only in special occasions or when there was really no other way to get where you were going. We want to change that culture by showing people that ride-hailing can be an easy-going and affordable form of public transportation in Finland as well,” Zhuravlova explains.
Currently Yango is growing slowly but steadily as Finns are getting used to the new era of taxi services. Although changing the way taxi services are viewed and used will require some time and patience, Zhuravlova is thrilled to have launched in Finland.
Finland is progressive when it comes to technology. It has always been a forerunner, so the country is very accepting of technological advances.
Natalia Zhuravlova, Head of International PR, Yandex.Taxi and Yango
“Finland is progressive when it comes to technology. It has always been a forerunner, so the country is very accepting of technological advances. Our data centre in Mäntsälä, for instance, returns a third of all the energy it uses into circulation to heat local homes. This is taking place only in Finland, so it is exceptional on a global scale. Personally, I have a feeling that Finland will be one of the first countries to launch self-driving cars en masse on daily basis.”
As Yandex’s self-driving cars or robo-taxis already deliver passengers on daily basis in Innopolis and Skolkovo, the Silicon Valleys of Russia, driverless taxis are not that far off. The company has successfully developed AI and autonomous driving tech that can be installed into different kinds of cars and results are promising even on busy Las Vegas roads and icy Moscow streets.
While self-driving cars taking over our roads are a thing of tomorrow, Yango is growing and changing the Finnish taxi market today. Right now, the service is still establishing itself and analysing local taxi use and user habits and attitudes. Expanding to other Finnish cities and launching a Premium class within the service are possibilities, but the near future will definitely see Yango adding new features to the app and working to make taxis an attractive public transportation option for anyone in need of a ride.