A Singapore startup has launched an app similar to Uber, only for pets instead of human passengers. PetMate, which launched last month in Singapore only, is an on-demand transportation service that pet owners can use to book rides for their cats and dogs. The mobile app matches ride requests with a pool of drivers, currently 300 strong and counting, who have signed up to ferry pets in their spare time for extra income.
Pets can ride unaccompanied to their vet appointments or grooming services. Pet parents can also choose to ride along if they would like. The fares aren’t cheap. They start at $27 for a single trip, and return trips are priced between $60 and $70. It certainly would be much cheaper to take public transportation if you didn’t have a vehicle of your own.
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Most pet owners don’t use PetMate because they don’t have a car – they use it so they can schedule their dog’s appointment without having to miss work. Think of how convenient it would be to be able to leave for work and return home to a beautifully groomed dog. Not to mention if you could schedule appointments during the work week it would free up your Saturday mornings.
The app is a spin-off from a local on-demand delivery service that was started last year by Dutchman Maarten Hemmes. CarPal matches drivers with folks who require a small courier services for items like flowers and cakes. Although they share a parent company, PetMate and CarPal have completely separate pools of drivers for hygiene reasons. Hemmes says he started the company after realizing how difficult it was for pet owners to take their dogs and cats with them in taxis.
Pet parents would need to call ahead to make sure that a taxi driver was okay with them bringing their pet along on the trip. Most taxi drivers do not want the added responsibility or liability, especially with larger animals. Hemmes realized that if he could find a group of drivers that were animal lovers, why not give them the opportunity to earn some extra cash?
Pet taxi services have been around in Singapore for more than twenty years, so Hemmes knew that PetMate needed to offer something different. He says the extensive database of drivers that they have is larger than any other company’s database, which allows PetMate to meet pet owners’ requests more efficiently. Currently they advise pet owners to make their bookings six to twelve hours in advance, but they also offer a hotline for emergency rides.
Hemmes is hoping that the company will be able to move to becoming a truly on-demand service in the near future. Businesses have already started reaching out to tap into PetMate’s services, but many of them openly admit that it will probably take a while for their customers to warm up to the concept.
Drivers for the company are properly screened to make sure that they have plenty of experience with pets. They also need to attend a one-hour orientation, and they are guided through their first job by another staff member. Feedback is continually gathered from both the customers and the drivers.
Veterinary costs and grooming costs are a large part of most people’s pet budgets. I don’t know how feasible it would be to add the expense of a taxi service as well, especially in this economy. Many pet parents are trying to lower their budgets, and pet expenses are one of the first areas they look at. I know that adding $100 or more to an already expensive vet or grooming bill would not work for our family, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones.