It’s 8:30 pm and starting to rain. The traffic is heavy and I’m on the other side of the road from a row of taxis. The drivers are paying no attention but there’s a girl in a green cap – very familiar by now – who catches my eye. In seconds, a man in a green cap is at my side, a green Vinasun umbrella over my head, a hand on my elbow guiding me through the mad motorcycles. This bit of service above and beyond what I require or expect is one of the reasons why Vinasun was one of two names I was given even before I arrived in Vietnam as the only taxis to take.
The others are that the taxis are well-maintained, the drivers trustworthy, the meters untampered with. And though it’s not always visible to the naked eye, the quality of the driving is actually better than the others. I experienced this first-hand the two times I had to patronise inadvisable taxi companies.
It’s a local company, begun in 2003. Their branding is impeccable, the distribution strategy something a Unilever or P&G would be proud of. But their biggest strength is consistency. It’s worthy of the Taj Group, which even now is my best benchmark for service standards. It doesn’t matter if the Vinasun rank is at the Intercontinental Hotel where a uniformed doorman holds the door open or outside a back-street dive where 57 scooters get in the way as you open the door, the Vinasun experience is the same.
Mai Linh, the other reliable taxi service, is just as good and widely available, but there’s no obvious consistency in their branding or service, so they’re less noticeable. In the service industry, it’s not enough to be good – you have to be seen doing it. Vinasun has that down perfectly.
I’ve started to notice yellow cars with a Comfort Delgro decal on the doors. In Singapore, Comfort Delgro indicates all the reassurance of your father’s car and driver, but in Vietnam, I will still look for Vinasun. I’ve seen too many service brands travel badly and from my time in India, I know it’s better to choose a good local brand over the untried adaptation of an international one.
It leaves me with the thought I always have in India – all the country needs to transform itself is for the business of state to be run like the good private enterprises.