How 13cabs have navigated through disruption, deregulation, and disaster

02 August 2021

No other industry over the past 10 years has faced greater challenges than the taxi industry. Simon Purssey explains how 13cabs stayed in the drivers’ seat and navigated hazards.


Welcome to another edition of Fast Five - our fortnightly series where we ask Victoria’s most influential and exceptional business leaders five questions to get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of Australia’s most exciting and innovative operations.  

With ride-sharing apps bursting onto the scene, followed by deregulation of the taxi industry, and then followed by a global pandemic, the taxi industry has been forced to adapt at lighting speed. 

As Head of Client Services for 13cabs, Simon Purssey has been instrumental in mapping a course through chaos and kept the business on the right course. 

#1: With so many disruptions to your industry, what has been 13cabs’ approach to adaptation? 

As Charles Darwin said: “it’s not the smartest nor strongest, it’s the one that adapts that will survive,” and 13cabs has weathered many challenges, requiring us to adapt – we did it fast too!  

Five years is but a blink of the eye in taxi years. We all know rideshare companies – six operating at present – have been around for 10 years. We adapted. Then came the deregulation of the entire Victorian taxi industry. We adapted. Over the past 18 months, more adaptation was demanded as 13cabs are part of the Essential Services Commission – requiring us to remain open during lockdowns. 

In 2018 Team 13cabs sat around a table and came up with '13things’. Over the next four months, we produced an entire 'end-to-end, B2B, full suite deck marketing campaign' pitching the delivery of things. “If it fits into a cab and was legal, we transport it” was the tagline. 

Come March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began. We pivoted, adapted, and redirected our entire business model to focus on 13things – delivering pets, parcels and plonk. There was plenty of the last item too! 

The technology required to sustain such an adaptation was huge and is still ongoing. Our 13cabs Professional Drivers are learning the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) and deliveries have gone through the cloud, so to say. Just ask Woollies! 

#2: What do you see as the long-term future for 13cabs? 

The future for 13cabs is very bright, so wear shades! 

Personal ownership of vehicles has flatlined, so even major auto insurers are looking for new revenues, and entire apartment blocks are now being built without a single underground car park. 

There is always a demand for on-demand transport and deliveries, so 13cabs fits this bill very nicely and keeps getting new tech and apps for our customers. 

Personal transport is up while, sadly, public transport/trams/trains/buses have been hit by COVID-19 and confidence is leaking. So, we see taxis picking up the slack, which is a good outcome for 13cabs. 

#3: Explain what a tough day at the office is like at 13cabs. 

Remember when Telstra went down? So did our payment system across Australia! 

Everybody was out and nobody carries cash anymore, especially if you have children.  

Our 10,000 strong fleet of vehicles could not process transactions. In fact, there were thousands of people in cabs when the system went down, and a majority couldn’t pay or be issued a receipt. It was sheer hell. 

We sent our Professional Drivers direct messages, and our Driver Helpdesk went into meltdown. 

Inventive Professional Drivers used thick crayons and notepads to create cash only signs for their windows. Other Professional Drivers took Passengers home free of charge, received IOUs and some tried to take Passengers to ATMs free of charge – but guess what? The ATMs were out of service too! 

Managing this was like being in a very thin glass jar with a heavy sledgehammer, but no matter how hard we hit we couldn't get out. It caused millions in losses for 13cabs Professional Drivers. 

#4: What advice would you give another business who is facing major disruptions/challenges to their business model? 

Firstly, be prepared. Don't think it will never happen to you. Get a group together and do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis on you, your business, the environments and the governments every three months for the first year. Then every six months for the next three years. Finally, do them annually once you have reached five years when you think you're in the clear.  

Always have people around you who can see the trees through the forest. It's an old saying but it is still so relevant. 

You just can't work in your business, you must work on your business. Thus, having outside influences who are smarter than you is critical. Pay for the advice. Free advice is crap!  

Also, try to get solid data because words are just rumours. Data is gold that gives you a solid base to work up from.  

#5: What excites you about the future? 

There is always light at the end of every tunnel - if there wasn’t, it’d be called a cave!  

Choose your tunnels. Choose your lights. Set up and plan goals. Have dreams. Love and encourage others. And pay it forward so that you know when you leave this planet, you leave it in a better spot then when you started. 

The future is what you make of it and 13cabs is a business that adapts and has foresight. The disrupter has disruption covered and is the attacker to outsiders. At 13cabs we make it a game and we make it fun, but at the same time we make it to win. That's what makes the future exciting for the Taxi Industry, especially as we look to collaborate with all businesses – particularly those in the tourism industry which makes up 20 per cent of this country's employees. 

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