A Moscow-based luxury Minicab start-up is hoping to expand beyond Russia, targeting London as its next destination in a determined, technology-driven business plan.
Wheely already operates a fleet of Mercedes around Russia's capital, employing over 100 drivers, and running the entire business from a mobile app.
In Russia Taxis cannot be booked from a telephone service, and even customer feedback such as lost property must be reported by email. This keeps down the cost of employing call centre operatives.
"We initially thought we were going to operate SaaS to other car companies, but we then realised we could actually use it just for ourselves," Anton Chirkunov, founder of Wheely, said earlier this week.
With no driver's licence and so "using taxis quite a lot", 23-year-old Chirkunov is basing his business formula on low overheads and reasonable pricing - especially important when it comes to cracking London's Minicab trade.
"When you look at the London market, there is a lot of competition, and Addison Lee is just one of them," said Chirkunov.
"And I am going to compete on price and on service. So right now I am going to be charging around £41-43 to their £79 [for a trip into central London from Heathrow."
Having already carried out a ‘soft launch' around the Olympics, Chirkunov has already succeeded in integrating himself into the London Minicab community, making a particularly useful hire:
"My general manager in London is from Addison Lee," Chirkunov revealed, before announcing that he intends to double his current 20 London drivers to between 40 and 45 by the service's official launch on 19 June.
Initially, the company will be hiring Toyota Prius drivers, but is hoping to begin operating a fleet of Mercedes E class and S class vehicles after launch. The cars are luxurious indeed, with free, fast Wi-Fi included as well as leather interiors and tinted windows.
When initially tested, their app, on an iPhone 5, did run into trouble on a few occasions, inaccurately gauging our location which meant pickup points got confused, but drivers were helpful and courteous - despite a language barrier - and problems could well have been down to 3G roaming connections.