T Map Mobility aims to tap designated driver service market with premium chauffeur service

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : August 11, 2021, 17:35 Updated : December 12, 2023, 22:16

[Gettyimages Bank]

SEOUL -- T Map Mobility, the mobility service wing of South Korea's top mobile carrier SK Telecom, will target the country's designated driver service market dominated by the company's rival Kakao by offering differentiated premium chauffeur services.

In South Korea, a designated driver service refers to a commercial driver-hailing service. Drivers are paid to operate vehicles instead of owners. The service is favored by intoxicated car owners who wish to take their cars home. Data released by the transport ministry showed that the market size of domestic designated driver service stood at 2.767 trillion won ($2.4 billion) in 2020.

Kakao Mobility, the largest mobility service operator, currently has a market share of about 15 percent. The market for designated driver services was established in the country about two decades ago attracting many businessmen who lost their jobs due to a financial crisis that devastated South Korea in 1997. Drivers are normally dispatched using hotlines. It is easy to find services' business cards and their phone numbers at bars and restaurants. An average of about 12,000 won ($10) is charged per run.

T Map Mobility said in a statement on August 10 that the company signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Vutler, a premium designated driver service operator, to develop and commercialize a chauffeur service for VIPs and those who need special care such as the elderly and pregnant mothers.

"Through this partnership and strategic investment, we will create new demands in the designated driver service market and operate a service that will satisfy the market, customers and drivers," T Map Mobility official Jang Kyo-hee was quoted as saying. T Map said that the company will later expand its areas of service out to sectors such as elderly care, vehicle maintenance, and other premium designated driver services.

T Map Mobility operates T Map, a smartphone navigation service with about 13.2 million monthly active users. Kakao T, the integrated mobility service app operated by Kakao mobility, has about 10 million monthly active users. However, the number of actual users of T Map's mobility services including car park reservation, taxi-hailing, and public transport reservation services is far smaller than that of Kakao Mobility that dominates more than 80 percent of the country's mobility service market.

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