TECH-DRIVEN SOLUTIONS

Jamaica 2019 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | INTERVIEW

More than a mere ride-hailing app, HailX has unveiled sophisticated e-commerce and public safety platforms for the whole country.

Ron McKay
BIOGRAPHY
Ron McKay brings extensive experience in the areas of sales and marketing, big data and compliance, distribution channels, product rollout, and company administration. After quickly rising through the ranks of World Telecom Group in the 1990s, in 2001 Ron McKay formed the ADS Group and launched a nearshore strategy for ADS Global, Inc., which included offices in Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and St. Vincent. In just four years, ADS developed into the largest privately owned call center in the Caribbean. McKay awards annual scholarships to several entities and sits on the board of directors of research for the Rett Syndrome Foundation, for which he raised over USD1 million.

What is the vision behind HailX.App?

The idea came from one of my associates, David Gormley, who had developed an Uber-style platform for taxis in England and Ireland and suggested we do something similar in Jamaica. David and I decided to form HailX for the Caribbean region, with Jamaica being our charter market. We soon realized our venture could play a role in a larger vision led by the Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, MP, to enable visitors to see the real Jamaica outside of the resorts and engage with its people and culture. This led us to also create two additional tech-driven solutions for HailX: an e-commerce platform for all taxis in Jamaica and a public safety platform to provide greater safety and security within the transportation framework throughout Jamaica.

At what stage does HailX find itself today?

Since early 2017, we have been performing market research and developing the technical aspect of HailX with our programmers. We formed an exclusive partnership for the tourism market with the Jamaica Co-operative Automobile and Limousine Tours, Ltd. (JCAL), the second-largest transportation organization here, with almost 1,000 certified drivers. At the end of 2018, we moved on to the test phase that involved orientation and training for JCAL and its driver members in addition to initial real-time simulator testing of our equipment infrastructure. In early 2019, starting with JCAL's drivers, we will install vehicle equipment systems, such a 7-inch tablet with a windshield/dashboard bracket for the driver application, including a hand-free speaker/microphone device for safety purposes along with a power adaptor; a 4G Wi-Fi mobile hotspot unit; and a 10-inch high-quality tablet for the rear of the vehicle to allow people to directly engage with attractions and merchants. We will also provide an e-commerce system that will enable every taxi in Jamaica to accept credit card payments. I am excited about the launch of our public safety and security platform involving the installation of 2G GPS tracking devices, available for all vehicles, which can interface with national security, 119, and other Emergency Response outlets. The complete roll-out for HailX is scheduled for mid-2019.

How do you plan to market HailX to visitors to Jamaica?

Initially, we will have a strong presence with airport and cruise ship arrivals targeting incoming tourists, but we do not plan on massive brand creation. Rather, it will be organic, viral marketing. Drivers, attractions, and merchants will promote HailX because they have a vested interest in its success as our partners. Passengers will promote it because they will receive usage and referral incentives via a robust loyalty program not only with rewards and redemption opportunities while in Jamaica, but benefits for when they also return home, including travel and vacation discounts to return back to Jamaica.

Can marketing alone help you compete with Uber and Lyft?

We've discussed this with our shareholders and advisory board and are confident it will work. First, our team has vast expertise with this type of model; second, there is a proprietary functionality being designed for HailX that will ensure the effectiveness of our marketing strategy. This entails building out our own wireless network with phase one's footprint, encompassing coverage for the areas surrounding the airports, cruise ship terminals, the large tourism attractions, and most of the North Highway from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios.