SmartRyde helps put travelers’ minds at ease with an innovative pre-booked airport transfer system to reduce stress when traveling overseas. With a company vision of elevating the community through mobility, the platform seamlessly connects tourists and online travel agencies (OTAs) to local suppliers such as taxis and limousines. With SmartRyde, customers no longer need to worry about missing flights or providing directions to their accommodation once they land. Describing their vision, the Founder and CEO of SmartRyde, Sota Kimura, shared, “The team at SmartRyde is on a mission to revolutionize airport transfers by creating an accessible global ecosystem that assures travelers of an easier, more cost-effective, safer, and high-quality service.”
How SmartRyde works: A one-stop app for airport transfers
SmartRyde operates as a B2B service working alongside taxi companies and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Trip.com, Expedia, Booking.com, and more. “The recent years have seen an increasing number of tourists book their travels online. Once they choose their accommodation on these platforms, they also recommend airport transfers as an option for them to book on the same application easily,” Sota explains.
After that, customers need not worry about their ride from the airport, as a driver will be waiting for them with a name board. Afterward, they’re in the safe hands of a qualified driver that will get them to their final destination. Thus, with a few simple clicks, SmarRyde ensures travelers are given peace of mind immediately after landing in a foreign country.
SmartRyde’s Origin: A Traveler’s Entrepreneurial Journey
The idea of SmartRyde came to Sota during his time at university when traveling to Southeast Asia. He had always relied on cheap flights and accommodation to make the most of this budget. “During this time, there had been several instances where local drivers and buses scammed me. Why couldn’t there be a solution for tourists to travel safely from the airport in the same manner as booking flights and accommodation?” he questioned.
Soon after his studies, Sota began the development of the initial versions of SmartRyde that catered directly to travelers. However, soon after the release of this B2C application, the team at SmartRyde realized that most travelers preferred to book their entire trip through a single platform. Partnering with one of the biggest travel platforms at the time, trip.com, SmarRyde grew considerably and soon began expanding to other travel applications worldwide.
In 2023, the platform is now active in over 150 countries and 700 airports worldwide, with 24/7 customer support in English, Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish. The team at SmartRyde has now grown to over 70 employees operating in offices in Thailand and Cambodia, in addition to its headquarters in Tokyo. Its network of local suppliers comprises more than 650 taxi companies connected via 40 OTA platforms. Reflecting on his journey, Sota adds, “Entrepreneurship is a tough but rewarding experience. Always challenge yourself and surround yourself with good colleagues who want to see you grow.”
Navigating the Challenges of a Global Pandemic
Sota said the pandemic had been one of the most challenging times in his entrepreneurial journey. With global travel at a complete standstill, the company had to endure a 98% drop in revenue that took one and a half years to recover. “It was a challenging time but overcame it by investing in our product teams and expanding sales personnel to strengthen our position. We were also fortunate to obtain financing from a venture capitalist in Japan to help us through this challenge,” Sota explains.
Fast forward to 2023, as the world began returning to normalcy, Sota conveys there had been a significant change to SmartRyde’s pre-pandemic niche. Tourists were now looking for safer travel and transport options, which led to an increased demand for secure airport transfers. Accordingly, to ensure the safety of their customers, SmartRyde’s drivers adhered to all health regulations. “Since we mainly operate in the Southeast Asia region and Japan, this was easy as these countries were strict on their public safety practices,” he conveys.
The Future of SmartRyde
SmartRyde envisions building a Global Distribution System (GDS) for airport transfers, unlike existing versions catering to airline tickets. Sota elaborated, “This GDS will be first developed for airport transfers, but we intend to extend it to total mobility for a cheaper and easier travel booking experience.” With a focus on safety, reliability, and convenience, SmartRyde is one of Asia’s fast-emerging transport solutions that could enhance anyone’s airport experience with its seamless integration into some of the world’s leading travel and accommodation platforms – enhancing mobility for everyone.