New taxi company eyes expansion in unlikely Saskatoon success story


Captain Taxi started in the middle of the first year of ride sharing in the city
Mark Gill, managing director of Captain Taxi, poses with some of his cabs outside of the company's office in Saskatoon, SK on Thursday, January 23, 2020.Liam Richards / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Mark Gill and Zuhaib Jahangir have heard the word “crazy” a lot since they started a new Saskatoon taxi company in August.

The pair of former Saskatoon cab drivers opted to take advantage of a new type of taxi licence introduced by city hall in April to launch Captain Taxi.

The new company started in the middle of the first year for ride sharing in Saskatoon, which has had a devastating effect on the taxi industry in other cities. By all indications, it’s been the same story in Saskatoon.

“People were like, ‘Are you guys crazy?’ ” Gill said in a January interview.

As the six-month mark approaches, the venture is starting to look a lot less crazy.

Gill and Janhagir said they invested in the company to keep it going in the initial months, and think they will start making money soon.

The company now has 29 vehicles and drivers taking people on about 7,000 rides per month. Captain Taxi also expects to introduce a smartphone app soon.

“We have really rapidly expanded,” Jahangir said from the company’s two-person office in Saskatoon’s Central Industrial area.

The City of Saskatoon’s enterprise licence program introduced 35 licences that can be used by a single driver for up to 14 hours a day, six days a week. Captain Taxi only includes enterprise licences.

Traditional taxi licences have applied to a single vehicle that is often driven 24 hours a day by more than one driver. The enterprise licences replace seasonal taxi licences in Saskatoon, which have been eliminated.

Carlo Triolo, the general manager of the United Group taxi company, appeared at city hall in April to say that the company would not take part in the enterprise licence program.

United Group has since morphed into Riide. The City of Saskatoon will not release overall taxi ride numbers, and Riide declined to release its numbers for 2019.

Gill and Jahangir, two first-generation Canadians who have lived in Saskatoon for just under 10 years, said theyre happy their company has broken the Riide monopoly in the city.

Malik Umar Draz, the president of the union that represents taxi drivers, said he also welcomes the new company, which is negotiating its first collective agreement with drivers.

“It’s always good to have more than one brokerage in the city,” Draz said.

They’ve also helped fill the gap created by the loss of provincial bus service — for those who can afford it. Their drivers have taken passengers to Calgary (for $1,111), La Ronge (for $750) and Melville (for $700 to $730).

Although its drivers are local, Captain Taxi’s dispatcher is located in Calgary to remove the possibility of favouritism toward drivers.

Gill and Jahangir said they hope those who need a ride in Saskatoon will choose a local company over a multinational ride-sharing corporation like Uber.

“With us, our drivers are local,” Jahangir said. “We are local. The money stays here.”

Despite their Saskatoon focus, the partners said they are already looking to expand the Captain Taxi brand and are eyeing Calgary, Edmonton and British Columbia.