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Highland firm ready to take on the 'big guns' one city at a time

By Rachel Smart

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Gavin Johnston Inverness Taxis. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Gavin Johnston Inverness Taxis. Picture: Callum Mackay..

“We’ve got a mammoth task ahead of us, but what we are doing is ensuring that family businesses that have existed for generations keep going,” says Gavin Johnston.

He’s the owner of Inverness Taxis and the co-founder of Safekab, an app created to ensure the safe travel of passengers and taxi drivers across the country. Having officially launched the app in Inverness last year, the ‘game plan’ is to bring the service to different cities.

It’s a David vs Goliath-type story, as Gavin and his team want to ensure taxi firms up and down the country have a platform their customers can use, providing an alternative to other multinational companies that have infiltrated cities in the last few years and caused many taxi firms to crumble.

Speaking at his office in Lotland Street, Gavin is a humble business owner, but from his body language and the way he talks about Safekab, it is clear that he is not only extremely proud of the app, but he is passionate about how it will help so many. This has also been recognised further afield, as he and the team were invited down to Westminster at the end of last year to demonstrate the app to MPs, for which they received lots of praise.

He continues: “The big multinational apps are pushing other companies out of the way. We see Safekab as a tool smaller operators can use, and if we get a network of operators in different cities using the app, it gives the public another choice that supports the local operator, which is vitally important.

“There are family businesses that have been in operation for generations, and we don’t want them to lose business because of the big guns.

“Safekab ensures all the profits stay in that area – not like the apps where the percentage is shoved back to the shareholders.”

Safekab was born out of the pandemic when Inverness Taxis had to ensure that there were safety screens within the cars, contactless payments were being used, and everything had to be sanitised after every use.

SafeKab app.
SafeKab app.

“We realised there was a big demand for what we were offering, so we decided to expand the offering and develop the app,” says Gavin.

"The app includes an emergency SOS button; it allows you to choose your taxi driver and see their past reviews and the car they are using. You track your taxi, find out the fixed price, and share your location with family and friends.

“Everything is accountable, which is so important when we are firm moving people around.

“I tell everyone, even my own family, to book taxis through a local reputable company when they are travelling.

“When you book on a phone or app, everything is recorded, but if you flag on the street or get from a rank, nothing is recorded. So, if you lose something or anything happens, there is no trace. “With Safekab, everything is accountable and recorded.”

Not only does Safekab provide ensured safety for the customer, but it also provides added support to the taxi drivers. With an in-built SOS feature, drivers can alert the Safekab office and other drivers nearby if they are in danger.

Gavin says: “Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more that some customers are causing trouble for us. People are not wanting to pay, doing a runner, or being abusive and aggressive.

“The safety feature on Safekab is reassuring for the driver. If they hit the SOS button, it goes to all the drivers and office staff, and we can see exactly where they are, and we can respond quickly.” Gavin and his team have gone even further with the app by providing Safewalk, which enables those who are walking home or to a destination to share their location with friends and family and the Safekab office.

Gavin Johnston. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Gavin Johnston. Picture: Callum Mackay..

He says: “Safewalk is a safety feature available to the community. It can be used anywhere, nationwide, at any time by anyone who downloads the Safekab App. It is free and simple to use.

“When a user is walking home, they can share that journey with a family member or friend. If they feel threatened by anyone, they can press the App Panic Button. This will make a loud noise and will alert their exact location to the closest Safekab office and will open up communication between them and the office.”

Safekab will be rolled out in Aberdeen this year, and from there Gavin hopes to expand it to other Scottish cities. He concludes: “If you use Safekab, you are supporting local. If we can get it to work, everyone is going to win.”

15 Lotland Pl, Inverness IV1 1ST

W: www.safekab.org

T: 01463 710000

E: info@safekab.org

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