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Little taxi apologises for outage after Nairobi rains cause surge in requests

Craft Silicon chief executive officer Kamal Bubhadhatti (left) and Safaricom Limited counterpart Bob Collymore at the Safaricom House in Nairobi on July 5, 2016 during the launch of Little taxi app. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Craft Silicon chief executive officer Kamal Bubhadhatti (left) and Safaricom Limited counterpart Bob Collymore at the Safaricom House in Nairobi on July 5, 2016 during the launch of Little taxi app. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Taxi hailing company Little has apologised to its customers after a system overload on Wednesday evening blocked riders from making requests for more than six hours, leaving many stranded.

The Safaricom-backed firm says that at around 5pm Wednesday, when the rains started, its systems recorded over 40,000 sustained ride requests, causing it to crash.

Customers attempting to book rides on the platform were unable to do so until just before midnight when Little says it “upgraded its system” and came back online.

The firm, developed by local financial technology firm Craft Silicon, is now offering customers Sh100 off one trip booked via the platform on October 15 as an apology for the “inconvenience.”

'Clogged servers'

“After the rains started, we received too many requests, clogging our servers,” Kamal Budhabhatti, Craft Silicon’s chief executive, told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.

“As a consequence, our customers were unable to book rides for hours. People were stranded and we apologise for that.”

Mr Budhabhatti has today sent an email to Little clients, explaining the service outage even as he offered them Sunday’s discounted trip.

Taxi hailing companies make brisk business on weekday evenings as people head home from work.

Earnings pick up tremendously on days when it rains as people endeavour to keep dry, pushing even those who would have otherwise boarded matatus to request rides from the several e-hailing cab companies.

Surge pricing

Uber, one of Little’s competitors, raises its rates (surge pricing) whenever there is a demand (requests) upsurge.

The company says this transitory rates are meant to entice more of its drivers to go online.

Consumers who cannot afford the surge prices opt for cheaper options from the likes of Taxify, Mondo or Little.

A server collapse, like what happened with Little, therefore hits consumers hard.

“We have however taken appropriate steps to ensure that we do not create such inconveniences to you again,” Mr Budhabhatti said in his email to Little subscribers.

“I take up this as an opportunity to improve and ensure premium experience that we have promised to every Kenyan.”

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