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Taxi-hailing app Taxify sets up operations in Nairobi

Markus Villig, founder and CEO of Taxify. PHOTO | COURTESY
Markus Villig, founder and chief executive of Taxify. PHOTO | COURTESY  

Estonian online taxi-hailing app Taxify will on Friday launch operations in Nairobi after teaming up with a local cabs lobby previously opposed to Uber’s entry into Kenya.

Taxify said it has already signed up 400 drivers belonging to the Kenya Taxi Cab Association to the platform, making Kenya its second destination on the continent after Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa.

The Baltic firm further set the stage for a fresh round of price wars in Kenya’s nascent e-taxi business by unveiling lower passenger tariffs compared to existing players such as Uber, Mondo Ride, and Little Cab.

Taxify further revealed that it only works with fleets and existing taxi companies as opposed to independent cabbies, arguing that such drivers would offer a better customer experience to clients.

“There was a great deal of interest coming from the Kenyan market. There is a large population of local taxi drivers who yearn to expand their service offerings with technology,” said Martin Villig, co-founder of Taxify in an interview.

The technology set up in 2013 will now be operational in 11 countries including Estonia, Czech, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Netherlands and Mexico.

Taxify’s entry to Kenya cements Nairobi’s acclaim as a tech innovation hub where established taxi hailing apps such as Uber and Dubai-based Mondo Ride have pitched tent.

The taxi lobby’s U-turn to embrace technology comes after the group’s cabbies in February demanded the immediate withdrawal of Uber from the Kenyan market on grounds that the San Francisco taxi giant was eating into earnings.

Taxify Thursday unveiled two price structures: a flat fee regardless of time taken in journey, and another levying per minute charges. The ‘Economy’ tariff will see passengers pay Sh50 per kilometre, Sh5 per minute, and a base charge of Sh100. The ‘Standard’ fare is calculated at Sh100 per kilometre and a base charge of Sh100, with no waiting time fees, Taxify said.

“It is up to the client to choose the tariff based on need,” said Gilbert Wambugu, Taxify country representative for Kenya.

“There are no price surges,” Mr Wambugu said, referring to a phenomenon where Uber hikes rates by a multiple, say 1.5 times, in the event demand cannot be met by the number of cabs in service.

Taxify said it plans to venture into all major towns including Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu in the next one year and recruit about 7,000 drivers belonging to licensed taxi firms or groups to the platform.

Safaricom-backed Little Cab, developed by local IT firm Craft Silicon and set to be launched on Tuesday next week, is charging passengers Sh55 per kilometre and Sh4 per minute – with no flat base charge or price surges.

Mondo Ride charges for a cab in Nairobi is Sh58 per kilometre and Sh4 per minute; in addition to a base fare of Sh100.

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