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Uber eyes other towns after 2016 Nairobi and Mombasa conquests

Uber Kenya spokesperson Janet Kemboi. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT
Uber Kenya spokesperson Janet Kemboi. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT  

San-Francisco-based taxi hailing firm Uber has set its sights on other Kenyan towns after conquering Nairobi and Mombasa where it is now the most widely used taxi service.

Uber says it grew the number of Kenyan drivers four-fold this year, owing mostly to a 35 per cent price cut that came into effect in July.

The firm has so far signed-up over 4,000 drivers. In May, it had 1,000 drivers and had clocked eight million kilometres since launch in January 2015.

“Uber’s ambition is to be everywhere - any progressive, forward-thinking city that has a need for safe, reliable and efficient transportation and we want to be there. We are part of a broader mobility movement, establishing smart cities of the future and a big focus for 2017 is to start exploring options of where to go next in Africa,” said the Uber Kenya spokesperson Janet Kemboi in an interview.

Uber says its business has grown more than ten times during the year compared to last year. This was despite attacks on Uber drivers by rival street cabs at the beginning of the year.

“In 2016 our growth was boosted by about 300,000 unique riders who have taken a trip in the country in the past three months,” said Ms Kemboi.

In the July price cut, Uber lowered its rate to Sh35 from Sh60 per kilometre and reduced it charges per minute by Sh1 to Sh3 in addition to cutting price of short rides by Sh100 to Sh200.

The price cut triggered price wars with new entrants as battle for riders in Nairobi took centre stage.

After the July price cut took the industry by surprise, Dubai-based e-hailing firm Mondo Ride responded to Uber’s move by introducing a budget option, giving riders an extra choice to match their budgets.

Riders now pay a rate of Sh35 per kilometre and Sh3 per minute and a base of Sh100.

Safari service

Mondo Ride launched its services locally mid-January. Estonian-based Taxify also followed with its price cut.

Mondo Ride has since unveiled additional services that include the standard taxi hailing service, a boda boda option allowing customers to request for motorcycles and a larger taxis targeting corporates.

The firm recently launched a safari service allowing riders in Nairobi to hail a car for a one day trip to tourist attraction sites in Naivasha, one of Kenya’s major tourist hub. And more services are in the offing, the firm says.

“We will soon be launching the Mondo Wallet which allows the user to top up his or her Mondo account using M-Pesa. I will give you more details about this as soon as we launch it. We are also looking to expand Mondo Safari to offer a variety of destinations in Kenya,” said Mondo Head of Africa, Joar Lindh.

Safaricom backed Little ride by local IT firm Craft Silicon entered the e-hailing market mid this year with an aim of taking over the sector with pocket-friendly rates.

The firm is the latest to slash its rates, positioning itself as the cheapest e-hailing app in the market. It charges Sh30 per kilometre and Sh4 per kilometre with a base fare of Sh100.

Two-player country

Little has also aggressively spread in areas where Uber has a presence.

In October, Little entered Mombasa, shortly after Uber launched its service. The firm is fast getting the attention of the locals by riding on diverse add on services that includes free wireless Internet.

“I do not think Uber dominates the market any longer.  Our average number of trips and theirs do not have much difference now. I believe other players are far behind, and ultimately Kenya will be a two-player country – Little and Uber,” said Kamal Budhabhatti, founder of Craft Silicon.

“Uber have been in the market for over two years now. We are still a relatively young company, remember our launch happened in July. Over the holiday, we have hit over 10,000 trips per day as of last weekend.”

Little Ride is also eyeing the Nigeria and Uganda market where Uber enjoys monopoly. Uber is also looking to venture into other markets around the country and Africa in 2017.

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