As the ride hailing business in Nairobi gets more competitive, operators are putting their best foot forward as they seek to claim bigger market share.
Uber, Bolt (formerly Taxify) and Little have adopted different approaches in a bid to attract the attention of customers who are always scouting for the best services that suit their dynamic needs.
For the customers, competition is godsend as it leads not only to quality and affordable services, but generates a rich menu of services to pick from. Some of the taxi riding apps have even rolled out unique services such as shuttle.
The common features for the taxi apps are convenience, cashless payment, professional drivers, safety, and ability to offer cheaper services compared to the traditional taxi operators.
However, there are a number of factors that clearly differentiate them, including pricing, frequency of trip cancellations, security, driver payments, car ownership, market penetration, and driver incentives. It is part of these differences on which customers base their decisions to ride a particular taxi service.
“I have been a faithful customer of Bolt because they don’t delay to pick me up. I once tried to use Uber in Mombasa and the delay meant I had to miss the train,” says Chris Kamani, a resident of Ngara, Nairobi.
Ruaka resident Brian Odaya has similar sentiments. He says he once requested an Uber driver who refused to take him home saying it was far.
But Pauline Nyaga, who lives in Nairobi’s Umoja estate says she only trusts Uber. “I feel safer and more secure when an Uber driver is on the wheel. It may be a bit more expensive but it is worth it,” she said.
Other customers however are not loyal to one brand.
“I always want to test new products. Nowadays I use Little because I love the services although receipts are never delivered to my email after the trip ends,” says Emmanuel Mutisya on Play Store’s user reviews.
Aside from efficiency and quick response, pricing of rides is another key, if not the main determinant, when customers are choosing taxi apps to go for.
So how to three compare in terms of pricing? If you’re heading to Safari Park Hotel, on Thika Road from CBD it will cost you about Sh490 on Uber X, Sh360 on Uber ChapChap, Sh670 on Uber Select while Uber Assist will charge you Sh480.
You will part with between Sh400 and Sh460 on Little Basic and between Sh630and Sh700 on Little Comfort. The company’s BlueBODA will cost you from Sh220 to Sh250 while Little Shuttle will charge you Sh80 for the same distance. Little’s Shuttle is the only platform that offers 33-seater matatu services. Bolt will ask for Sh420, Bolt Boda Sh210, Bolt Go for Sh300 but Bolt XL will cost you Sh670 for the same journey.
A ride on Uber ChapChap starts at Sh16 per kilometre, Sh4 per minute with a minimum fare of Sh100. Uber X has a minimum fare of Sh150, base fare of Sh85 charging Sh27 per kilometre.
Little has a base fare of Sh100 while Bolt charges Sh75. The former’s minimum fare is Sh190 and the price per kilometre is Sh20.
The apps also offer a number of promotional free services. Uber gives you free rides worth Sh500 when you invite a friend or key in a promotional code. Bolt has a promotional discount of between Sh150 and Sh250 where users are allowed to share a code to new riders who end up enjoying a free ride worth Sh250. Little gives Sh100 discount for first time riders.
All apps have a friendly graphical user interface but Uber and Little seem to consume less internet data than Bolt, which had a better experience when it was Taxify.
The platforms keep on updating their platforms for better experience. Some of the latest features are related to enhancement of security and convenience of the riders.
“We have partnered with KK security. We have enhanced our app so that when a driver or a rider is in a compromising position, they can press a button on the app and automatically our system sends a signal to KK security, who ensure to provide a free escort within seconds,” says Little’s chief executive Mr Kamal Budhabhatti.
Little has an end-to-end eco system around the drivers and the transport business. For example, drivers can offer services like M-Pesa, airtime purchases, light water bills to riders and make their extra money.
“We are connected to insurance companies, so they can buy and sell insurance policies. We give them loans based on their driving patterns and also provide their kids with free computer education.”
On Google Play Store, Little leads with 4.2 user rating out of five stars but with the lowest number of downloads of just above 100,000. Bolt is rated 4.1 with over 10 million downloads, while Uber scores the same on ratings but it has been downloaded over 100 million times across the globe.
Uber is the pioneer of the technology and therefore commands the biggest market share in Kenya and worldwide. Bolt was the second to enter followed before Little drove into the scene.
At any point when you request a cab, Uber will have the most available cars, followed by Bolt and Little. Uber is the most available service in most towns in Kenya followed by Bolt with Little only starting to penetrate to major towns and other African countries.