Battle for Kenya e-hailing market share moves to personalised services

Online taxi-hailing firms are moving away from standardised service offerings to grow their businesses. PHOTO | BD GRAPHIC
Online taxi-hailing firms are moving away from standardised service offerings to grow their businesses. PHOTO | BD GRAPHIC 

Senga, is Kenya’s Uber for lorries. Yes, the app links users to light and heavy-duty trucks to ship their goods.

BodApp, the first e-hailing app which caters solely for those seeking motorcycle taxis popularly known as boda bodas, has just launched in Nairobi.

Baxi, an Indian on-demand motorcycle taxi company, has announced plans to begin operations in the Kenyan market by end of year.

Ever since the advent of Uber in the Kenyan market in January 2015, Nairobi has witnessed increased activity and innovations in the taxi space.

There has been entry of global taxi hailing players such as Dubai-based Mondo Ride, and Estonian app Taxify.#

Safaricom, Kenya’s most profitable company, also entered the fray mid-year seeking a bite of the taxi market through two apps, namely Little Ride and Sendy.

And now to increase or retain their market share more firms are having to either sharpen their focus and offer personalised products or go into uncharted territory. Uber preferred the latter option with its new offering, the UberCOPTER.

Senga developers too seems to be reading from the same script.

Operating as a web-based application, with a mobile option in development, Senga is the first app that helps people who need to move goods link up with trucks conveniently and without the exploitation associated with middlemen.

Bad experiences

Its co-founder June Odong says a personal experience inspired the innovation, which has signed up 60 trucks since its launch in August.

“My interest came from having repeated bad experiences when I wanted companies to move my personal items while in the US. It was difficult getting in touch with transportation providers, and the one’s I finally got were negligent ,” said Ms Odongo.

After moving back to Nairobi in January, Ms Odongo and her partner worked to develop a product they believe supports the industry adequately.

“We were tempted to start a software company for the logistics sector, with the use of modern sensors to combat fraud and also to help with efficiency. Ultimately, we found that focusing on bringing visibility to the supply and demand sides to improve efficiency, and making reliable transportation easy to acquire, would have the biggest impact for our constituents,” she said.

BodApp was unveiled in partnership with Telkom Kenya, which supplied 100 ‘Kaduda’ smartphones.

“We are also in discussion with BodApp to provide them with a data bundling plan that will work best for their business model,” Telkom Kenya told the Business Daily.

The application connects riders to boda bodas - a popular means of transportation known for beating Nairobi’s notorious traffic jams.

Prior to BodApp’s entry, Sendy, which started off as a motorcycle courier firm, had ventured into on demand boda boda and taxis. 

Others have opted to personalise their services.

“We have not got everyone on board but we love the efficiency and convenience the technology brings to our customers. They are able to communicate when requesting the services and it makes it easy for billing,” says John Ndung’u, receiver manager of State-owned Kenya National Taxi Corporation (Kenatco) which is piloting its app Teke Taxi.

Teke Taxi, developed by Riverbank Solutions, targets corporate taxi firms and does not offer standard pricing unlike other e-hailing apps. Riders using the platform pay depending on the tariffs assigned by the cab firm.

Pewin Cabs, a corporate focused taxi company, last month unveiled an e-hailing app dubbed Dandia. Its pricing is in terms of zones rather than the distance and time tariffs charged by regular taxi apps.

Dandia, Mondo Ride and Uber too recently unveiled an advance booking option.

Mondo Ride and Little can be booked even when one has no smartphone, by using a call centre and short code respectively.

New strategies

Those with feature phones can use the short code *826# to request for a Little taxi. Mondo Ride has set up a call centre where one can directly request for a cab.

“If there is something we want to do is to personalise and localise products specifically for Nairobi. The call centre will allow people with no smartphones to call in and book a taxi,” says Mondo Ride chief executive officer, Troels Anderson, during the unveiling of the firm’s new strategies in Nairobi last week.

Mondo Ride and Safaricom-backed Little have a budget option where riders pay lower rates by using older taxis. The budget option is meant to attract riders on a tight budget to use the applications.

The budget option also caters for existing taxi drivers whose cars do not meet the strict eight-year age cap.

Still, even with the presumed crowding in the transport space, there is room for unique variations, to grow in a market that has the consumer already trained to appreciate the power of mobile-based technologies.