NAIROBI, KENYA: Uber, a transport company, has drawn anger of conventional taxi operators in nearly every market it has entered. Nairobi has been no exception.
The company which promises to revolutionize the transit system had a soft launch in Kenya early last year.
Uber which is estimated to be around Sh3.6 trillion has made waves in several cities from Johannesburg to London; it made Nairobi its sixth stop in Africa after Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Lagos and Cairo.
Alastair Curtis, Kenya's Uber representative states in an online statement that uberX is "a low-cost alternative to move you around Nairobi in a safe, cheap and reliable way."
Uber further states that the company's innovative system provides users, both customers and drivers, with high standards of safety, accurate GPS location tracking, cashless transactions and prompt feedback channels.
Users install the app which allows them to locate nearest Uber drivers to their location. They can then request a ride, available routes and get a fare quote. iPhone users can even get an estimated time of arrival, (ETA).
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, KNBS states that the total number of registered motor vehicles stood at 161,813 in 2009.
In 2011 the figure had jumped to 205 841, a 30 per cent increase and as at last year this figure stood at 218,057.
This presents a challenge to the country's road network which, for several decades had remained undeveloped, a factor that has precipitated into Nairobi's current traffic situation.
A 2011 study by technology firm IBM monetized the man hours lost on Nairobi's traffic jams and found that the Kenyan economy loses Sh50 million daily.
The same study found out that driving in Nairobi is the fourth most painful traffic experience in the world coming right after Beijing and Johannesburg.
Ride sharing services like Uber plan to solve the chaos of urban transit in major cities and at the same time reap the benefits from the same.
Uber's charge formula includes a base fare of shs100 plus four shillings for every minute and shs60 for every kilometre.
Users are charged a minimum fare of sh300 and sh500 for cancelling their taxi orders and payments are made through credit cards.
Critics have however stated that transit apps like Uber might find Nairobi a difficult market to operate in, given the city's relatively unstructured and loosely regulated transport system.
Easy Taxi is another application which has been enjoying positive uptake among residents of the city.
The application also uses GPS mapping to allow users connect to Easy Taxi-approved cabs nearest to them, estimate the amount of fare needed and have the taxi pick them up often in a matter of minutes.
In December last year, Easy Taxi partnered with Kenya Commercial Bank to consolidate its presence in the Kenyan market.
The partnership will see KCB and Easy Taxi customers to download the App and link it with KCB Pepea Cards. Customers will then be able to pay for taxi services using the debit cards.
According to analysts, the incorporation of KCB Pepea into the Easy Taxi App will increase convenience for customers and reduce over-reliance on cash or mobile money to pay for taxi services.
According to Peng Chen, managing director, Easy Taxi Kenya, the adoption of smart phones in the country and an increase in awareness among consumers has provided opportunity for companies that seek to disrupt traditional systems like urban transport.
Jumia report on mobile phone sales in Kenya last year stated that one in two mobile devices sold in Kenya today is a smartphone indicating that the country’s mobile phone industry is moving further away from feature phones and more towards feature-packed smart devices.
"Kenyan drivers are more smart-phone savvy and at the same time more people today are used to the idea of smartphones as a service," he explains.
"Ordering a taxi or having food delivered through an app is something that is more commonplace today."
Mr Chen states that the frustration in the city's transport system has further helped services like Easy Taxi get a foothold into the market.
"Everyone who uses taxis in Nairobi has had an incident at some point and we are trying to minimize the pain that comes with urban transit," he states.
Easy Taxi has been rotting out rolling out Easy Taxi Corporate from the end of last year in an attempt to tap into the lucrative corporate segment.
"The practice in many corporate organizations is that employees use taxi services and then keep the receipts which are then taken to finance for the employee to reimbursed," explains Mr Chen.
Easy Taxi corporate eliminates the paper work and allows employees to use taxis and because everything is logged in, an expense report is created at the end of each month which is then sent to the company for billing.
Easy Taxi states that it has already signed up several clients who are saving between 20-30 per cent on their previous costs.
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