Indian firm Baxi sets sights on Kenya’s growing ‘hail-a-boda boda’ market

The country’s traffic jams and inadequate infrastructure have turned motorcycle taxi operators into major players in the transport sector.

Now, the business opportunities that exist for such motorcycles, popularly known as boda bodas, have drawn the attention of investors outside the country’s borders.

India’s Baxi, which runs an on-demand motorcycle taxi-hailing service, is looking to the Kenyan market for growth.

“We feel that the market conditions in Africa are very similar to those in India. Both are mostly cash economies, with a large workforce that commutes, and both have a lack of public transport options,” said Baxi in a statement to Business Beat.

Already, Kenya has Mondo Ride and MaraMoja Transport, which offer commuters the option of hailing regular taxis or boda bodas from their mobile phones.

According to Jason Eisen, the founder and CEO of MaraMoja, the motorcycle taxi-hailing business is very competitive. His firm launched the service about a year ago on a pilot basis.

“What set our boda boda services apart from what others offer is our huge focus on trust and relationships,” Mr Eisen said.

“All other such services treat boda bodas, as well as taxis, as commodities, as if passengers don’t care whom they ride with. Our edge in this regard comes from our deep understanding of the Kenyan market, having our roots in Nairobi and being purpose-built for the unique dynamics of this market.”

But the attempt to formalise the boda boda sector has its fair share of challenges.

“Many gaps in the ecosystem that will hamper the sector’s growth are low smartphone penetration among boda boda riders, limited facilities with smartphones, logistical challenges around keeping phones charged, not to mention the informality of the sector,” said Eisen.

MaraMoja, which ended its pilot project a few months ago, said it is first addressing these challenges before launching boda boda-hailing at scale across Nairobi.

The boda boda business is estimated to generate Sh400 million a day, according to the Motorcycle Assembly Association of Kenya. There are about 500,000 motorcycles on the roads, with 99 per cent used for commercial purposes, and 14.4 million people riding them daily.