2019: THE YEAR THAT WAS FOR RIDE-HAILING FIRMS

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The inception of ride hailing technology has tremendously transformed transportation industry world over. This technology has greatly improved efficiency in the sector and created viable economic opportunities to many people.

The Kenyan market has attracted many players in this field ranging from cabs to buses and trucks. A look at 2019 paints a picture of a lucrative business that is also faced with impasse- from numerous industrial unrest by drivers to price wars among players and unpopular policies.

Nonetheless, besides these challenges, the industry has grown by leaps and bounds.  2019 saw a number of activities undertaken by key players in the industry that are worth highlighting. 

 Broadening their reach and market share in Kenya

Besides having strong presence in major cities in Kenya – Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu – the ride-hailing apps have been relentlessly extending their services to other urban centres in order to increase their market share and broaden their reach.

Bolt, for instance recently launched operations in seven urban centres including:  Nyeri, Meru, Embu, Nanyuki, Karatina, Kilifi and Malindi bringing its operations to a total of sixteen towns in Kenya and making it the leading ride hailing service provider in terms of geographical reach.   Ola Akinnusi, the country manager has attributed this to the increased demand for services by customers across the country. It is part of the company’s mission to make urban transportation more convenient and affordable.

Uber also has a presence in major urban cities including: Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Thika. It is also planning to extend its operations into more towns in the country.

In addition, Wasili, a Kenyan-based App launched in June 2018 has received a warm reception from the residents of Naivasha, Nakuru, Kitale and Eldoret.

Categorization of services

The on-demand transportation service providers have sought to give users options that suit their dynamic needs.They have therefore differentiated their services in order to offer more options.

Uber for instance has categorized services in its platform tailored towards meeting users demands in various cities where they operate. UberX provides affordable, everyday rides with cars with a capacity of up to four passengers. UberSELECT on the other handis an option which gives a higher quality experience with cars having a capacity of   seven passengers. The platform also has UberCHAPCHAP- an affordable option offering quick and convenient rides, necessary when running quick errands on a cost effective budget.  Finally, UberBODA, and UberPOA for TukTuksare are also part of their offers.

Bolt, recently introduced two types of ride in Nairobi — Lite and Plus targeting users seeking budget travels and those who want spacious taxis.

The new categories, Lite and Plus, add to the existing taxi services that include the base option and XL, which accommodate up to seven passengers. Lite features hatchbacks with 1,200cc engines and below, setting up a competition for rival Uber’s Chap Chap category while the Plus has sedans and station wagon cars with engines of more than 1,500cc. The Plus category also only consider drivers with a rating of over 4.8 out of five. Bolt also has bodabodas and TukTuks in their platforms.

Responsibility

These companies are positioning themselves as brands that are responsible by going out of the way to venture into global activities that are not their primary core business. The services are indeed pertinent to the society.

Bolt for instance recently launched a dedicated environmental impact fund with seed capital of €10 million aimed at initiatives which deliver global social and environmental benefits.  This forms   part of the company’s wider environmental strategy known as ‘the Green Plan’ which focuses on a long-term commitment to reduce the ecological footprint of Bolt as a company.

The fund supports M-Kopa in its quest to help families in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania switch from high-cost kerosene to affordable and renewable solar power for covering their household’s energy needs.

Public-Private collaborations

Achieving global and national road safety goals requires appropriate management capacity.  This involves appropriate collaborations between the private and public sectors. The major players in the ride-hailing industry have taken this into consideration and embraced quite a number of these collaborations.

Late this year, Uber hosted the Tech for Safety Summit in Nairobi bringing together private and public entities with focus on looking at ways of using current and new technologies to help create public spaces that champion social justice and equality, accessible and safe for all. The Summit offered a high quality conference experience with combined networking opportunities, for students, corporates, technology leaders, start-ups among others.

Bolt on the other hand regularly engages The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to train motorists on its platform on road safety as part of the company’s broader strategy of ensuring high road safety standards and compliance with public transport regulations by motorists using its platform.

The leading ride-hailing firm also partnered with Rescue.coto offer free medical and security emergency response services for drivers. All these are geared towards equipping motorists with necessary skills and services relating to road transport and safety.

Ride hailing technology has become an integral part of our daily life.  It is one of the key factors driving society’s progress.

We depend on technology to travel, to do business and to live in comfort. It has made our lives easier.

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