5 Interesting Insights On Uber’s Accelerating Velocity In Kenya
Uber. Global. On-Demand. Controversial. Feared. Celebrated. Excellent. Disruptive. US$ 42+ Billion Valuation. These are the things that come to mind when I think about Uber, that wunderkind of the nascent and fast growing global on-demand economy enabled by mobile apps and the Internet. Uber was late coming to Kenya having only launched its taxi hailing UberX offering a couple of months ago.
I was probably one of the first to try out Uber in Kenya and have since then become a regular customer. Initially, they struggled with meeting demand as they slowly rolled out their service with only a handful of Uber Partners (i.e. Uber Drivers).
One of the major caveats for Uber in Kenya is that they did not launch with M-Pesa as a payment option and this riled many would be customers in the market – M-Pesa is, after all, a 20 million customer strong mobile money service making it de facto for a many Kenyans. However, that has not stopped Uber from growing like a weed in the last few months. Here are five key insights that I managed to glean from talking to Uber Partners in Nairobi over the last couple of weeks:
1. The Majority Of Uber Customers In Kenya Are Expatriates
Yes. I said it. Uber is after all a global brand even if its brand new in Kenya. The majority of Uber Partners have told me that the bulk of their customers are expatriates – that is like 9 out 0f 10 on average per day. This is not unexpected given that Uber has established a global brand that is trusted and consistent across many global markets. Its the same way we recognise brands like Coca Cola and KFC. For this very reason, many expatriates in Kenya have signed up for Uber. It could also be a factor that Uber does not take cash or M-Pesa (yet) and this could be a major deterrent for a good number of would be local customers.
2. Uber Partners Typically Do 10 Rides (Or More) Per Day
This metric is really interesting in that I recall talking to Easy Taxi drivers a few months ago and they were ecstatic when they did 4 or 5 rides per day? Therefore, Uber Partners are doing more than double the same. However, the major difference is Uber has signed up Taxi companies to work exclusively for them with a fixed monthly take for using their cars. From what I gathered, Uber pays taxi companies Kes. 60,000.00 per month per car to use them on an exclusive basis.
3. The Uber Partners’ iPhones Are Overheating In Kenya
Uber did the unusual thing of giving most of their Uber Partners iPhones to use their Uber Partner mobile app. Whilst this seemed like a good idea at the time and one that I found to be overly generous given that lower cost Android smartphones could do the same job, it seems to have backfired. The reason for this is that the iPhones overheat when they are affixed to the windscreens in Ubers and then they shut down completely which is not exactly ideal for a service that needs to work flawlessly. Therefore, Uber Partners are improvising and moving to more durable Android smartphones to use Uber – although their mobile app on Android is not as good as on iPhones for navigation precision from what they have told me.
4. Uber Will Be Launching M-Pesa Payments From May 2015
Uber will finally(?) be launching M-Pesa payments via their mobile app in Kenya from May 2015. This long overdue and much needed move was probably delayed due to the need for Safaricom to upgrade their M-Pesa platform before they could ‘plug-in’ into the Application Programming Interface or API for short. Credit card penetration in Kenya is relatively tiny so the move to M-Pesa has the potential to exponentially grow Uber’s footprint in Kenya going forward.
5. Uber Has 80+ Cars With Plans to Hit 200+ Very Soon
Uber has been slowly but surely growing the number of UberX cars they have available in Kenya. This is really evident since before it could take over 30 minutes to get one at any time of the day irrespective of where you were. However, lately, when you fire up the Uber mobile app you see them all over the place and most conveniently near where you are. Therefore, with 80 UberX cars available in Nairobi their service availability is improving. One thing that also gives them an edge is that the taxis used for UberX are exclusive and therefore are not used for off-Uber customer rides at the same time like Easy Taxi does.