5 Reasons Why Easy Taxi Kenya Is Slowly But Surely Disrupting Taxi Services In Nairobi
I have been using the taxi-hailing service Easy Taxi for the past month or so in Nairobi ever since I attended a media event at the Africa Internet Group (AIG) offices. AIG is a joint-venture company backed by Rocket Internet, Millicom (the TIGO brand’s holding company) and MTN that is rolling out a myriad of e-commerce businesses on a Pan-African basis. Some of the other AIG backed Internet businesses in the Kenya stable are Jumia, Hellofood, Jovago, Kaymu and Lamudi. To put this in context, AIG competes directly with other heavy hitters like Naspers (behind OLX Kenya & Property24) and One Africa Media (behind Cheki, BuyRentKenya, BrighterMonday) in Kenya.
I have to confess that I have known about Easy Taxi for the better part of 4 months or so but never bothered to use them even after installing the mobile app at some point on my smartphone. You see, I am one of ‘old school’ types who has a ‘taxi guy’ in Nairobi whom I have used for over 4 years. His name is Karanja and he has number of other taxi guys who work with him, forming a small taxi network of sorts. Karanja is a hard working taxi guy who is more often than not reliable. However, like most taxi guys in Kenya there are times he and his other taxi guys just let you down by showing up late when they say they are just 5 minutes away and are actually 20 minutes away. Secondly, for your regular taxi rides you can more or less guess how much Karanja will charge you but you never know for sure if the price is fair or not? Its a lottery so to speak – especially when its a new destination you have never been to before. So, all things considered, Karanja my taxi guy has been my ‘de facto’ taxi solution, up until this point, that is.
Now, if you look at Nairobi for instance, in the context of an ‘on-demand’ and ‘real-time’ taxi-hailing service like Easy Taxi, you sort of wonder at first glance why the service would even succeed when Nairobi seems to have taxis on literally every corner. However, a good number of these taxis are idle and the majority of taxi drivers only get a handful of rides a day based on their existing network of customers with the rare ‘walk-in’ ride so to speak. Easy Taxi, and other taxi-hailing services in Nairobi hope to match demand and supply in a dynamic manner so that customers get a more timely and affordable ‘on-demand’ taxi ride and taxis get more rides a day on this basis. Its not really rocket science. It works. Globally, the poster child of this on-demand taxi-hailing model is Uber which is expected to commence operations in Kenya soon(?) now that they are already operating in Nigeria and South Africa. However, Uber is also seen to be discrupting the traditional taxi model globally and is winning as many supporters as detractors. On-demand taxi-hailing is a mixed bag depending on where your riding.
So, going back to Eaxy Taxi in Kenya, I have used them for roughly a month and this blog post provides my impressions on what they have to offer – and why they are absolutely killing it! Below this is a fairly succinct slide shows that serves to illustrate how their service works from a first person perspective:
Finally, below are the five reasons that I think that Easy Taxi is more or less disrupting taxi services in Nairobi:
- Timely, Cost-Effective & Reliable Taxi Rides – So, back to Karanja. Its never possible to know when he will show up for sure at times. However, with Easy Taxi ‘Darwinian’ principles take over (i.e.Its not the strongest or the fastest that survive – its those most adaptable to change!). The Easy Taxi drivers are always on the ready waiting for a ride when they are close enough to pick it. In my experience, my taxi requests would typically be picked up within a minute or two? I would then immediately get a call from the designated Easy Taxi driver who would verify my exact location as he starts making his way to pick me. I also have the option to cancel my ride at no cost if I figure the taxi driver is too far away or is taking too long and then can request another taxi ride immediately. This is not usually possible or practical with most ‘taxi guys’ like Karanja. Its fast and its reliable most of the time. In addition, you can accurately predict the expected price for the Easy Taxi ride before you request it. Easy Taxi has also negotiated the best rates from its taxis so these guys are actually cheaper per ride than my taxi guy, Karanja. True story! Karanja disrupted. Nuff said.
- Taxi Drivers Are Coining It On Easy Taxi – I spoke to each and every Easy Taxi driver who picked me up to ask me them how the service is working out for them. The majority spoke emphatically about how Easy Taxi has massively transformed their taxi businesses. To put this in perspective, most of the taxi drivers pre-Easy Taxi were doing a few rides a day and never knew how the day would work out financially. However, post-Easy Taxi, many of them confirm they have doubled or even tripled their daily income. Yes. You heard that right – they are making mad cash! So much more that they see the daily cost of maintaining an ‘always-on’ Internet connection and regularly buying mobile data bundles to be a minor inconvenience for a massive windfall of new business. Happy taxi drivers making way more money everyday is excellent whichever way you look at it. I also found out that taxi drivers are busiest from Thursday evening till early Sunday morning where they make up to 3 times their usual daily take as thats when many of the young go partying all over Nairobi and need multiple rides all night. I also found out that the busiest areas for taxi rides in Nairobi are Westlands and Kilimani. The big question though is if Easy Taxi drivers are making more money then who is losing the same money? Taxi guy Karanja and his fellow taxi guys? Me thinks so! Disruption for sure.
- A Massive & Exponentially Growing Taxi Network – When I first started using Easy Taxi last month the number I got from their Marketing Manager is that they had 700+ taxis in Nairobi. I was stunned at the time that they had so many already. It gets better. When I checked in earlier this week I found out that they now have 800+ taxis in Nairobi, and growing. At this pace, Easy Taxi will probably hit 1000+ taxis before the end of the year? It appears to me that Easy Taxi is growing so fast on the back of network effects. This means that customers are coming on-board largely via word of mouth based on good service. In addition, taxi drivers are hooking up other taxi drivers to the network. The convergence of both supply-side and demand-side network effects is pumping up their taxi network. In addition, Easy Taxi launched a corporate taxi service last month with a post-paid model so they will be serving both consumer and business segments in Kenya. Taxi drivers get to keep 10% of the take on corporate taxi rides.
- Near Fanatical Customer Service & Service Incentives – So. Here’s the thing. For all the glowing feedback I have provided thus far on Easy Taxi there have been some bad patches in my experience. On one occasion, a taxi picked me up in what looked like a really beat up taxi. In fact, I told the taxi driver in question immediately that I was disappointed in the quality of his taxi. He did look a little ‘desperado’ though and kept apologising for the state of his taxi in which my passenger door could also not open from inside. It got worse. The taxi ran out of fuel about 500 metres from my meeting so I had to walk the rest of the distance. I did report via the mobile app as to what happened (you can do this on the Easy Taxi mobile app and also rate the taxi driver). On a few occasions some taxi drivers tried to game the pricing and quoted rates higher than what is listed in the price estimator built into the mobile app. However, they always backed down once they knew I had the correct price. On another occasion I cancelled a taxi that was going to take over 10 minutes to get to me and they called within minutes of the cancellation to find out what was wrong. The point here is that I always got some feedback shortly after service went south for one reason or another? It seems to me Easy Taxi is almost crazy about customer service compared to what we are used to in Kenya for taxi services which I found to be quite refreshing. They also invest in etiquette training for all their taxi drivers so they are well presented and well spoken with all customers – they even give taxi drivers discounted rates to purchase smartphones as many taxi drivers generally use feature phones pre-Easy Taxi. Another incentive is that every time you take three rides Easy Taxi throw in a free SMS voucher for a Kes. 500 free taxi ride – thank you very much I’ll have that which taxi guy Karanja never ever gives me – free rides!
- A Nearly Perfect Multi-Platform Taxi-Hailing Mobile App – The Easy Taxi mobile app has been designed to be really user-friendly form customers and taxi drivers. You have to remember that both taxi drivers and their customers have different versions of the mobile app and it needs to be intuitive from the get go to work for all of them. I have to say that it does not hurt that Easy Taxi is a global business so a lot of the user experience research and development that has gone into building and refining the mobile app has ensured that by the time they commenced services in Kenya it worked really well. It does not hurt that a market like Kenya which is very ‘mobile savvy’ with the likes of M-Pesa is basically brimming with technophiles across the board so it stands to reason Easy Taxi has every opportunity to make its taxi-hailing mobile app number one in this market for the long haul. The mobile app is also available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry making its cross-mobile OS appeal quite comprehensive.