Comparing Uber’s & Easy Taxi’s Services In Kenya – The Good. The Bad. The Truth.
When a business has a valuation north of US$ 40 Billion and it launches its services in Kenya you probably end up having unrealistic expectations of what they have to offer? This was indeed the case when Uber (finally?) commenced operations in Kenya with UberX, their low-cost offering just over a month ago with approximately 30 taxis.
Just to recap, Uber is one of the world’s fastest growing and most successful on-demand taxi hailing services. Uber, like Easy Taxi which has been in Kenya close to year works via a mobile app on your Android or iOS (Apple) smartphone whereby you ‘push the button’ and a taxi shows wherever you need it.
I’ve done quite a few Uber rides during the past month or so and the experience has been mostly positive, with a few exceptions. I have been using Uber to gauge their services in Nairobi vis-à-vis Easy Taxi who are their only real competitor of scale in Kenya given their Rocket Internet via Africa Internet Group credentials.
If you are a regular on my blog you will know that I have been ranting and raving about Easy Taxi on more than a few occasions since their services have transformed my taxis habits – its been a revelation of sorts! That being said, I did find some gems about Uber that Eaxy Taxi cannot match, and vice versa – each has their own unique pros and cons. Therefore, here is my review of the UberX experience in relation to Easy Taxi in Kenya:
- Mobile Apps UX (User Experience) – In terms of how the Uber mobile app works, this is a very well designed and user-friendly experience. You can see that the amount of time spent figuring out and implementing the user experience must have been enormous since its a really slick mobile app! These are the small details like how you can ‘see’ where all their available taxis are in relation to where you are before you push the button. Its the way the taxis are represented as cars and you can see them turn corners and stuff. Small details that make it a delight to use. I would say that the Uber mobile app is streets ahead of Easy Taxi’s which feels a little clunky in comparison.
Billing & Payments – The biggest caveat to using Uber in Kenya is that it does not yet work with mobile money – yet. I had to input my credit card details to get it to work. That being said, once your credit card is plugged in there is something almost magical about the way you can ping an UberX and you never touch cash money or have to initiate a transaction electronically – everything happens in the background in a seamless automated manner. When your ride ends and your Uber driver ‘right swipes’ to end the ride, you get an email receipt in seconds of what it costs and therefore how much your credit card will be debited. This is quite unlike Easy Taxi where you pay for your rides via mobile money or cash which is convenient and ideal for customers in Kenya. However, one challenge with using Easy Taxi on this note is that their drivers can often arbitrarily decide what they should charge you which in my opinion is a little messy.
- Response Times – A major caveat to using Uber in Nairobi is that they have around 40 taxis the last time I checked? This number is obviously growing month on month as they sign up more taxi companies. However, it means that there are instances when UberX taxis are all taken up and you have to wait for one to become free before you can dial in again. It also means limited coverage in Nairobi in that sometimes you are in a distant location from where your Uber is coming from to pick you up. This takes time and its hard to cancel taxis on Uber (which they charge you for anyway if you do so). I have found that the Uber response time can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 40 minutes. Easy Taxi on the other hand have much better coverage in Nairobi given that they have over 1,200 taxis all over the city. This means faster response times wherever you are on most occasions – usually from as little as 2 minutes to a maximum of 30 minutes or thereabouts. As usual, traffic is a major contributing factor in Nairobi where ALL taxis are concerned.
Driver Etiquette – One thing I noticed from the get go with Uber is that their drivers seemed to be better trained in terms of customer etiquette? These guys behaved more like chauffeurs than taxi drivers. As in, they would not speak unless spoken to on most occasions? This was a little unnerving at first since taxi drivers in Kenya are a little like barbers in the barbershop? These guys have the latest scoop on local politics, football, celebrities, etc etc. They keep the ride interesting in this manner. So, the Uber guys were clearly told to ‘shut up’ on the ride. A good number opened up once you prodded them. One reason for this is that Uber has engaged established taxi companies whereas Easy Taxi has signed up individual taxi owners. This means the whole etiquette thing is easier for Uber Kenya to manage.
- Vehicle Quality – I would say that hands down the quality of vehicles from Uber is often better compared to Easy Taxi. This is probably due to the fact that Uber has signed up taxi companies who have fleets of well maintained taxis serving corporate clients. On the other hand, Easy Taxi always feels a little like a lottery in that you can get really clean and well maintained cars but at the same time you can get taxis that are in a bad way. I can imagine Easy Taxi has done this as a land grab to secure as many taxis as possible on their service but the high level of variability in their vehicle quality will hurt them – thats if it hasn’t happened already since customers want consistency of service above all else.
Ride Perks – This does not happen all the time but some Uber taxis will have free bottled water and chewing gum on-board. This is a pleasant and unexpected perk that I always use whenever available on an Uber. On the other hand, what I have found to be quite an interesting perk with a good number of Easy Taxi’s is free WIFI on-board. Now, considering that you need to have Internet access to even use Easy Taxi this seems like more of a novelty than a need? That being said, free Internet is always welcome and especially if your on an especially long or time consuming ride which is not uncommon given Nairobi’s now legendary traffic jams. Another bonus from Easy Taxi is that they often throw in free rides if you take three rides or more in any given week which is really nice.
- Customer Service – I have noticed that the level of customer service offered by Easy Taxi seems to be limited to only when you have cancelled a taxi ride or issued a complaint. On the other hand, with Uber, I have noticed that they respond to almost all comments on their driver rating feature, even if its via email. I also had an incident with Uber when they overcharged me and then reversed the charges and sent an email for the same. I got a sense that Uber’s customer service is more responsive and personalised than Easy Taxi’s.
Ride Costs – I have found that using Uber has been considerably less expensive than regular taxis or Easy Taxi rides during times when there is no traffic or fairly moderate traffic. On average, I find I can save anywhere from Kes. 200.00 to Kes. 400.00 on a ride for the routes I typically use to work, home, etc. However, this changes dramatically when you run smack into heavy traffic during rush hours in Nairobi where an UberX ride can easily double in cost. This is unlike the regular taxi ride where the cost is more or less fixed even if the traffic was crazy (however, some regular taxi drivers will insist on a top-up to cover the extra fuel cost).
Uber and Eaxy Taxi Pros & Cons
- Uber Pros: Great Mobile App, Integrated Billing & Payments, Drive Etiquette, Free Drinks & Chewing Gum, Great Customer Service, & High Vehicle Quality
- Uber Cons: Small Number of Taxis Limits Availability, No Mobile Money or Cash Payments, High Costs During Major Traffic, & Slow(er) Response Times
- Easy Taxi Pros: Massive Number of Taxis, Mobile Money & Cash Payments, Flexible Driver Negotiated Rates, Free WIFI, & Faster Response Times
- Easy Taxi Cons: Variable Vehicle Quality, Bad Customer Service, Poor Driver Etiquette, Unintegrated Billing & Payments System
Both Uber and Easy Taxi are doing a pretty good job in Kenya, as can be expected. I use them interchangeably at the moment based on factors like time of day, traffic, location of departure, cash or mobile money availability, mood, etc. These are still early days but I would say that Uber seem to have the edge on a more complete and refined service at this juncture? However, in terms of sheer scale and general service availability, Easy Taxi leads the way. The remainder of 2015 will be telling in terms of how well both services perform and which one starts to gain a larger percentage of retained and regular customers.