The transport industry in Kenya has changed a lot over the years. Public transport now boasts of things like free Wi-Fi onboard and of course the use of electronic cards has been part of the national discussion for a while now as various players like Google (the discontinued Beba card), Equity Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank (Pepea card), Safaricom (My1963 card) etc have all come in at some point wanting to be the face of the cashless public transport payment system. While that debate rages on, a silent revolution has been happening elsewhere, the taxis.
The taxi service in Kenya has very many players. While it is not as chaotic as the matatu industry, there have been long-running concerns about the operations of taxis in Nairobi and Kenya at large. From rogue taxi drivers to unpaying customers to other issues like insecurity. Globally, companies like Uber and Lyft have changed the way taxis operate in most markets. With the use of software, they have revolutionized taxis. While there is no Lyft in Kenya, we have Uber which launched in Nairobi in January and others like Easy Taxi, Sasa cabs and Maramoja which have been around for a while.
We’ll be looking at them and comparing their services going forward but our focus today is Easy Taxi. Easy Taxi as of March boasted of a network of over 5,000 taxis in Nairobi and its environs. It has grown steadily and is one of the most recognizable cab companies on the streets of Nairobi besides long time players. Its biggest differentiator is its operation. Software.
Users hail a cab via Easy Taxi’s app which is available on all mobile platforms then wait for pickup. With its large network of cabs, the waiting times are usually shorter unless of course the rains are pounding Nairobi like they have done in the last few days or the traffic situation where you are is worse. In my brief interaction with Easy Taxi, I’ve not had to wait for more than 10 minutes.
Yes Easy Taxi is doing well as far as waiting times go so what about the next step? You hail a cab on the app, you wait, you are picked up. Next? You arrive at your destination. This is where the next headache sets in. Sort of. Payment.
Easy Taxi has had an upper hand over rival Uber in that it is flexible enough to accept cash. Uber just started accepting cash in India. It is not doing that here in Kenya. Probably it will someday.
Easy Taxi also accepts payments via M-PESA, the world’s biggest and most successful mobile money transfer service. M-PESA boasts of 13 million montly active users in Kenya. Easy Taxi allowing customers to pay for their ride using M-PESA has been key to its growth. Uber doesn’t allow payments via M-PESA but is said to be in the process of enabling that as soon as later this month. We’re still waiting. Uber uses cashless payments like credit cards. Easy Taxi launched its own debit and credit card payments service called Easy Taxi Pay.
Yes you can pay via M-PESA or just cash but how much? That is usually left to the cab driver to decide. Many have cited it as one of East Taxi’s drawbacks. Actually when a lady from Easy Taxi called last week to ask me what my experience has been so far, my first suggestion was that I should be able to see the amount I am required to pay on the app right after I arrive at my destination and not have to rely on the driver’s intelligence or lack thereof.
Starting today, Easy Taxi will no longer be charging customers based on the time but just per kilometre. Ksh 90 for each kilometre covered. The base fare is Ksh 300. Uber on the other hand has a base rate of Ksh 100. However the minimum fare is Ksh 300 so there is that. This means that if you happen to be stuck in Nairobi’s notorious traffic jams, you don’t have to worry that spending 30 minutes at the Nyayo Stadium roundabout or an hour stuck on Ngong Road will lead to you having to answer tough questions from your baby mama. About where you were for the last couple of hours and paying a high bill for the cab. You’ll only have to worry about the many questions your baby mama will ask. The fear to rack up a huge bill when there is a lot of traffic or generally during rush hour is what discourages many from using Uber all the time.
Uber for instance will charge you Ksh 4 per minute on top so if you happen to be stuck on Langata Road for say an hour, that’s an extra Ksh 240. Your ordinary Nairobi cabbie will take you anywhere in the city and its environs at a fixed charge with or without traffic.
Have you used Easy Taxi, Uber, Maramoja or any other taxi in Kenya that uses an app? What’s your experience been like?