Yesterday, Little Cab, a product of Safaricom and Craft Silicon became the latest entrant into the taxi hailing space. The space has in the recent past seen increased activity, with several players jostling for a slice of the lucrative market. Uber remains the main player in the segment, having a presence in Nairobi, Mombasa and Thika town. Uber has so far locked in over 1 Million rides with the App getting over 100,000 eyeballs (users who open the App) every month. Also in the space is MaraMoja, which was the first entrant as well as Mondo Ride, Taxify and Pewin Cabs.
During the launch of the taxi hailing service, Safaricom CEO hailed the service as a hallmark of local innovation. “This is a completely local product which is well in position for competition in the market,” he said. The hailing app is available on Android, Windows phone while the iOS app should launch soon. There are also plans to allow users to hail via USSD (we are incredibly curious about this) in the next 30 days.
Getting on board
Using the service is pretty standard as has been with other taxi hailing services. Upon downloading the app, a user signs up to the service by entering their details (name, number, password) and you are good to go. The sign up process was previously pesky during pre-launch, with users asked to key in lots of information including their ID number, which has since been eliminated. After sign-up, one can then hail their Little Cab. Before hailing, you can enter your destination which allows you to estimate the fare charges. Upon completion of the ride, the user has the option to pay via Card- Visa+ Mastercard are accepted or through Safaricom’s Lipa na M-Pesa. You then get to rate your ride afterwards and you are done.
What makes the service interesting?
Little Cab is positioning itself as a cheaper service for consumers and a better deal for drivers than what is currently available in the market. Little Cab comes in three options, the basic, which is the low-cost option; LadyBug option which is a lady friendly category with professional lady drivers that has 40 drivers so far and the Comfort option, which is the luxury option for the service. The LadyBug option will be open for requests to all customers from 6:00 am until 6:00pm, after which only ladies will be allowed to make a request.
In terms of cost, Little Cab charges no base fare but charges a minimum fare of Kshs. 270 and a cost of Kshs. 55 per kilometer and Kshs. 4 per minute. What’s interesting is that the App allows you to view in-app as your fare changes. Assume i took a ride from Westlands to Town, and my estimation was Kshs. 500, as my ride progresses towards town, I am able to view the price charges live.
We are all accustomed to the insane traffic on the roads in Nairobi and this is definitely a headache when using taxi hailing services, owing to the time based charges. Relying on Google’s Transit Data, Little Cab will inform you of the traffic situation on the roads in Nairobi, with green lines indicating clear roads while red lines indicates there is traffic on your route. (One can also see the live traffic on the App’s interface even before hailing thanks to the power of Google maps’ Live Traffic).
Other niceties on the service include free wifi on board the cab which has been missing among taxi hailing service. There is also the ability to before the ride decide what music/radio station you want on board. Of course you can opt not listen to any. In addition, there are plans to allow users redeem Safaricom Bonga Points for free rides in coming weeks.
For drivers, Little Cab is taking just 15% of driver earnings which is 10% less of what the market leader Uber takes from its drivers. In addition, drivers joining the service will get a 4G smartphone as well as 7.5 GB of data to get them started. This will also include 7.5 GB of data every month to allow them run their operations. Little Cab is currently recruiting drivers Monday to Wednesday from 8-5 pm at their Craft Silicon Campus.
Little Cab is now offering Kshs. 1,000/= worth of free rides till Sunday for new sign-ups so go right ahead and try it.
The service has a long way to go. Having interacted with something better, I think they need to hit the ground running if they are to stand a chance. To their defense, a Safaricom insider says they have never worked and launched a service as fast as they have with Little Cab. Fueled by Safaricom’s marketing largesse and Craft Silicon’s prominence in innovation, they might just hack. Key areas of improvement would be working on their UX which is rather cranky. I would also hope to see the integration of the M-Pesa API on to the service to make payments seamless. All the same, its an interesting addition which will likely trigger an innovation and price war meaning a big boon for us consumers.