A little over a week ago, Little, the company that runs e-taxi services such as the likes of Uber and Taxify announced a pilot for bus services. The test period, which should go on for a couple of weeks, is based in Nairobi where riders will take trips in and out of the city as the firm gathers data for an optimized and possible rollout sometime in February 2019.
However, this is not the first time an e-taxi app has tried to grow its business by starting a shuttle service that commands more customers. Uber has been doing the same thing in Cairo, Egypt, and locally, Safiri Express, which has since tested its product to establish the readiness of the mass transit solutions in a highly dynamic Nairobi market, is said to launch another test session by March 2019.
The latest entrant into the e-shuttle space is Egyptian company Swvl that quietly reported its plans to expand to other parts of the world, and while the bus-sharing startup has not made its local presence known with endless announcements on the internet and other mass media channels, it has already started ferrying people around Nairobi, at least on a test basis.
Our very own Martin installed the Swvl app, requested a ride and reported his findings on a forum post, but to recap, here is what he noted: his first trip was free because he had a promotion code. Pick-up was seamless because the bus arrived at the time suggested by the app, and was even dropped at a time estimated by Swvl in town. What is more, Swvl appears to have onboarded Toyota Coaster buses that are usually comfortable and mostly used for tours. Little Shuttle is using the same type of coaches.
Furthermore, the app alerts a rider to drop as he or she nears their destination.
However, the launch of Swvl, which started its operations in the city five days ago and has since raised $38 million in funding, has not been publicized widely because drivers are reportedly performing several empty trips. Swvl pays them nonetheless, but this can change as soon as people take an interest in the service.
At the moment, only five buses are operating on Thika Road and its environs. More could be deployed in other parts of sections of Nairobi in coming days.
Speaking of the app, its experience is the same as what we have become accustomed to with e-taxi apps. There is nothing drastically different or new, as the menus and controls are in their right places. Features such as saving Work and Home locations are available too, so that is a plus. Payments can be made via cash or any other card-based wallet solution (M-PESA is notably missing).
Have you seen Swvl? Used it yet? Tell us about your experiences in the forum post linked above.