It is exactly one year this month since Egypt-headquartered e-bus service SWVL started its operations in Kenya. The services of the firm have been a mixed bag with ups and downs, and while the issues have since been mostly resolved, the start of 2020 has started with rumours that the company may be planning to exit the Kenyan market. These conversations have been seen on Twitter where Kenyans from all walks of life enthusiastically post their opinions.
Based on unsubstantiated reports posted on social media platforms, it is alleged that SWVL has not paid driver partners also referred to as captains. Several bus owners claim that SWVL has not remitted their earning for a couple of months now, and arrears are reportedly north of KES 100,000 for some drivers. If that is the case, then we must admit that the numbers are substantial, although this is something the commuter app needs to shed some light on.
It should be noted that SWVL has been doing a good work to onboard as many customers as possible. For the better part of 2019, the company issued thousands of promo codes that were so popular that you would hardly find a vehicle to take you from point A to be B especially in rush hours. The base price has also been standard at KES 200 for any commute within the city, although SWVL did report that it would introduce distance-based billing as is the case with other ride-hailing apps. It also introduced long commutes but limited to Nakuru for the moment.
All these perks were supported by a healthy KES 1.5 billion investment that the company dedicated for the Kenyan market. That is a substantial amount, and we would think the firm has more than enough cash reserves to pay captains, maintain a standard base fare and send those promo codes that we have come to get addicted to. However, issues surrounding non-payment to partners that the company depends on for survival sound as misstep that can be catastrophic to the organization’s operation in the country.
Thusly, SWVL has vehemently denied that it is leaving Kenya, and the speculations raised on media channels are just that.
SWVL statement by Kenya Country Manager Shivachi Muleji
SWVL Kenya issues the following statement to notify our esteemed business partners, bus owners, Captains and members of the general public about the ongoing social media thread about us allegedly exiting the country.
Firstly, we are committed to this market and are not considering leaving. Kenya is a market with great potential and room for us to create a solution that benefits the everyday commuter. We are therefore not leaving and will continue to innovate to provide our Kenyan users with an efficient, comfortable and reliable solution to their transportation needs. We consider Kenya as favorable market for carrying out our business and we remain committed to partnering with bus owners and Captains to help realize the industry’s full potential.
Our Captains and bus owners are the focal point of our business. We, therefore, maintain a cordial and healthy relationship with them and are committed to their general welfare and continuity of services offered to members of the public. We value our relationship with them and as such, we continue to work closely to ensure their needs are met.
At SWVL, we continue to provide commuters with a safe, convenient and efficient mass transport option and desires to advise our esteemed customers to remain calm and expect even better services as we roll into 2020.
The above statement is a classic response from organizations that are shielding themselves from some form of online backlash centred on rumours – some of which end up to be true in the long run. However, SWVL clarifies that it is not ‘considering leaving the country,’ and that it has maintained a ‘cordial and healthy relationship’ with captains.
We will know the extent of these concerns once drivers hit the road next week.