Kenya’s Safaricom launches female-friendly app to compete with Uber
Kenya’s largest telecommunications operator, Safaricom, on Tuesday unveiled an app, Little Cab, which offers an exclusive service targeting female drivers in an attempt to compete with Uber.
‘Lady Bug’ – designed as an exclusive taxi service for and driven by women has already signed up 40 female drivers to the service which was developed by a local software company. Safaricom is owned by Britain’s Vodafone (40%) and Nairobi-based software developer Craft Silicon, who will jointly manage the services.
The new taxi app hopes to woo customers with their improved, cheaper and better services, which will include free Wi-Fi for passengers. Drivers will also benefit from higher share revenues, as managers said in a press release.
Customers can also choose from two categories: “comfort” and “basic”. The latter offers a low cost option for older cars while the former is regular service. In addition, users can opt for the “Ride Later” option which allows them to plan their trips, Petit Cab said.
“We believe Little Cab will provide better experiences for passengers by connecting them to more reliable and cost-effective options,” said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. In addition, each Little Cab taxi will receive a Lipa Na M-Pesa bill, which will allow customers to pay their fares with mobile money. Little Cab said other payment options such as cash and cards would also be acceptable.
How will the “Lady Bug” work
Borrowing from already existing women-only services, such as SafeHer, SheRides and Chariot for Women – Lady Bug, should help tackle the safety and harassment of female passengers by some male operators.
“A first in Kenya and Africa, Little Cab has introduced a female-friendly category, ‘Lady Bug’, with professional female drivers to keep women safe on the road,” said Kamal Budhabhatti, CEO of Craft Silicon.
He added that the service will be open to requests from all customers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. thereafter, only women will be allowed to apply.
“Our partnership with Craft Silicon is a demonstration of the benefits of companies coming together to address the challenges facing our customers. We believe Little Cab will provide better experiences for passengers by connecting them to more reliable and cost effective options, ”said Mr. Collymore.
Commenting on the new taxi service, Uber Kenya Managing Director Nate Anderson said Reuters that in the end, the competition is good.
While innovations like ‘Little Cab’ are good for consumers, it’s unclear how they will be accepted by local taxi operators who have sometimes gone wild claiming that Uber’s cheap pricing model is bad for their business.
In February, the Kenya United Taxi Organization (KUTO) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government demanding a level playing field with its competitor, Uber, a San Francisco-based company, which not only offers lower prices, but also the ability to ‘call out’ for a taxi via their mobile app.
Maybe it’s time for taxi operators to join local taxi app platforms like Uber, Little Cab, Pewin, Taxify, among others, to take advantage rather than fight them.
Initially, Little Cab will only be available on Android and Windows phones, but will soon be available on iOS platforms, company officials said.
Image credit: AFP Photo / Simon Maina