The battle for Kenya – Uber vs. Easy Taxi

Digital Content

Africa Internet Group (AIG)-owned taxi hailing app launched in Kenya in April 2014, following successful roll outs in Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt.  Queue the entry of Uber to Kenya in January of this year, marking the start of the battle for Kenya’s taxi hailing market.

Testing both apps in Nairobi daily over the past week, I’ve noticed a number of pros and cons to both services – which I go over below -, which could hold the answer to which app will reign victorious in Kenya.

Getting a quote

Both Uber and Easy Taxi allow a passenger to ask for a price quote before hailing a taxi.  In order to do this, the passenger enters in their start location and intended destination – with the apps prompting recognised destinations around Nairobi.

Here, Uber comes up trumps.  Uber recognised almost every destination I named – even without knowing the street name -, ranging from popular shopping malls, to small local restaurants and bars, to day trip destinations over an hour away from Nairobi.

Easy Taxi, did not. Over half the places I wanted a quote for with Easy Taxi could not be recognised, thus I could either risk taking the taxi without having any inkling of the price, or just not.

The wait

In general, both services provided me with a taxi within 10 minutes, regardless of my location (OK – not when I was the very outskirts of Nairobi).

However, Uber rejected my attempts on a number of occasions, due to all cars being busy; whereas Easy Taxi always sent me someone, even if the wait was a few minutes longer than usual.

Price

On the all important question of price, surprisingly, Easy Taxi won hands down.  On every trip I managed to get a quote for, the price quoted was significantly less than Uber’s offer; and for those trips I couldn’t get a quote for, the eventual price turned out to be less than Uber’s quote.

Impressively, quotes given by Easy Taxi represent a maximum threshold – passengers cannot be charged over the quote price.

With Uber, quotes are rarely a true reflection of the actual price charged.  Without fail, when using Uber, I was charged more than the “maximum” price quoted – which led me to question the point in having a price quote.

I was very impressed with Easy Taxi’s price guarantee in this sense.  In a bustling, traffic-blocked city, knowing that the metre can only tick so high is very reassuring.

Easy Taxi also makes room for that right of passage either loved or loathed by taxi passengers in Kenya: bartering.

Should you belong to the “pro” camp, the service lets you negotiate away with your driver to fix a price you’re happy with.  If – like me – the thought of delaying your departure by 20 minutes fighting over the price fills you with dismay, the metre solves your problem, with the price-cap guarantee you were quoted.

Payment

As we all know by now, Uber is a cashless service, deducting payment directly from your credit card.  In Kenya, this could be a hindrance to uptake, with the use of banking facilities largely limited to a middle and upper income segment of society, whereas taxi use is not.

Easy Taxi answers this divide, allowing cash and card payments.  The card payment option works exactly the same as Uber. The cash option allows you to, well, hand over your cash and be on your way.

As an aside, with many taxi journeys in Nairobi carrying minimal costs (many fall under KES500 – US$5.5), the fees some banks charge for card transactions can substantially hike up the cost.

Quality of ride

I saw absolutely no difference in the quality of cars and drivers used by both companies.  All the cars were decent and clean; all the drivers friendly, and importantly, safe drivers.

What drivers thought

I chatted with all the drivers I met, and found that many had used both the Easy Taxi and Uber platforms; and all were converted to using taxi-hailing apps.

Those preferring Easy Taxi said the app accounts for the majority of their work; saying the number of calls they receive has rocketed since joining the Easy Taxi network.

Others preferred Uber and were equally pleased with the rise in the number of calls; although none could really pinpoint why they like Uber better than Easy Taxi.  Still a sense of novelty, perhaps.

What I thought

Uber is definitely sleeker; the technology better.  The app is technically flawless, and it recognises pretty much any location in Nairobi.

However, in terms of suitability for the market, and for the individual passenger? I say Easy Taxi wins without question.

Easy Taxi answered all my frustrations with Uber – such as letting me pay smaller journeys in cash, never rejecting my call, and the price (!) – although granted, the limitations of the app also caused me some new frustrations.

If Easy Taxi can improve its tech – Uber should be worried in Kenya.

Source: Gabriella Mulligan for Disrupt Africa 17 march 2015