Operations Manager, Taxify, Uche Okafor, in an interview with journalists, allayed fears about the perceived insecurity around the e-hailing technology app, among other issues. Emma Okonji brings the excerpts:
The introduction of e-hailing services in Lagos, where people could share ride, is perceived by many as a threat to security issues. What is your view about the perceived threat?
The term e-hailing or ride-hailing, is a technology app that is used by transport companies to enhance ride sharing. The service is already operational in some advance countries. The sharing economy in its purest essence thrives on trust. With e-hailing, it is important for operators to continuously put security measures in place to improve reliability and encourage the culture of trust. Being an e-hailing app that connects riders to reliable rides, a top priority of ours, is ensuring that everyone that uses our platform feels secure. We do this by ensuring that all our driver-partners are required to undergo a vehicle inspection, present a valid driver’s licence and undergo direct training that assesses emotional intelligence before they are deemed fit to drive on the platform.
Additionally, trust-building features that reveal the driver-partners photo, name, vehicle type and registration as well as each driver’s star rating is available on the Taxify app such that riders know who their driver is before getting in the car and can instantly compare the driver-partner information on the app against what is standing in front of them. Also, both driver-partner and riders have multiple support channels on Taxify. Because digital media go through the lifeblood of e-hailing, there is an additional feature in-app that gives riders the option to share their active trip status with friends and family, so everyone you permit can track your trip in real time. Anonymous feedback after every trip is also a security feature that allows you to rate the driver and leave comments on the quality of the ride experience.
What other security measures has Taxify put in place to address security issues?
Presently, we are rolling out Taxify Cover, a unique insurance initiative by Taxify Nigeria in partnership with AIICO Insurance Plc and facilitated by AutoGenius. The cover adds an extra layer of security by providing bespoke insurance to protect Taxify users on all Taxify trips. The Taxify Cover aims at insuring all drivers in the event of any incident that may occur while using the Taxify app. This cover also extends to riders on Taxify trips. In addition to all these, we are continuously working on developing new tech powered features to ensure safety of riders and driver-partners.
What are the survival chances of these e-hailing or ride-hailing apps in the Nigerian society with regards to unstable internet access?
The e-hailing sector currently makes up about two per cent of urban transportation in most cities around the world, meaning that there is still a lot of market potential for it. For Taxify, it is not so much about survival as it is about growth and becoming a strong alternative to public transportation and personal cars. We are seeing that smartphone penetration in Nigeria is on the rise, driven by the availability of cheaper smartphones and an increased appetite for mobile internet. The mobile network ecosystem as a whole is improving and consumers now have more options. Importantly, the Taxify app is built to require less data from our riders.
What plan has Taxify adopted to help ease the transportation problems in Lagos?
Lagos is moving towards attaining the mega city status. It is such an exciting market given the evolving taxi ecosystem. Taxify believes that ride hailing has the potential to ease up a lot of transportation tension in Lagos. Lagosians want to move around their cities fast and comfortably without the added hassle of manually seeking out a ride. Also, we see that people are showing a preference for using Taxify to avoid spending time and money in traffic and on parking.
Improved transportation has been linked to accelerated economic development, as one vehicle servicing the transportation needs of up to 50 residents would lead to reduced traffic bottlenecks and a saner city.
The rise of kidnappings and ritual killings in the country may pose threat to ride-sharing. What is your view on this?
One thing that is true is that Nigerians are naturally intuitive people, which means that as a country, we recognise a good deal when we see one. Ride-sharing is a simple way to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and increase the number of people moving around in each car. This means reduced traffic congestion, more affordable fares and decreased automobile emissions.
If you look closely at the transportation space in Nigeria, you will find that ride-sharing is already fairly popular informally. It’s not strange to see, for example, independent car owners at bus stops picking up people going their way in exchange for a fee. Tech powered ride sharing solutions give better structure, quality control and security to the existing ride-sharing model operational in Nigeria.
How is the company coping with challenges arising from the increased competition in a city like Lagos with over 20 million people?
The city of Lagos holds massive potential given the size of the population and that over a million rides happen on a daily basis. Ultimately, we aim to change the way that people move within the city, create jobs and transform the transportation ecosystem. Competition is good and we believe there is room for several players in the ride-sharing economy. We believe that Taxify can effectively contribute to healthy competition by improving the quality of service, motivating driver-partners and offering affordable prices to Lagosians.
Our belief is that happier drivers translate to happier customers and as such we treat our driver-partners better so that they can in turn offer high quality service to customers. Our commission is 15 per cent (compared to competitions 20-25 per cent), so Taxify’s driver-partners earn significantly more than with other competitors.
In what ways are you managing the downsides from the execution of your strategies to become the dominant operator in Nigeria?
Our underlying strategy is to treat driver-partners better so that they can offer high quality service to customers. We take a lower commission which means more money in the driver-partners pockets. We do all this while still delivering affordable and quality ride experiences to our riders. Lagosians understand this ecosystem and appreciate it. Ultimately, we cannot rule out the risk of lower priced alternatives penetrating the market but what has separated us and would continue to separate us is that on our platform, riders benefit and drivers benefit. We are opening up more jobs and empowering more people in Lagos and riders are getting better value for their naira.
Do you see a trend of Taxify drivers offering their services to rival operators and vice versa as detrimental in future
A key selling point for e-hailing in the eyes of driver-partners is that they become entrepreneurs almost instantly. Driver-partners are their own bosses and can choose to operate on as many e-hailing platforms as they want.
What we have noticed, however, is that a lot of driver-partners show strong preference for driving and earning on the Taxify platform as their earning potential is significantly higher with Taxify, given that we take a lower commission and are always giving back to our driver-partners in the form of bonuses. The earning potential, flexibility and choice that Taxify offers is also very appealing to part-time driver partners who choose Taxify as a great source of extra-income as they know that even if they have as little as a spare hour, they can just go online and offer a few trips.
Charges by Taxify are relatively higher when compared to that of its biggest competitor. Why is this so?
This is because of the -40 per cent campaign competition that is currently running. Taxify entered the Nigerian market to increase democratisation in the e-hailing space, we have always been the e-hailing app that offers better value for money.
What is interesting is that the last few months that competition has run this campaign have shown that lower fares do not automatically equal better ride experiences. Although more riders may make initial requests on competing platforms, fewer drivers are available as the drivers do not believe the fares on competing platforms factor in the current economic conditions and rising cost of vehicle maintenance.
Taxify now has the shortest ETAs of any e-hailing app in Nigeria, meaning that riders do not have to wait long periods for their rides to arrive or make cancellations because drivers are refusing to show up, ultimately resulting in great experiences for both our riders and drivers.
Drivers on Taxify are happy going online to deliver safe, convenient and affordable rides as they believe they are getting their efforts worth on our platform. Riders also enjoy affordable and reliable rides on Taxify. It’s a win win situation.