Early in the year, there were predictions that certain startups that might struggle in 2018. One of the highlighted startups is Matatu, founded by Samuel Ajiboyede who many have described as a tech enthusiast. In 2009, he left his job at Robert Johnson, a software and telecom company that provides solutions to banks and telcos to start a ‘keke’ transport business.
Matatu made its entry into the Nigerian market in April 2017 as an on-demand transportation network for hailing tricycles online. This is simply Uber version for auto-rickshaws (Keke Napep) just like every other ride-hailing platforms, on Matatu, you sign up, set your location your destination, and your (keke) driver will join you! The app also displays the price of your ride before you hail a vehicle, and you can pay with cash or card.
Determined to succeed and make Matatu work in Lagos, Ajiboyede has announced a partnership agreement between DAG Motorcycle Nig Ltd (Bajaj Auto) and Matatu. The partnership would see Matatu deploy more Keke (Bajaj Brand) tricycles all over Lagos.
According to the founder, his ultimate goal is to greatly reduce the unemployment rate in the country by providing business, jobs, and opportunities for millions of unemployed and underemployed people and poised to ensure that operating a Keke tricycle for business will no longer be looked down upon.
The company also has its own fleet of tricycles (which is a departure from the existing e-hailing model), but it allows for 3rd-party tricycle owners to come on board by either signing up as a driver on the platform — provided your tricycle meets the specified standard — or giving out tricycle(s) to available drivers and getting cash returns.
How viable is this business model? Can you book a Keke-uber? How will drivers of these Keke who are mostly Illiterates download the app on their phones? Will the traffic laws in the state which restricts movement of tricycles and motorbikes to some restricted routes not have a negative impact on this business model? If the state government decides to place total ban tricycles in the nearest future won’t that mean an end to Matatu?
But according to the founder
“If the government shuts down Kekes, we look at alternatives and how we can restructure the system. However, when you have a structured system such as this, it might encourage the government to change their mind.” He said.
Many Nigerians, however, commended the resilience of the founder but insisted the business model is not well conceived. The partnership between the ride-hailing platform and DAG Motorcycle Nig Ltd is commendable as this will lower the cost of operation and possible spread risk among the two firms. Whether Matatu survives or not, time will tell.