The Country Manager for OPay in Nigeria, Iniabasi Akpan, has finally reacted to the role ORide played in the temporary shutdown of Gokada‘s (its ride-hailing rival) operation in August 2019. Although the shutdown lasted for two weeks, ORide was identified as one of the reasons it happened.
ORide and Gokada have been involved in the gradual transformation of Nigeria’s public transportation through ride-hailing services. Though ORide is the most recent entrant into the ride-hailing market, the competition they provide has not only affected traditional operators of motorcycle business (Okada riders) but also the bike-hailing rivals who have not been spared by its onslaught.
In pursuit of better opportunities
Nairametrics had reported how Gokada lost some of its top staff members to ORide. Four staff, including co-founder and COO of Gokada, left the company for ORide. While Gokada said the poaching was nothing significant, Akpan told Nairametrics the company wouldn’t stop any staff of rivals seeking better opportunities in ORide.
“If you are in a market, people always seek better opportunities, so we can’t say people are engaging us and we turn them back, obviously not.
“If there are opportunities or openings and people who work for the competitors want to work for us, I mean that’s not erm (bad). You expect that kind of thing in a competitive market.”
He added that, “In the banking industry, it happens quite often. People move from banks to banks to move up the ladder, it’s been there. It’s a global practice. When people want to advance their career, they look for opportunities in new places, in places where they think the vision is right and know where they are going.”
Akpan talks of new strategy
Akpan said Gokada’s intention was to remain operational in Lagos rather than expand its market base to other States in Nigeria. His statement came after Gokada informed Nairametrics it was not in a rush to conquer new grounds like its competitors but would rather offer better bike-hailing service.
According to Akpan, ORide is expanding aggressively with no time to be distracted by competitors. He said if ORide had paid attention to its rivals, it would not have expanded beyond Lagos.
“We focus on our business as much as possible, you don’t want to be distracted. When you look around too much, you get distracted.
“So, we focus on the goal which is to grow our business, expand our business, and we are doing that aggressively. So within May and now, we have eight cities. So if we are looking at our competitors, we would still be in Lagos. While the competition is still in Lagos, we’ve gone beyond Lagos.
“If we are driving financial inclusion, then we can’t be looking at (just) Lagos because more and more, the people who need the service are the guys (people) who are excluded. They need to have access to smartphones, (e)-wallet, to things that will give them access to financial services and enabling environment to improve the quality of their lives.
“So that’s why for us, beyond Lagos is very important. So while the competitors are still there trying to do stuff in Lagos, we’ve gone beyond Lagos.”
ORide is currently operating in Kano, Aba, Abeokuta, Akure, Ilorin, Asaba and Uyo four months after establishment. The company also plans to expand into Kaduna as it sees the Nasir El-rufai-led State as revenue potential but other bike-hailing companies, Max.ng and Gokada operate only in Lagos State.
Challenges since establishment in June
While ORide has enjoyed acceptance and recorded growth in its number of trips which Akpan projected at six figures, the company has not been immune to challenges since starting operation in June 2019.
“Lot and lot of challenges. You know there are vested interest in some of these things.
“Almost every sector has vested interest, Unions are there, regulators are there. And I think that generally also if you look at the infrastructure that we also have, I mean sometimes the services just don’t work; you make calls, the call doesn’t go through.
“These are all basic challenges that we face, but we are responding to almost every one of them. Making sure that the technology is efficient and has the right customer support, engage the regulators…. We just have the right structure to tackle every one of them. We have a great team. We have different people engaging different stakeholders to make sure we overcome or surmount these challenges.”
ORide is not profitable yet
Despite its growth within the short space of four months, ORide isn’t profitable. However, the profit issue is not particular to ORide as the ride-hailing market is generally not profitable to the players – be it car-hailing or bike-hailing companies.
While responding to the revenue generation of ORide, Akpan told Nairametrics that the company was not focused on its profitability yet, saying its main target was to increase locations and trips.
“Are we measuring revenue? Maybe not necessarily at this point. Revenue is secondary not a priority. Basically, what we look at is expanding the number of locations and also increase the number of trips.
“Those are top priorities for us. If we are looking at revenue or looking at income, it’s not a profitable business for now, so profitability is not a major driver at this point. And it’s not as if we are a charity organisation, somewhere down the line, obviously, we would have to make returns to our shareholders, we have that in mind.
“The very first thing is making sure people have access to quality service, the experience is different, get them to adopt the new technology that is available, and obviously, once they see the benefits, they begin to use it more and more. And down the line, longterm it pays off. That’s traditionally how most Fintechs work at this stage, but it’s a long road.”