The number of ride-sharing platforms is on the increase in the country. Gone are the days when the only option for public transportation was either hopping on rusty and dirty Danfo buses or hailing taxis from the roadsides.
Then came the private yellow cab hire system popularly referred to as “Oko-Ashewo”, mostly patronized by commercial sex workers at night. Presently, with the arrival of global ride-hailing companies such as Uber, Taxify, and many more into the country, this seems to have changed the narrative for commuting riders in Lagos and other major cities in the country.
The first of these ride-sharing platforms, Uber, made its entry into the Nigerian market in 2014. Since its arrival, when it came to getting comfortable rides across the city of Lagos, Uber was the real and only deal.
Although there have been several ride-sharing platforms present in the country (these include: Oga Taxi, GoMyWay, Alakowe, Smart Cab, PamDrive, Jekalo, and Ridebliss) sadly, few have shut down operations due to stiff competition and faulty business models.
There is also a ride-hailing platform for auto-rickshaws (Keke Napep), called, Matatu, founded by Samuel Ajiboyede, in April 2017.
However the year 2016 ushered in a disruption with the arrival of an Estonian-founded e-hailing app, Taxify, into Nigeria. Since its arrival, Taxify seems to be the only real competitor able to challenge the dominance of Uber in the e-taxi sector of the country.
The business model for ride-sharing platforms is simply about connecting drivers with riders going on the same route. While the platform gets a certain percentage of the transactions as commission, the driver and/or car owner get the larger percentage.
Uber’s concept was formed by one of its founders who had trouble hailing a cab in 2008. Thus began what would eventually be a multinational company with presence in four hundred cities in most continents around the world.
For drivers willing to join these platforms, both Uber and Taxify have training schemes which any willing driver must pass after the payment of certain fees.
The platforms also set minimum standards for cars that are acceptable for rides. While Taxify accepts vehicles not older than 10 years from the year of manufacture, Uber does not accept vehicles older than 2009 models. Besides that, the vehicles must be in excellent working forms with working air conditioners.
What are drivers saying about the platforms?
For drivers registered on these platforms, it has been a bitter-sweet experience.
In a chat with Nairametrics, Martins Okon (40) says that he is a happy man today. About three years, ago when he lost his job due to downsizing at his former company, he stopped smiling and life had nearly lost all its meaning.
He had a brief thought of committing suicide but quickly dismissed it when the faces of his wife and two children flashed through his mind. Then early this year, when he had almost lost all hope, a friend introduced him to Uber. That brought Martins’ smile back.
But just as his frustration at life slowly began to ease away, Martins heard a report on his car radio while driving, that made him realise just how vulnerable he was and ignited in him a sense of danger.
While he was taking two male riders from Obalende to Ajah in Lagos around 11pm, a female voice presented a news report. According to the report, two ex-inmates specializing in the snatching of cars from Uber drivers had been caught by the police, while attempting to snatch a Toyota Camry, the same brand of car he was driving.
Incidentally, the report said that the suspects had earlier killed one of their victims after snatching his Toyota Corolla on Badore Road Ajah, Lagos, the same area he was headed. It was reported that the modus operandi of the gang was to engage Uber drivers to take them to certain locations where they would then dispossess their victims of their cars on getting to a desolate place.
According to Martins:
“After the news, I realized that I was sweating, even though it was a cold night. I started looking at my riders in the backseat through the REAR-VIEW mirror, watching out for any suspicious movements since we were also heading towards Ajah and I was also driving a Toyota car.”
Luckily, his passengers were harmless, but since then, Martins has become extra cautious when giving rides. He revealed that many of his fellow drivers have also become apprehensive about the dangers involved in their newfound jobs.
This is not only peculiar to Uber drivers, the same also goes for Taxify drivers.
“I always offer my prayers every morning before going out and I make sure that I stop night business” Martins, who uses his personal car for the business, also stated.
He revealed that he operates on both platforms, based on which one gets a customer first, “Once I get an offer from Uber, I turn off my Taxify data.”
Another driver who spoke with Nairametrics complained bitterly about the treatment meted out to them by some passengers, noting that some riders still see them as “ordinary drivers”, and so they disrespect them during rides.
According to him:
“Once I notice that my rider is insulting me, I will just cancel the ride. I don’t like problem”
To combat the problem of insecurity and other challenges faced by the drivers on its platform, Uber recently launched new features on its newly improved app, like a real-time Earnings Tracker that lets the drivers know at a glance how much they earned on their last trips, and makes it easy to track progress toward their daily targets. Others include a notification feature which lets drivers see messages about upcoming earning opportunities, feedback from their riders, and information about their accounts.
On its part, Taxify in its bid to ensure the safety of its partner drivers introduced a new feature – an SOS button – on its app. The SOS button is designed for use in the case of a medical or security emergency.
Also, Uber drivers have been known to protest against charges from the platform. Currently, drivers on the Uber platform remit 25%, while Taxify drivers remit 15% to the platform. This has made several drivers move away from Uber to Taxify, though most of them still run the two platforms.
The Price war
For Uber in Lagos, there is a base fare of N200, a N5.5 per minute charge and a N55 per km charge. In Abuja, the base fare is slightly higher at N220 while costs per kilometre and per minute are the same.
Uber charges per minute when the driver is idle, like in Lagos traffic, and per kilometre when the driver is in motion. Fares are then calculated based on what the traffic is expected to look like.
For Taxify, there’s not much of a difference. it has a base fare of N300, N65 per km and N6 per minute.
Both companies, however, claim that prices are subject to demand. For example, an Uber ride from Opebi to Ikeja Shopping mall fares ranges from N500 to N700.
What riders are saying
According to an Abuja resident, David Edet, Taxify is relatively cheaper than Uber in the FCT and with their discounts, riders get to have many free rides which many users prefer.
Many riders are of the opinion that Uber gives the better customer experience and probably have stricter rules for drivers. So when drivers are on Uber, they’re usually more respectful.
Nairametrics also observed that for no particular reason, riders generally feel safer with Uber, maybe because of their first-mover advantage.
According to David:
“Taxify has really bad payments methods. There have been complaints of them deducting money randomly from accounts. It has even happened to me.”
There have been a series of accusations of sexual harassment by riders against ride-hailing drivers. Recently, a Nigerian Actress, Dorcas Fapson, accused a Taxify driver of trying to kidnap and rape her, an allegation which the driver vehemently denied.
In a poll conducted by Nairametrics, many riders expressed their sentiments about these platforms.
Ayodeji, one of the respondents, said that he prefers Taxify because the pick-up time is faster.
Another respondent noted that Taxify has less courteous drivers, and their cars are usually worse than those of Uber drivers, in terms of maintenance.
A respondent, however, said that he prefers Taxify because it is pocket-friendly.
It was noted that whereas Uber responds to customers’ inquiries within an hour, Taxify takes days to respond. What now happens in cases of emergency or threat to life?
Taxify wins when it comes to ease of access and comfort (neater vehicles ) . Uber still maintains courteous and polite drivers (very important) . Also cheaper
— Joy Uzuegbu (@Joyamara_) July 11, 2018
You realize that some of these drivers are on both platforms, so they are mostly the same. I do agree about the state of the cars though.
Oh and they don't charge for cancellation, that's a plus for me.
— Premium Babe (@erbie3) July 11, 2018
I prefer taxify just because the pickup time is reasonably faster
— ayodeji ajimisinmi (@ay_aj99) July 11, 2018
In the poll, Taxify got 41% of the votes, Uber got 42%, Yellow Taxi got 17% from the poll.
It is obvious that Taxify is challenging the dominance of Uber in the ride-sharing business; however, the operators of these platforms must focus more on customer service /support for riders and drivers.