Easy Taxi, a Smart Phone application that lets users request taxis with one click has began recruiting drivers in Kenya and is set to start operations in the next week or two to help solve Kenya’s traffic problems.
The Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows phone application helps users request a taxi, get the driver’s details, which are sent to the users via the app and then also allows a user to track the driver on a map, so they can know exactly where he or she is at all times. Easy Taxi launched in Nigeria at the end of July 2013 where it has signed up over 400 drivers already.
“Tallis Gomes founded Easy Taxi in Brazil in 2011. His main motive for starting Easy Taxi was the inefficiency of the taxi transportation he experienced in Rio De Jainero during a startup event,” Bankole Cardoso Easy Taxi CEO Nigeria told TechMoran. “After the event he waited for a taxi for over 1 hour and the idea came to him.”
After Easy Taxi picking up in Brazil and lauching in other markets withe the help of Rocket Internet, Cardoso quit his PWC and The Carlyle Group in New York City to come home and launch Easy Taxi along the same principles. In July 2013, Easy Taxi began operations in Nigeria.
“I believe that we can create efficiencies in the Nigerian transportation network by brining business innovation to the urban transportation challenges we face in many cities in the country,” Cardoso says, adding that he was more interested in starting his own business than continuing in consulting or finance.
To him the opportunity to build and run an impactful business like Easy Taxi in Nigeria was far more appealing to than a professional career. All he wanted was to change the world and the app had the power to change the Nigerian transportation landscape.
Easy Taxi is not complicated.
It uses GPS technology to link users to the closest drivers around them. Each driver is equipped with an Android phone that allows them to see the customer requests around them and the driver then decides whether or not to accept.
For instance, if you are in Victoria Island, the app will link you to a driver that is nearby rather than those further away in Ikeja or Mushin. Easy Taxi drivers are also well trained and safe; the firm checks their licenses and taxi park registration details. Furthermore, Cardoso says they have a relationship with every driver in their network and make sure they meet Easy Taxi’s rigorous selection criteria before they sign them up to their platform.
And if you were thinking Easy Taxi is too early for Nigeria, Cardoso says Nigeria has already proven that it is ready for Easy Taxi. The app has been downloaded over 50,000 downloads and its increasing number of users are recommending it to their friends.
However, Easy Taxi’s reception wasn’t easy.
“There was definitely a big learning curve for drivers and even for some customers as to how to operate an app like this because it was a brand new concept,” says Cardoso. “But Nigerians are beginning to understand the convenience and added safety we are providing. I can confidently say that we have broken ground and Nigerians have been receptive to Easy Taxi.”
And even as Uber finalizes its plans to launch in Kenya in the second quarter, Easy Taxi welcomes it.
“Uber will provide stiff competition but it will only force us to continue innovating and hopefully to provide an even better service for our users,” he says. “There is a clear difference between Easy Taxi and Uber because Uber is a luxury service whereas Easy Taxi is trying to create efficiencies in the already existing taxi network in Nigeria.”
Easy Taxi’s power is in its long-term aim to make taxis more affordable for all Nigerians and to build a more vibrant taxi culture. And because it is a global company with a footprint in over 30 countries, they have met numerous competitors in all of their markets and they co-exist.
Apart from Uber, Tranzit is its local competitor back home in Nigeria and several others are springing up. Easy Taxi says it is unique in the sense that they are an on-demand car service bringing customers a driver within 10 minutes whereas their competitors are more of an advance taxi-booking platform.
For luck’s sake, local taxi associations do not see them as a threat in any way as they are using an existing network of taxis, controlled by the taxi associations who are benefiting from Easy Taxi and not competing. Easy Taxi is making their jobs much easier and is bringing them as much as 50% more business so they have many reasons to like it.
Traffic jams are a big problem in Lagos and there is not much one can do to avoid them because the infrastructure is not up to par. The main problem in Lagos is that there are too many cars on the road. Cardoso says using Easy Taxi’s technology they hope to foster a real taxi culture in Lagos like that in other mega cities in the world so as to make taxis more affordable to cause people to use their cars less frequently to free up roads.
Uber passengers have at times complained of driver harassment, Easy Taxi says it makes sure that every single one of its drivers understands that customer service is the most important thing.
“I sympathize with Uber because it is incredibly difficult to control a person that spends 8 hours of their day on the road. We realize that our drivers have a difficult job so we do our best to give them reasons to be happy. Fortunately the drivers have bought into our project and there have been no incidents so far,” says Cardoso.
In Lagos, Easy Taxi has a network of around 400 drivers and has launched in Abuja and it’s continuing to grow and expand to other cities in Nigeria and signing up more drivers into its network. Cardoso says the firm has expanded to Ghana, Cairo, Nairobi where it is set begin operations in a week or two.