Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi, a Smart Phone application that lets users request taxis with one click and available on Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows phone, and it is free to download. When you request a taxi, you get the driver’s details, which are sent to you via the app. You can also track the driver on a map, so you know exactly where he or she is at all times. Easy Taxi launched in Nigeria at the end of July 2013.
TechMoran caught up with Bankole Cardoso, Co-founder – Easy Taxi Nigeria and here is what he told us.
Who are the founders? Tell us more about yourselves?
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. After the event he waited for a taxi for over 1 hour and the idea came to him. I launched Easy Taxi in Nigeria along the same principles. 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.
What inspired you to launch and run a cab-hailing app than work for Mckinsey?
I had been working for a few years at PWC and The Carlyle Group in New York City so I was more interested in starting my own business than continuing in consulting or finance. The opportunity to build and run an impactful business like Easy Taxi in Nigeria was far more appealing to me when I was looking to make a career change. As I already mentioned, this application has the power to change the Nigerian transportation landscape.
How does the app work? How do drivers/car owners have their cars operate under Easy Taxi?
The app 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. Our drivers are also well trained and safe; we check their licenses and taxi park registration details. Furthermore, we have a relationship with every driver in our network and make sure they meet our rigorous selection criteria before we sign them up to our platform.
Do you think Nigeria is ready for Easy Taxi?
Nigeria has already proven that it is ready for Easy Taxi. We have over 50,000 downloads and an increasing number of our users are recommending us to their friends. 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 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.
Uber is setting up base soon in Kenya and Nigeria, don’t you think that will be tough competition?
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. 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. Our long-term aim is to make taxis more affordable for all Nigerians and to build a more vibrant taxi culture. We are a global company with a footprint in over 30 countries so it is normal that we have numerous competitors in all of our markets.
Any competitors? How unique are you from them?
Tranzit is our main competitor but there are others springing up. We are unique in the sense that we are an on-demand car service bringing customers a driver within 10 minutes whereas our competitors are more of an advance taxi-booking platform.
Aren’t local taxi associations against your company?
Local taxi associations do not see us as a threat in any way. As I mentioned, we are using an existing network of taxis, which is controlled by the taxi associations so they are benefitting from us. We are making their jobs much easier and we are bringing them as much as 50% more business so they have many reasons to like us.
Traffic jams are a problem in Lagos, how do you expect to use technology to solve that?
Traffic jams are a big problem in Lagos and there is not much you 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. Through our technology we hope to foster a real taxi culture in Lagos like we have in other mega cities in the world. This will make taxis more affordable, people will use their cars less frequently and the roads will free up.
Uber passengers have at times complained of driver harassment-how do you plan to tackle this?
Easy Taxi makes sure that every single one of our 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.
The Nigerian transportation laws have not been a hindrance to us.
How many cars are now working with Easy Taxi?
In Lagos we now have a network of around 400 drivers. As we continue to grow and expand to other cities in Nigeria we will continue bringing more and more drivers into our network.
Where do you expect your business to be in 2 years?
I hope to be the leading taxi application in all of the major cities in Nigeria. When people think of taxis, I want them to think Easy Taxi.
Any plans to expand to Ghana, Cairo , Nairobi etc?
Yes, we have recently launched in all of those regions so you can hop into an Easy Taxi whenever you are there.