Jason Eisen has been coming to East Africa since 2010 and has always enjoyed his trips, met great people and had fun but almost every time he came, he always had challenges getting transport to move around the region’s cities.
So together with Steve Kimani, a Kenyatta University computer science graduate and a friend whom he had met on one of his earlier trips to Kenya. They decided to build a platform to help solve Africa’s transport problem, not just taxi hailing.
“I was inspired to start MARAMOJA Transport upon seeing the way technology is applied in Kenya to solve real problems rather than just finding ways to optimize wardrobe combinations and other silliness in Western markets,” Eisen the CEO and founder MARAMOJA Transport tells TechMoran. “I thought the transport market here was really ready for innovation that could solve problems for transport consumers and providers alike.”
With MARAMOJA Transport Eisen says both the public and taxi providers stand to gain from a better vetted, better trained, professional and transparent taxi market. MARAMOJA is more than a taxi app, it’s a commitment to safer, quicker, and more professional transportation services for Nairobi and promises to work within the existing taxi culture, rather than against, it by helping users access the transport they need through the people they trust.
With over 25 drivers already as early adopters and more being signed in, MARAMOJA Transport already has a web app and is set to launch its Android app in a weeks time and an iOS app to follow. Launching in a somewhat saturated market, MaraMoja Transport is playing the taxi hailing game differently. A user simply allows his or her browser to share location information with MaraMoja’s site. Click the “Request ride” button at the bottom of your screen. Enter your destination and phone number,choose the vehicle type you want,and then click “Request ride” and review your trip details. Switch to other available drivers. Click “Confirm” and watch as your driver comes to you. A user receives an alert when his or her drivers arrives then they pay using credit card, mobile money, e-invoice, or cash.
This process, according to the firm will improve public safety and road safety overall and empowering transportation workers with access to their technology.Though the firm charges a small percentage on every client drivers get via their app and gives drivers a commission on each referral of a new client, Eisen maintains that they are a social enterprise as demonstrated by their commitments to safety and driver empowerment including their partnership with Musoni micro-finance to give loans to drivers to buy their own fleets.
“We want to solve real problems using tech. Tech is being used to solve real problems here and we believe we can do the same, support drivers and get more NGO’s to work with us to solve their problems,” Eisen says.
Open for taxis, motorcycle boda bodas and 4×4 land rovers for hire, the firm is already working with Wells Fargo security group to provide alarm response services for drivers and clients in case of emergency and are vetting drivers before recruiting them to use the system. Retuning clients are rated and though there is some degree of risk, they have the ability to track cars in case they are hijacked and their partnership with Wells Fargo for quick response gives them an upper-hand.
To solve the security risk, the firm says it will continue to innovate to curb crime and make lives safer for both drivers and clients.
Unlike their competitors, MARAMOJA Transport says the Mi-Fones they have given to their drivers are unlocked and the drivers can use them for anything. At the moment, accept credit cards, mobile money and cash and electronic invoicing for corporates. Eisen says accepting cash is right as many users in Africa have no credit cards while only Kenya has a strong mobile money user-base and won’t help their African expansion plans.
Eisen says they are working lean now, with small team him and his CTO Kimani is heading and though there are so various taxi hailing apps launching in the Kenyan market, he is not worried.
“Competition makes the sector more vibrant,” Eisen says. “We are responsive to the challenges faced in Nairobi. Unlike our competitors, we are built to solve local problems. Apart from taxis’ the app also plans to have holiday 4×4’s for hire especially for those who want to tour out of the city. We are finalizing some amazing partnerships, adding new drivers every day, and building out cool features to serve you better.”
“MARAMOJA transport is fundamentally different from other taxi apps. We help you access the transport you need through the people you already trust – and not just taxis – any type of transport. We are built from the ground up to solve problems facing Nairobians, Africans, on both sides of transportation transactions rather than just connecting the two sides at random and taking a cut. We are about reducing friction and building a transport ecosystem that works for all sides,” Eisen concludes.