Gokada, Nigeria’s foremost motorcycle hailing startup has shut down its operations and app in a move to revamp its product and retrain its drivers in to remain competitive in the hot Lagos motorcycle hailing market.
Last week, the firm’s CEO Fahim Saleh announced via a Medium post that Gokada is bringing new bikes, retraining all its drivers, availing new Bluetooth helmets to its drivers and offering free maintenance to their bikes in the reboot move.
The firm will also open a drivers club, and expand its health benefits and ensure its drivers or pilots adhere to all traffic laws. So far, you might be wondering what led to the reboot at Gokada. But before we get there, here is a little background from Saleh.
“Gokada was started to change the perception of what the bike taxi could be in terms of safety, convenience, and transparency. In many ways, we’ve succeeded but we have also failed,” said Saleh, Gokada’s CEO.
According to the CEO, a little over a week ago, he opened the Gokada app, requested for a driver, got one and waited patiently for him to arrive at his departure point. That’s when he realized the Gokada promise was not being fulfilled.
“I called to confirm my location which the pilot said he knew. 5 minutes pass by.. and the pilot had not moved. Another 5 minutes pass and the pilot was going in the wrong direction. After 15 minutes and three phone calls, the pilot finally arrived at which point I’m thinking it might have been faster to take a car all the way through,” he wrote.
Fahim noted that the pilot wasn’t using GPS on his phone but figured he could work around his Google Maps to pick the best route, but he was wrong, again. The pilot had taken a long route and his efforts and directing him led to another wrong turn which meant more time wasted on a trip which would have been shorter and cost less.
“How could I be the CEO of Gokada, the company that pioneered motorcycle ride-hailing in Nigeria and be saying this? I was disappointed in Gokada but most of all, I was disappointed in myself. I told the pilot to pull over to the side of the road, I would hop over the median and wait for an Uber,” he said.
As a CEO criticizing his own company and thinking about what could be happening to his customers, Fahim should also remember that its not just a tech problem. In most cases, Uber drivers have been accused of choosing to use longer routes to make extra cash and that could be the reason why his pilot choose not use GPS or Google Maps.
Depending on base fare, the per minute fee, per mile fee, booking and service fee, depending on the provider, drivers feel platform owners like Gokada make a killing doing nothing but just provide a platform. Drivers or pilots rebel by dismantling the systems or playing around with them to their advantage.
Instead of going on strikes, these gig workers decide to manipulate platforms so that after paying fees, commissions, buying gas, maintaining the bikes, taking into consideration the depreciation of their bikes and meals for the day and at times bribes, all money is knocked away.
Reality sets in and many become discouraged and quit or join other platforms or get other jobs so that ride-hailing is just a parttime gig. These jobs supplement their income and help them not strain their finances as they continue with their day-to-day jobs. Those who remain fulltime riders are either students or working in other jobs which are less demanding therefore the opportunity costs are not that high.
The compensation problem is not limited to Gokada as digital taxi apps drivers miles away from Lagos have been championing for improved rates from the platform owners. In July 2018, Uber, Little, and Bolt driver-partners went on strike asking for a review of the pricing of trips upwards to promote their welfare.
The companies promised them but a year later, the MOU hadn’t been effected leading the driver-partners to down their tools for better compensation. The demands remain the same-reduced commissions paid for using the platforms, increased driver earnings per trip and an increase in how much a customer pays per kilometer. These demands are universal. but most drivers have no time for picketing, instead, they will reconstruct the apps to cheat passengers.