The disruption Uber brought was so fundamental that traditional taxi operators in many major cities across the world struggled to respond.
So what exactly happened?
The Uber taxi app portrays its potential users as successful individuals who have style, elegance and class. Uber says it moves you – just tap a button and get picked up in minutes”. It declares, “You can have Time, Value and Convenience and even more…”
It assures that “you can own the moment” and “arrive in style” and you can “create your escape…as your shortcut to everywhere is appearing now”.
Uber is a brokerage or middleman service that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles. Individuals can also choose to share rides together. It exploited a gap in the transportation value chain and tapped into a massive market as far as London to New Delhi.
In June 2014, London cab drivers took Uber to the regulators claiming that Uber’s app acts a meter and that only London’s black cabs should provide metered fares to passengers. London’s “minicabs” complained that Uber provides “unlicensed and illegal taxicab services”. To book a minicab, you did that through the telephone.
In India, Association of Radio Taxis reported Uber to the Reserve Bank of India. First it accused Uber of contravening foreign currency trading. Uber India’s payments are channeled straight into The Netherlands (where it originates) without repatriating withholding taxes back to India. They also argued that since Indians are not permitted by law to transact in foreign currency within India, Uber India manipulates the system.
So far, Uber has had its way with the legal and regulatory authorities.
In June 2014, thousands of cab drivers in many cities simultaneously held several days of noisy and sometimes violent street protests.
For those of us who needcabs from time to time, Uber and its likes that allow for reliability, convenience, security, affordability and timeliness will remain welcome.
On March 26th 2014, my article in this column was titled, “How to turn $20m to $19bn in five years”. There I referenced the first taxi mobile app service in Nigeria – “EasyTaxi”. In three clicks, anyone in Lagos and Abuja can get a taxi in minutes.
I argued then that, “somewhere out there the next easy taxi is waiting in the wings to take on your product(s)/service(s)”. This has proven to be prophetic as a few days ago; I received this text message from a new taxi mobile app service, “AfroCab”
“Why stand on the road? Download AfroCab’s FREE Android app today and take a free ride for up to N3,500! Promo Code: GETAFRO www.bit.ly/afrocab
Always one for a great bargain, yours truly downloaded the app. Its stated value proportion is “you can set your own price even before you call the cab”. This was something new and welcome. I was game!
On August 11, 2014, I decided to try both services so I could get a cab for an early morning trip the next day.
Here is what I found
Like other location based mobile apps in this environment, you can’t always rely on the app to pick your location accurately. The app had never got my home location right. Each time, I have had to accept the location the app provided so that the “Request a Taxi” button could be highlighted. In all instances the app could not locate a driver for me from home.
However each time when I placed a voice call to the Customer Service team, they were able to get me a taxi within 10-15 minutes drive. I am not interested in continuously calling customer service (at my own cost and time) especially when the customer service team is operative for about 9 hours. Since my call was made at 8pm and before 8am the next morning, my request was not fulfilled.
There must be a better way to manage the process of unfulfilled booking requests. Otherwise, users might feel tempted to look elsewhere. I did…at AfroCab.