News from Nairobi suggests that Uber will very soon have to face competition of a new kind. Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile phone and data company, appears to have joined forces with a new taxi outfit by the name of Littlecabs, which is emerging from the ranks of former EasyTaxi drivers after that company pulled out of Kenya two months ago.
The new outfit will, like UBER, use an app through which the vehicles can be ordered, developed specifically for the Kenyan market by a local software company.
Former EasyTaxi drivers will form the backbone of the new operation, it is understood, and the launch may be just a few weeks away, then setting the stage of not just two app-based taxi services going head-on, but also in the process competing with the conventional cabs in Nairobi.
Uber launched in Nairobi a year-and-a-half ago, and after initially facing some violent reactions from regular cab drivers in Kenya’s capital, has since expanded to Mombasa.
Uber, probably sensing the coming of such competition, has arranged for a financing deal for its drivers to acquire newer vehicles. This is a key element in the battle for customers, as in particular regular cabs often use aged vehicles which makes them less attractive for foreign visitors who are used to Uber’s vehicles from back home or other places where they travel to on business.