I’m loving Safaricom’s Little Cab taxi app

We are on the road
We are on the road

I finally used the Little Cab taxi app that is set to make its official debut in Kenya very soon. It still needs work but I enjoyed the overall experience.

My first experience of the Little Cab mobile app wasn’t great a few days ago. I downloaded the app from Google Play Store, charged it up and requested for the taxi guy whose picture was on the screen. His response?

“Where are you?” said cabbie.

“I’m in South B in this area,” said I.

“That’s too far. I’m here at Mater,” said he.

“But that’s not far from where I am,” I countered. “What do I do?”

“Cancel the request,” he said. And he hung up.

The weird thing is that the first time I had heard about Little Cab, I had heard about it from a very professional Uber driver who was waxing lyrical about how awesome the new app would be. It would be powered by Safaricom and it would be Kshs55 per kilometer for the customer down from the usual Kshs60 from Uber. It would also be fairer to drivers as the commission they got would be charged was 12.5% as opposed to the standard 25% from Uber. A save for me the customer and the driver got more – a win for both parties. He also said that there would be Wi-Fi in the vehicle as you went on your journey. Wow. So you can imagine my shock with the “Cancel Your Request” Cabbie when I called.

I tried the Little Cab again after a week, last Friday, and got a hit with a driver who was to pick me up from Ekhaya Restaurant on Nyangumi Road, opposite the Casablanca Restaurant; he would drop me off in South B.

As we went through city, I inquired about the service and it turned out that he had just signed up the day before; I was one of his earlier customers. He explained that this service would revolutionize the taxi industry in Nairobi. This is because whilst Uber had done an amazing job in getting the word out, they had hobbled themselves with their insistence on only very new cars being used on their service. It was setting itself up as a premium service. The problem was that there were a large number of taxi drivers who would have loved to sign on but couldn’t as their cars were bought a while back.

As we were chatting Robert showed me that he understood the city like the back of his hand as he gave me the best route of getting from one part of the city to the other at 3pm. This is information he explained that the true veterans of the taxi business were familiar with as opposed to those who were working with Uber some of whom were novices. Many of them were in the fancy new vehicles but had to use Google maps which never told you where the traffic was likely to be at the time.

He also explained that one of the things that Little Cab drivers were given to start working by Safaricom was the Samsung J1 phone. It had all the prerequisite apps installed which allowed for the cabbie to get the customer to surf to their heart’s content.

Enjoying the YouTube experience.
Enjoying the YouTube experience.

I tested this Wi-Fi connection that I had heard about before the best way I know how; going onto YouTube and watching some videos. One of the videos was Ben talking about his experience at the Ake Festival and the other of Jessica Williams who was bidding farewell to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I can report that the signals were very good. When he dropped me off at home the cost was Kshs600. That’s not a bad fee for peak hour from Hurlingham to South B in my book.

On Sunday, I tried it again requesting for a taxi at home and this time round a very cool chap came and gave me a ride from South B to the Kasarani area. The journey was pleasant; the driver was able to leave me at east as we went up the Thika Highway. The only disturbing thing was that his app kept hanging; at one point it even just went blank. Lucky for us was that the app on my side was calculating the fare so that when we go to the destination, we used my figures which was Kshs1070. They were Kshs200 lower that the Uber estimate. He hasn’t called me asking for more money so I assume that it is all good on his side.

So my impressions of the app? It’s a pretty decent one. My concern was that it kept hanging when in use which could be scary if one is using it at a late hour. I appreciate that the passenger can also see the cost as it is being calculated on the journey something which is not available on Uber. I also loved that there was an option to share your journey, “share your trip” on the app when you are moving if you felt unsafe as you went along.

Will I use it again? Yep. Great drivers. Decent prices. And the Wi-Fi might be the biggest calling card as far as I am concerned. Now if only they can sort out the issues with the app…

P.S. I hear that in future there will be a USSD number meaning that you don’t have to have a fancy Smartphone to use the service

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