I recently started taking cabs a lot. A whole lot. Abuja is the perfect city for it. Maps are pretty accurate, roads are wide, good and marked. Cabs are relatively cheap, call it Cabtopia, if you will.
But here is the problem:
Abuja People are unique Nigerians. Abuja people tend to take life easy and don’t hoop and holla for anyone, there are a lot of Apocryphal Stories of popular artistes coming to Abuja and not getting good crowd engagement, simply because THIS IS ABUJA.
Abuja riders are spoiled for choice. In a city with no Danfos it is surprising how affordable it is to get a cab. You can join an “Along” (cabs that take more than one passenger to popular routes) or just take a Drop” (cabs that take only you to your destination).
Getting a cab is not even that hard. It seems like every day someone is introducing me to another cab guy who is trustworthy and I should just take his number. I also know a few Corporate Logistics guys – who sign up with companies to be their driver and get paid per trip.
A few days ago, the discussion on Twitter switched from relationships, heartbreaks and politics very briefly to when a particular popular cab hailing service would arrive Abuja. You know the one: the one that has a name synonymous to ‘denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing.’
As part of the discussion, it was pointed out that EASY TAXI was already here. I was not surprised that @EasyTaxiNigeria was already here. I remember trying the app some months ago and getting so many errors I removed it. I decided to give it a fair shake and try again.
Originally founded in Brazil, Easy Taxi claims to be the biggest taxi booking app in the world. According to available statistics, Easy Taxi is used by more than 120,000 taxis and 20 million users in 420 cities across 30 countries. Rocket Internet’s Strategy of replicating successful e-commerce systems in markets where it has relatively little competition like the Middle East and Africa seems to work.
I have spent the last few weeks speaking to friends in Lagos and as is common with most products the Abuja iteration was a little different from Lagos’s.
The Good Stuff
When it works, it is good. About twice I have been able to successfully order cabs from the app. Customer Care sounds nice. I haven’t met them personally, but our interactions have been pleasant even when they just want to tell you sorry, no cab for you. They were able to book a cab for me send him my address and we lived happily ever after.
Issue one: Not Enough Cars
Here is a challenge: Are you in Abuja? Open up the app right now and request a car, more often than not, you can’t find one. I have requested cabs about 9 times so far, and only twice did I find one.
Now imagine this was an emergency. One of those requests was to go to the Hospital. Because cabs are 1 for 1 kobo in Abuja, I walked out my door raised my hand and was on my way in 3 minutes. Every time I finally get into the car, the drivers tell me, “Oh! There are hundreds of us”. My question is always: where?
On another trial, after failing to get a cab, I got a call half an hour later from a very pleasant sounding lady with an explanation that my phone GPS might be the problem – that my location was showing Sao Polo. Now this same phone – same GPS – got me on another service and to my destination quickly.
Rather than tell me there were no cars available, let’s blame my @Plirismobile Blaze X-64 [“We see what you did there.” – Editor].
Issue Two: The Lackluster Driver Review
Now, every time I take a cab, I chat about everything and anything with the driver. My first two successful calls were a nice quiet young man. While he answered my questions clearly and properly, he didn’t have the same excitement you get from drivers on competing services. Based on his comments would I be using the App again? Yes. Would I tell others about it? Eeerm. Maybe?
Why can’t I rate drivers?
Issue Three: Not Abuja Specific, The App Needs Work (iOS and Android)
While the app works when you launch it, it is still glitchy. 99% of the time, it doesn’t recognize addresses. One time, I requested a cab and while it was still requesting, I got kicked out and was asked to log in again. Apparently, this was not an isolated incident. 5 other users told me this week they were asked to log in repeatedly or their passwords stopped working unless they reset.
- Autocomplete needs some work. E.g. you are typing Gwarimpa.. and its suggesting Lugbe.
- You couldn’t seem to get Fare Estimates on iOS till 30th September.
- The App uses more power than Here Maps.
Does the Service work? Yes.
Will it become in Mobile terms my ‘Daily Driver’? No.
Easy Taxi is not there yet in Abuja. A little more spit and polish. A little more advertising. A little more attention to the cabs. A little less expensive. We will see.