There’s already a couple of major taxi hailing apps in Nairobi from Uber, to Little, to Taxify (that’s now called Bolt). Their approach to the market has been basically the same thing: you order for a taxi from their app on your phone, and then the app sets the fare which you give to the driver after the ride ends.

We’ve seen complaints from both customers, and drivers about this. Sometimes after the ride ends, a customer would find the cost is way more than what was estimated, or sometimes the cost is way less than what the driver expected. And this has brought about dissatisfaction from both sides. With the continued competition between taxi apps – as everyone wants to have the best prices to attract more customers – this may keep getting bad.

Enter inDriver.

Taxi Apps Downloads WorldWide Chart by SensorTower

inDriver in their press release describe themselves as ‘an international online ride-hailing service headquartered in New York and used by 24 million people across more than 200 cities.‘ It is one of the top taxi apps in the world in terms of downloads, and is present in the US, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia among many other countries.

It has a funny origin story; apparently, the whole concept was based on Social Media Groups in Eastern Siberia of ‘Independent Drivers‘ where people would state the price they were willing to pay and drivers would pick the orders they wanted.

inDriver came to Africa last year in November when they set up shop in Tanzania, followed by South Africa this year in April, and now the service is in Nairobi where they claim to already have over 5,000 drivers on board.

The company says they’ve been running tests in Nairobi to collect feedback, and the data shows that prices became more attractive for passengers. They claim that passengers using the app pay on average 20% less than with other services. 

With other Taxi Apps, prices can vary depending on peak hours, traffic, and one’s request history. For example, an estimate can be 300 shillings, but because of traffic, delays, or even just an influx in demand, you may end up paying over 500 shillings. inDriver’s Real Time Deals model is looking to change that as you agree with the driver beforehand. 

Here’s how inDriver Works:

The app allows passengers to set their own fare for their chosen route. Nearby drivers who receive notice of ride requests have three choices:

  • accept the fare offered,
  • ignore the offer or
  • bargain for a higher price.

So when you place an order, you’ll either get drivers who accepts your offer, or who have counteroffers. It won’t be the usual direct order process where you order and you’re automatically assigned to a driver. A passenger will have to select based on different categories and preferences from the counter fare offers, or the driver’s rating, the estimated time of arrival, or even the vehicle model.

Note: Other drivers don’t get to see what the others are bidding. They can only see how many bids have been made to the request.

Potential problems with inDriver App:

As you can already probably tell, though the model has a lot of good promises, there’s the potential for a couple of issues:

  • Time – how long compared to other apps will it take to have an order placed, the deal struck, and you on the way with the driver? Will it be worth the time haggling with drivers to find an acceptable amount?
  • Prices – apps like Uber give you a price estimate. With inDriver, you have to have a rough figure in mind especially if you don’t know the distance, or the routes well. You don’t want to quote a stupidly cheap amount, or something expensive.
  • Commission Fees – inDriver will not currently charge its drivers any commission fees. This should be for about 6 months. What happens when they start charging fees? Will drivers be happy?
  • M-Pesa – As of now, there’s only one way to pay: CASH. And this is Kenya, an economy that runs on M-Pesa.
  • Security – The inDriver Press Release didn’t explain whether or not drivers are vetted, and how people can be sure of their security especially since the whole idea of bargaining can bring about arguments. However, inDriver has stated that ‘passengers can share their GPS location and ride details in real time from the app with trusted contacts’.

I expect many drivers will sign up for this service. Especially with the many complaints about very low base fares from other apps.

I haven’t tried inDriver, but I will in the coming days, and share out my thoughts on Twitter. I see it as a good idea whose target market perhaps should be people looking for long distance rides like perhaps from Nairobi to Kisumu. But I may be wrong. Only time will tell. I would like to see how inDriver addresses the potential problems I’ve raised above.

What are your thoughts on the service? Have you tried it? Would you be willing to? The app is available for both Android and iOS devices on their respective App Stores.


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