Update: SWVL and Little Shuttle have both been blacklisted by the NTSA. Read more here.


Less than 36hrs ago, in a yet-to-be uploaded video, we as 24BIT talked about Bus Hailing Apps like SWVL and LITTLE SHUTTLE. In the discussion we touched on their strategy, and the competition they bring to the local matatu industry. We also talked about what makes them different, and whether or not they should adhere to the laws set for normal matatus.

Well, our discussion must have come a little early because LITTLE’s Chief Executive in an email has announced that their service LITTLE SHUTTLE will no longer be available starting tomorrow October 1st, until they get the right approval from relevant authorities.

According to the email, the CEO says Authorities told them the license they currently have doesn’t allow them to operate the Shuttle Business. Which begs the question: what is the right license? This is a new product. Where should it fall? Should we kill ideas because of licenses?

Here are some questions that will need to be answered in the coming days as Nairobians who rely on LITTLE SHUTTLE find other means of transport:

  • Are SWVL and LITTLE considered Matatus? Should they be?
  • If so, should they follow matatu laws? Will that include the yellow line on 14 Seater SWVLs?
  • If so, should they use matatu routes?
  • And if so, is there really opportunity in Kenya for something different in the transport industry?
  • How do you modernise a sector like the matatu sector if you’re not allowed to operate differently?
  • Is Kenya really opening up to new ideas that will help it grow, or are we backward and not ready for new ways of making things work?

It is unclear what this means for SWVL another bus sharing app service that has also had quite the run for the last 9 months. They recently pumped in 1.5 Billion Shillings to make sure they expand.

Here’s Little CEO’s Full Email:

Normally I put email to my riders with good news. Today I have an exception.

I would like to share some sad news with all of you. Few days before we got a communication from the authorities that we are not allowed to Hail a shuttle on Little. The Shuttles we hail are from our partners who are properly licensed, but we were told that it is not the right kind of license.

We run point to point shuttle services on our Little App. We have thousands of Shuttle riders who ride on our platform every single day, many of them several times a day. I have met many of them personally. Most of them have been very happy with the service. Its efficient, it can be tracked, It’s on time, it’s clean and safe and off all, it’s not chaotic. Our shuttles service is so popular that most of the times they are fully booked.

I have no quarrel with the authorities. They are doing their job as per what is listed in their bible. However, I would have appreciated that they open a dialog with technology companies like us on how to work togeather and change the face of public transportation in our country. We have been running this services for last three quarters, and we have proved that public transport can be operated in efficient and profitable manner. A manner that can bring sanity in the chaotic public transport in our city. Over several months, we have learnt a lot. We have made changes to our technology so that it works as expected. We have been able to come up with the right ingredients to address the problem at hand. And I just hope that these efforts do not go in vain.

If this information is wrong, I do apologize, but I was told that when Safaricom launched MPESA, there was no proper regulation on mobile money. However, as it started helping Kenyans, Central Bank did not stop Safaricom, but they worked together to formulate a legal model. I would have appreciated a similar approach on this matter. And I pray that happens.

I Love Kenya. Kenya is my country. We are a unique nation. We are innovative and entrepreneurial. We like trying out new things, some fail some succeed. So challenges like these are not going to shake our dreams. At Little, we have big dreams. We want to be pan African mobility provider, and it would happen with time and I am glad that our riders are supporting me.

I am not sure if the decision to stop us was from the authorities or they were under pressure from the public transport cartels. Whatever the case, I would like to apologize to our riders that we would not be running this service from 1 October 2019, till we get a clearance from the relevant authorities.

Do share this with your friends and on social media, so that our riders are aware of this news and do make other arrangements for their daily commute.

Thank you,
Kamal Budhabhatti,
Chief Executive, Little

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