Turkana start-up Nawi tackles digital taxi giants

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Business

Turkana start-up Nawi tackles digital taxi giants


Nawi Rides founder Simon Ekai Etom with one of his carpool taxis in Lodwar, Turkana County. PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Due to financial difficulties, he knew from the start that he had to be smart.
  • Rather than reinventing the wheel by developing his app from scratch, he says he chose to go the proven path.

For a very long time, the mention of Turkana conjured up images of poverty, perpetual droughts and insecurity. It was the perception created after decades of starvation in the vast county of the resources needed to spur development. So it was no surprise that, like other regions producing innovators, Turkana was nowhere on the map.

However, a new startup is struggling to create a different narrative with its digital ridesharing app, and in doing so, is taking on established giants like Uber.

Mr Simon Ekai Etom’s bulb moment followed a disappointing experience with the transportation options available. Commuting, he says, was a painful and expensive experience he endured until he finally decided to do something and founded Nawi Rides in 2019.

“I saw how slow, expensive, insecure and unreliable traditional local taxis are. That’s why I deployed Nawi Rides to improve taxi services, ”he told Enterprise.

While reflecting on his decision to embark on the adventure, Mr Etom said he was aware of the many odds stacked against him that had prevented many investors from venturing into the region. He quickly added, however, that he was also aware of the huge potential and hoped that by venturing into the field shunned by established brands, his startup would gain first-mover advantage.

Due to financial difficulties, he knew from the start that he had to be smart. Rather than reinventing the wheel by developing his app from scratch, he says he chose to go the proven path.

“I researched the development of a ridesharing app and found Indian developers who also have an office in Seattle, US,” says Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration graduate from Egerton University.

“The developers had already created ridesharing apps that are used in India and Southeast Asia and basically what they did is“ white mark ”their app to meet our needs. as well as Nawi Rides was born, ”he explains. which has enabled it to significantly reduce costs.

At the start, Mr Etom says, he injected 1 million shillings in capital into the business.

Today, Nawi, which is derived from the local dialect “Ngaturkana”, which means house, is downloadable from both Google Playstore and Apple Appstore.

Since its launch, Nawi Rides, whose services are mainly offered in the city of Lodwar, has experienced significant growth, with more than 1,200 customer downloads and offered 200 rides per day before the coronavirus.

This figure was reduced to an average of 100 during the pandemic, however.

“Our customers’ pockets have dried up due to the general loss of purchasing power and prevailing economic conditions following Covid-19 and most today choose to use boda boda because it is the ‘cheapest option,’ explains the entrepreneur.

To make the platform attractive to both drivers, customers and car owners, the Nawi Rides app also serves as a rental and car rental platform.

This way, customers looking for desert adventure can hire any of the off-road vehicles available on its platform.

To sweeten the deal, he also set up competitive commissions. While Uber, Bolt and Little Cab drivers pay 25%, 20% and 19% commission respectively, Nawi Rides only deducts 13%, which means taxi drivers and owners earn more.

The app charges Sh 40 per kilometer, but it also depends on other factors such as base fare, time traveled, and waiting or congestion charges.

However, before drivers are enrolled in the app, they must submit to strict rules and regulations, designed to remove bad elements from the system.

“We require our drivers to have appropriate identification, certification and experience and must follow our operating rules,” said Mr. Etom.

Nawi Rides led to greater adoption, was not without challenges.

Traditional taxi operators, just as in other cities in the past, did not appreciate the new entrant and did their utmost to disrupt their operations.

Low technology adoption by local residents and poor network connectivity also hamper ridesharing activity.

“The ridesharing app needs proper network connectivity, our region is poorly connected. “

At this time, the company has no plans to expand its services to highly competitive markets such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru.

“Our aim is to offer our services to cities in Turkana and neighboring counties such as West Pokot, Marsabit and Samburu,” said Mr. Etom.


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