Since the onset of the pandemic, ride-hailing companies in Africa and around the world have seen a steep decline in ridership as people stay at home because of fear and government-mandated quarantines.
The catapulting effect has been low revenues and earnings for both the ride-hailing companies and their partners consecutively. And while the ride-hailing industry in Africa appears unlikely to bounce back until the pandemic is over, or at least contained, some companies are innovating their way into new opportunities to remain afloat.
One particular company in Kenya that has innovatively restructured its operations to weather the COVID-19 storm is SafeBoda, a motorcycle ride-hailing firm in Kenya.
The Kampala-based startup which was founded in 2014 to provide convenient and secure motorcycle-taxi transport through its mobile app launched its low-cost local food and grocery delivery services earlier this year.
SafeBoda has now ramped up this new pivot by extending its partnerships with local food vendors, restaurants, shops, butcheries, fruit & grocers and even liquor stores via the Shop and Restaurant link.
Some of these restaurants include the local mid-to lower-tier fresh organic food vendors alongside restaurants such as Crispy Bites, Snack Attack, Honey & Dough, Cha’Kula Kitchen, McFrys, Ngara Riverside Lodge to mention but a few.
“These shops have had to evolve to keep up with these digital times we are living in to continue to get their products to their customers and what better way than an already existing platform which Kenyans have come to love and trust owing to the stringent measures we employ when vetting both rider-partners and vendors alike to ensure the quality goes hand in hand with SafeBoda’s vision and mission.” Leah Waweru, Head of Marketing, SafeBoda Kenya told Founder360°.
SafeBoda has about 4,500 drivers in Nairobi of which about 1,800-2,000 have been active during this season.
The company has also partnered with a couple of retail outlets to enable them to still run the business as close to normal as possible and avoid the overcrowding at shopping malls and eateries. Some of the partners include Souk Bazaar, Yo Kuku, Market Ways, Twiga Foods, Toi Market, City Park Market, Sip Mega Liquor, Buon Italia to mention but a few.
“The Food and Shop vertical was launched at the onset of the COVID pandemic in Kenya in March and the growth, though slower than anticipated because most people are now predominantly home and would rather save money and make meals, has seen a steady upward trend,” Leah says.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for SafeBoda has there been a steady growth of repeat orders on food, groceries, meats, fruits and vegetables and liquor in a bid to reduce contact and enhance convenience.
“This, in turn, has turned our local vendors including Toi market, City Market, Burma meat market to mention but a few into digital platforms where they now can thrive amidst the dark times.” She adds.
Through its mobile app, SafeBoda has managed to cushion its customers from physical contact when purchasing food and other goods with its in-built cashless payment wallet.
Launched earlier this year, the cashless payment wallet allows its customers to top-up via mobile money (M-Pesa) to reduce any contact via cash transactions while at the same time inculcating a culture of savings amongst its partners (drivers).
Asked on the uptake of the SafeBoda Customer payment wallet, Leah says, “What a fantastic innovation it’s been for us! Especially in further enhancing the social distancing and reduced contact measures. Having said that and bearing in mind that business has been a bit slow, liquidity forms a big part of the day to day lives of our drivers. The fact that we do their pay-outs twice a week means they have to super-plan for their cash if most customers are on the SafeBoda Customer payment wallet.”
SafeBoda has also gone an extra mile to not only reduce their prices by 23 per cent from Kshs 26 (US$0.26) to Kshs 20 (US$0.20), but has also acquired special passes for their drivers to enable households still get access to essential commodities even during the curfew hours.
The company also has an on-going COVID-SAFE program aimed at equipping the rider community with factual information, prevention measures and strategies for keeping the SafeBoda community safe.
SafeBoda has transformed the motorcycle (boda boda) industry from an employer of last resort to a formal sector with added benefits for its rider partners including access to a life cover, accident cover and a Sacco enabling riders to maximize earnings and savings.
Image Credits: SafeBoda Kenya