It’s 6 o’clock in the morning and I am leaving my home to office, which is only a few kilometres away. As a regular commuter of taxi motors, I hurry to pick the bike, but before I could negotiate the fare the rider tells me it is calculated automatically.
“You do not have to negotiate the fare. It is automatic with our metre service,” he tells me with a beaming face.
Hesitant, I move on to the next taxi-moto operator who also had the same system. He assures me that the system is efficient and charges fairly.
This is Yego Moto, a new technology system that allows taxi-moto operators to charge passengers without bargaining. It is a ‘metre’ service which uses Global Positioning System (GPS) devices installed on motorcycles to deliver information about the journey covered by a passenger.
It is an innovative business of Yego Innovation Limited run by Singaporean investors who want to change the way the taxi-moto business operates in Rwanda.
“Taxi-motos are far more important than bus transport because they pick up people from places where buses cannot reach, and acts as a feeder to the buses. Many people exclusively use a moto and the challenge remains how to make them go cashless,” notes Karanvir Singh, the company’s chief executive and managing director.
“Every time you wanted to take a trip you had to negotiate the fare which could sometimes take a lot of time, and with those who were not able to speak Kinyarwanda it was even worse to bargain,” he adds.
Singh says operators are usually not satisfied with how much they get on certain trips and some passengers often feel cheated by the taxi-moto operators.
On the other hand, passengers waste time in situations where a rider does not have change to pay to the passenger, and some even go away with the passengers’ money.
“There is another side of the story though; usually we risk losing our money during late night hours when we take passengers in the furthest places,” explains Emmanuel Ndushabandi, a motorcyclist.
Vincent Kubwayo, another motorcyclist, said the device is time saving.
Donatha Uwizeyimana said the experience she has had using YegoMoto is quite different from taking the usual taxi-moto.
“With YegoMoto, one does not have to negotiate (fare) so it saves time. The motorcyclists also have good customer care,” she said.
According to the Rwanda National Police, some 50 to 60 complaints are received each day arising from the misunderstandings between passengers and commercial motorcyclists.
Supporting cashless drive
“We saw an opportunity here, but we also believe taxi-motos are the most important means of transport for most people. The idea is also part of consideration that there was a need for a country to go cashless,” he said.
The idea is supporting the cashless drive in a sense that the system allows passengers to pay using mobile money, and the long-term plan is to introduce card payment feature as an alternative for those who might not be using mobile money, he added.
According to data collected by the firm during its initial stages, there are about 15,000 taxi-motos operating in Kigali, making about 350,000 trips per day, about a million trips in three days.
This, they think, is a big market opportunity for them to start with.
The total investment in the system, according to management, is $14 million (about Rwf11bn) and they say they expect returns in four to five years.
Installation of the system on motorcycles is free; helmets are given out freely while motorcyclists get training on customer behaviours, management and other related skills.
According to the company, 25 motorcycle riders are trained each day and they hope they will have completed training about 1,000 by early October.
The plan is to cover the entire city in February next year.
Is YegoMoto a rival to SafeMotos?
While YegoMoto is trying to make its way to the Rwandan market, SafeMotos, a platform which uses GPS technology, has been operating in the same sector for a while now.
Some people say that YegoMoto is coming to rival SafeMotos as the two will be operating quite a similar business with just a small difference. Yego Moto calls itself a ‘meter’ service while SafeMotos is a hailing service.
“As long as the platforms are equitable in terms of what people are willing to do, we have no problem with competition,” Singh said bluntly, adding that he sees uber-style services not taking off as people no longer want to spend time waiting for motos or cabs.
But, on the other hand, he admits that it may take up to four to five years to make returns considering the nature of the business.
For Barett Nash, the co-founder of SafeMotos that has so far carried out more than 200,000 trips, they are focused on defending their market position.
“We know the story of David and Goliath well and want to be Rwanda’s David entering into new markets against the Goliaths’s, but we cannot afford to make Goliath’s mistakes by underestimating anyone,” he says.
He said Rwanda is the best place to launch a startup in Africa and getting the chance to learn from a competitor in the home market.
While YegoMoto is set to be rolled out in other parts of the country after covering Kigali, there are some concerns being raised which, if, not addressed, may not allow quick uptake of the service.
“Using GPS in a super hilly country to calculate distance is not a clever move for motorcycle operators as 100 metres on a flat terrain could be equivalent to 150m on a steep mountainous terrain since it doesn’t take into consideration altitude,” said one geography expert (name withheld).
He says that the taxi moto operators will probably lose out a lot at the end of the day, and that for the customers, there won’t be room for bargaining with the fare.
Karanvir Singh says that by the end of this week, there will be about 250 commercial motorcyclists on the road.