When Kenya’s leading telecoms company, Safaricom launched its own car-booking app in July, Uber dropped its rates by 35 per cent. Looking back, Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore says he was “bemused” by what he saw as an overreaction. Mr Collymore said in a Financial Times interview “For me, it’s not so much about competing against Uber.
In July, Safaricom, which is 40 per cent owned by the UK’s Vodafone, announced it had partnered with a local technology company to launch its own car-hailing app, Little Cab, which is now known as just Little. Safaricom says 1,400 drivers have so far signed up in Nairobi, outnumbering Uber’s 1,000 drivers. Uber declined to respond to Collymore’s comments, but said in a statement that its Kenya business was “going great” and that the “price cuts are working”. Uber declined to respond to Collymore’s comments, but said in a statement that its Kenya business was “going great” and that the “price cuts are working”.
Mr Collymore says he now sees Little as more an opportunity to build brand loyalty for Safaricom, which controls about two-thirds of the Kenyan market. He also wants it to show how Safaricom can work with smaller, innovative, local companies “without overwhelming them”.
“We’ll probably make no money out of Little,” he said.
Last week, the company launched a version of the app that potentially allows millions of Kenyans with basic phones to use the service. Mr Collymore said he hoped to launch “Little Boda Boda” and “Little Tuktuk” services for motorcycle and rickshaw taxis that would be less expensive options than taxis.
“The real trick is how do you deliver this service to people who do not have smartphones. We wanted to reach down into the base of the market,” he said.