Uber To Soft Launch On 22nd January 2015 In Kenya With EatOut’s Nairobi Restaurant Week
Its been a long time coming but Uber is finally launching in Kenya next week in conjunction with EatOut’s excellent Nairobi Restaurant Week where you can dine at some of Nairobi’s ‘uber’ restaurants for a proverbial dime! The launch of Uber in Kenya confirms one of my predictions for technology in Kenya for 2015 blog post that I posted here a couple of weeks ago where I suggested that on demand services will proliferate the Kenyan marketplace.
Uber is undoubtedly the poster child, and, more recently, the Enfant Terrible of the nascent but fast growing (and globally trending) ‘on demand’ economy where you ‘push a button’ on your smartphone and presto! A real world and real-time service appears out of thin air. Uber is also the behemoth of on demand services having an otherworldly valuation north of US$ 40 Billion as of this writing after raising massive rounds of funding over the last few years to accelerate their global expansion plans.
According to information I received earlier this afternoon, the Uber ‘trial’ launch will take off on the 22nd of January 2015 as part of the Nairobi Restaurant Week as part of a promotion to encourage first time ‘Uber riders’ to try them out. The way the Eatout promotion works is that Nouvou Uber riders can claim up to 2 free rides worth a maximum of Kes. 2,000.00 each during Nairobi Restaurant Week that runs from the 22nd January 2015 till the 2nd February 2015. where diners will enjoy fixed priced menus of Kes. 1,500.00 and Ksh 2000 at over 50 of the city’s top restaurants. The promotion requires Uber riders to download their mobile app (available on IOS, Android & Windows Phone) and use the promo code NRW2015.
To clarify, Uber is NOT launching their famed ‘black cab’ UberBLACK service in Kenya next week but rather UberX which is their entry-level offering using regular taxis in Nairobi. This means that Uber will be going more or less head-to-head with Rocket Internet’s and Africa Internet Group’s well established on demand taxi hailing service Easy Taxi (which I keep raving about here!). Easy Taxi already has over 1,000 taxis plying the the urban jungle that is Nairobi so this is a pretty massive head start for them. Uber has some serious catching up to do so it will be interesting to see how they achieve traction given their massive financial resources and global multi-market insights.
Since week’s Uber launch is a trial, they will only have around 30 taxis available who have been trained in the ‘Uber Way’ with the full official launch happening sometime in February 2015. What remains to be seen is if Uber have managed to integrate their mobile app with Safaricom’s M-Pesa in Kenya as that is what most of their first riders in Kenya would expect to use to make payments. Otherwise, if they are required to use their credit cards via the Uber mobile app in Kenya this will NOT fly with the bulk of their potential riders out there. Even Easy Taxi has not yet done this sort of M-Pesa integration to their mobile app so I am really keen to see how the monetization angle will work for Uber. Cash is always an option though I highly doubt Uber being a ‘tech-first’ business would even consider that possibility unless its a last recourse? Meanwhile, Let the on demand business games in Kenya begin!