#BounceExclusive: Uber Nigeria - The Good, Bad, Ugly & Very Ugly
Global ride-sharing giant, Uber has been plagued by controversies for much of this year.
From sex scandals at its global management levels that later resulted in the sack of its co-founder/CEO Travis Kalanick, to allegations of spying on corporate rivals and poor conduct that led to loss of its licence in London.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the once much-loved ride-sharing technology company.
In Nigeria, the company has not fared any better.
Although its troubles in Nigeria were unconnected with any sex scandals, spying or disagreement with authorities, its strained relationship with partner drivers alongside the entry of strong competition had made sure the once dominant ride-sharing giant is knee deep in flood waters.
When Uber launched in Lagos Nigeria in 2014, it brought smiles to city dwellers who were previously compelled to use old taxis in rather horrid conditions.
Uber’s technology did more than provide better transport means to Lagosians, it created jobs, a life-style and social networking for hundreds of commuters and entrepreneurs.
It was like love at first sight. In a matter of months, its popularity soared and the Lagos yellow taxis cried to state authorities.
“Uber succeeded in this market for a number of reasons. First, its approach to ensuring security of its rides through stringent acquisition process gave people the assurance they needed to trust the platform,” said Lawrence Ahiseme, a technology analyst.
Indeed, Uber brought global standard to its fleet and driver acquisition and this not only engendered trust but resonated quite well with the Lagos’ middle/elite class who desperately needed fresh air.
However, if Uber believed this love would lasts forever, it was sorely mistaken as things would take a completely different turn.
Also Read: Uber Battles Competition With Fare Slash
Three years after the company has successfully operated in Lagos and expanded to Abuja, another obscure ride-sharing company from Estonia, Northern Europe called Taxify launched in Lagos.
Not many people took them seriously. But barely a year after its launch, it has significantly chipped away at Uber’s market share.
Uber’s trouble, according to some drivers who spoke to Bounce News, started not even with new entrants but the infamous 25% commission on completed trip.
“If Uber did not know it, some of us knew that 25% commission was going to work against them if there were to be better competition. For every trip completed, Uber takes 25% commission and that is too much.
“I am the one to buy fuel at 145-naira per litre, maintain the vehicle, and for some people who don’t own their cars, they have to remit at least 40,000 naira to the vehicle owner every week,” said Anthony, a former banker who now drives his car on the platform after he lost his job.
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These days, Anthony has both the Taxify and Uber apps on his phone and he told Bounce News he only gets onto the Uber platform occasionally.
Quietly, many Uber drivers complained about the 25% commission but Uber either ignored it or pretended they were not loud enough.
Taxify launched in Lagos in November 2016 and in a bid to enter the market, pegged its commission at 15%.
It also relaxed some of the stringent conditions that was common with Uber’s Fleet and Driver acquisition.
First, some drivers who were banned from Uber platform for obvious infractions and therefore disgruntled, migrated to the new platform.
These were followed by another group who were looking for a way to cut the 25% commission.
Then Lagosians also reacted by latching unto the Taxify platform because of its obvious affordability.
Still many people loved and used Uber.
But the camels back broke in May 2017 when Uber tried to beat competition by slashing rider’s fare by 40% without reducing its commission.
This angered the drivers who took to the streets to protest the decision.
Read More: Again, Another Scandal Hits Uber
“About 3 months ago, Uber called a meeting of all Uber drivers. The meeting held somewhere in Ikeja. They said they wanted to hear what our complaints were, and we told them that it is their 25% that is the problem,” stated a former Uber driver who spoke to Bounce News on condition of anonymity.
“We told them that there was no way they could slash rider’s fare by 40% and still charge us 25%. It was not sustainable.
"Many of us are family men with responsibilities and we must pay the car owners 40,000 naira a week.
"Many people who stood up to speak complained bitterly. But after everything, Uber said there was nothing they could do and that they were paying too much for Google Map. And everyone went away,” he said.
He has also moved to Taxify. He said he still has the Uber app, but he hardly turns it on anymore.
Besides, he said, even when he does, requests hardly come in.
More so, at the time Uber launched in Nigeria, it enjoyed absolute monopoly. It held the knife and yam and therefore made the rules as it saw fit with little regard to the peculiarities of the Lagos market.
The Very Ugly
Unfortunately, its disgruntled drivers are using some of the rules against the company.
Martins (not real name) an Uber driver, told Bounce News that he makes as much as 14 to 15,000 naira on days he takes his rest by just staying at home accepting ride-requests and waiting for the potential rider to cancel.
You see, Uber has this rule about request cancellation. If you order a ride and for any reason you decide to cancel after five minutes, Uber charges you 1,000-naira penalty, 25% of which goes to the driver.
*Uber deploys this type of luxury sedans as cabs
Uber drivers have started using this rule against the company. Its competition, Taxify have no such rules and although many people believe this may help to check rider’s excesses, drivers like Martins would continue to take advantage of it at the Uber's expense.
“I have been a victim a few times. I will order a ride; the driver will accept. I will wait for several minutes without seeing the driver. I would call them, they would not pick up but then I cancel, and I am charged a cancellation fee,” said an Uber user who would not want his name mentioned.
As if this was not enough, news broke a fortnight ago that Uber drivers were now using a fake GPS known as Lockito to inflate ride fares.
Read More: Uber Has A New West Africa Boss, Lola Kassim
Another former Uber driver who now drives on Taxify platform says that would be the final nail on Uber’s coffin in Nigeria.
He narrated how most of his friends were using the fake map and were making as much as 30,000 naira per trip.
He also said Uber may claim ignorance but riders who had been ripped off may not likely return and that would eventually lead to the death of the company.
“I would be surprised if Uber survives in Nigeria. Hundreds of Uber drivers are using a fake map to deceive riders and those riders are beginning to shun Uber. The only reason I don’t use it is because I don’t believe in fraud. I am a Jehovah’s Witness,” lamented another former Uber, now Taxify driver.
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Uber Nigeria did not immediately respond to Bounce News’ email requesting for its comments.
But an ex-Uber Nigeria executive who spoke to Bounce News on condition of anonymity blamed Uber’s problem in Nigeria squarely on leadership.
“Uber’s problem in Nigeria is caused by poor leadership. Initially they had someone who had effective communication skills, making Uber look like perfect service but, it was not. They need an entrepreneur who is experienced at execution,” he said.
“Uber’s growth problem will not go away if they continue managing it the way they do now. They should forget about packaging big names to lead the brand. Instead, they should find an entrepreneur who understands the local market and give the person a free hand to run the service and it will succeed,” he added.
A word is enough for wise foreign investors - matrics and figures do not equate to profit in Nigeria.
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