By David Herbling
Safaricom-backed taxi app Little Cab is seeking to woo women passengers by offering a female drivers only service.
Little Cab, developed jointly with local IT firm Craft Silicon, says it has already signed up 40 female drivers to the service titled 'Lady Bug' - styled as an exclusive cab service for and driven by women.
Safaricom and Craft Silicon officially launched Little Cab on Tuesday.
The e-haling app also features two other service categories; a regular service named 'Comfort' and a low-cost option for older cars branded 'Basic'.
Users can also opt for a 'Ride Later' option that allows them to schedule their trips to avoid inconvenience, Little Cab said.
"A first in Kenya and Africa, Little Cab has introduced a lady-friendly category, 'Lady Bug', with professional lady drivers to ensure women's safety on the road," said Craft Silicon CEO, Kamal Budhabhatti.
"Lady Bug' service will be open for requests to all customers from 6am until 6pm, after which only ladies will be allowed to make a request," he added at the launch of the app on Wednesday.
Little Cab's women's-only service follows in the footsteps of similar offerings around the globe such as DriveHer, SafeHer, SheRides, and Chariot for Women - all marketed as addressing the safety and harassment of female passengers by regular cabbies.
Nairobi metropolis is estimated to have more than 10,000 taxicabs each doing an average of four trips daily, according to official data, valuing the capital city's taxi business at Sh20 million a day.
This has whetted the appetite for investors with Kenya emerging as a battleground for taxi hailing apps - where platforms such as Uber, Little Cab, Pewin, Maramoja, Mondo Ride, and Taxify have pitched tent - underlining Nairobi's position as a tech innovation hub.
Safaricom will provide free Wi-Fi services in every Little Cab vehicle, chief executive Bob Collymore said.
The listed telco has also issued each Little Cab taxi with a Lipa Na M-Pesa paybill, which will allow customers to pay fares using mobile money. Other options such as cash and cards will also be acceptable, Little Cab said.
Mr Collymore added that Safaricom will allow customers to redeem loyalty points commonly referred to as Bonga Points in exchange for rides as is the case currently with voice, data, and devices.
"Our partnership with Craft Silicon is a demonstration of benefits of businesses coming together to address challenges facing our customers. We believe that Little Cab will provide better passenger experiences by connecting them with more reliable, cost effective options," said Mr Collymore.
Little Cab is banking on the diversified taxi classes to take on rivals which have already launched services in the Kenyan market.
The Comfort and Lady Bug category will charge passengers Sh55 per kilometre and Sh4 per minute - with no flat base charge or price surges.
'Basic' is priced at Sh50 per kilometre and Sh4 per minute and similarly has neither a basic charge nor price surges.
Dubai-based Mondo Ride charges for a cab in Nairobi is Sh58 per kilometre and Sh4 per minute; in addition to a base fare of Sh100.
Uber charges in Kenya are priced at Sh60 for every kilometre covered and Sh4 per minute in addition to a base fare of Sh100.
Estonian taxi app Taxify has an 'Economy' tariff where passengers pay Sh50 per kilometre, Sh5 per minute, and a base charge of Sh100.