Maridady's Smart PSVs hit the road as they prepare their hailing app for August roll-out.
Investing in the taxi business has had a lot of downsides for Kenyans in the recent past, from low returns on investment to high cost of fuel and other factors affecting profits.
Looking for a pinhole light at the end of the business tunnel has many the antennae turned up when it comes to additional opportunities to make an extra coin.
According to Maridady Motors CEO, Eric Ngigi: “Kenyans who tried to invest in cabs but lost hope due to the many intricacies in the transport industry have yet another chance to venture in the same business but this time in a cushioned manner, thanks to Smart PSVs, an innovative business model of Maridady Motors.”
The transport industry in Kenya, however, is growing at a very fast pace in stride with a growing population. With real estate developments mushrooming across the country, the future of transport business is bright.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, passenger transport in Kenya grew to amass over Sh400 billion in earnings in 2017 alone.
The entrance of hailing cabs meant a new income stream for those looking to expand their coasts as well as cheaper options for those who wanted to ride in comfort without the crazy price tags.
Sure, the existing systems reached some bottlenecks, with driver and partner complaints of not being paid enough, confusion on fares crisscrossed with mileage inaccuracies, and so on.
Kenyans resident in the US and other countries have a chance to invest back home in this business and their interest has necessitated a visit by the Maridady CEO to present on the Smart PSV concept after they heard about it.
Maridady, in setting up Smart PSVs and in investing in a soon-to-be-launched hailing platform believes that true demand for cars is heading to cabs with the forecast that cab drivers will be the huge market who are the centre of focus for output.
Maridady however says that even with their app, drivers will be allowed to use any other apps they choose as is the practice in the industry. “The already operating Smart PSVs are already using existing platforms, ours will only come as a back up to ice the cake.”
FIXED MONTHLY PAY
Quite a number of passenger vehicles bought in the last couple of years have been for PSV (Public Service Vehicle) purposes.
Maridady Smart PSVs rests on the model of having drivers as part of a Sacco whose loan is, essentially, a vehicle which they pay off as they ride along, and become part of the member strong fleet that Maridady is already putting on the road.
Investors also have a chance to get in on the Smart Cabs platform by fronting the funds for a cab across different levels from motorcycles, tuk tuks, saloon cars, and vans.
Unlike regular cabs where incomes are unpredictable, under Smart PSVs, the investors will get a guaranteed fixed monthly payment over a two-year term and receive about 50 percent of the value of the vehicle in cash at the end of the term as residual value. The number of vehicles admitted into the model will be regulated to avoid saturation.
A big challenge in the cabs business today is the conflicts between drivers and their partners, which the Smart PSVs model has tackled head on; all drivers’ needs and concerns are met, while paying the partners the agreed weekly or monthly rates.
It’s clear that the desire to have comfort at a pocket friendly price is top on the hierarchy, and the hunger to have extra income through business, is too.
The Smart PSVs model has tackled this main challenge head on.
Maridady Motors will sit between the partners and the drivers carefully mediating and balancing their economic needs to deliver a sustainable business model.
Maridady Motors Sacco will vet and admit drivers and train them regularly to think long-term before entrusting them with vehicles.
A relevant Cab-Driver-Curriculum has been developed by Maridady and drivers must attend all classes prior to getting a car.
From research done by Maridady Motors Business Development Manager, Mr Wokabi, partners buy cabs mainly to make money enough to buy a new vehicle after sometime while getting some profits along the way.
On the other hand, the drivers’ biggest aspiration is to one day own a car.
Under the Smart PSV model both the driver and the partner wins.
The drivers automatically inherit the vehicles they drive for two years while at the same time, the partners will have re-cooped enough money to buy new cab plus a reasonable profit to take home. It’s very clear how the business model is a win for all.
WIN FOR ALL
But all over the world it’s not all rosy in the hailing cabs industry. Largely, as suggested by Nairobi Senator Sakaja in his proposal to regulate fares and as further evidenced by the recent international Uber switch off, something needs to be done concerning the plight of drivers and partners.
According to Sir Eric, since higher fares threaten uptake by riders, the answer lies in lower commissions by platform owners.
So to make it worthwhile for the partners and the drivers, the platforms just need to accept lower commissions.
This would ensure that drivers and partners can get a fair return on their investments without necessarily making the rider break the bank to use a cab.
Upon its roll out, Maridady's platform promises to deliver a win for all experience. To firm it up, Sir Eric adds that business models that don't put people first cannot succeed in the long term.
The Maridady Motors CEO who is currently in Atlanta, Georgia with a later visit slated for Baltimore, Maryland, notes that what we have in the market, industry experts tell us that there is still room for better services than what is currently experienced.
With the already selling Smart PSVs, Ngigi believes that supply and demand is about to reach equilibrium.
“Transport needs are there to stay and there is space for better services. The fare prices may not increase but the volumes definitely will. This competition is not just for the existing market. If the guy in the matatu realises he can ride in a cab for Sh200, he will consider it. This will push volumes up. We are also looking at cabs becoming so affordable and available that people will loosen their grip on owning personal cars. This has happened in Singapore already,” he says, adding: “In Kenya particularly, traffic jams are also another factor, that is continuously making people dislike self-driving and prefer using cabs. The future of cabs is thus very bright in the country.”
Looking at countries where you either walk, get on the metro, or hail a cab, the belief is strong that the same can soon be replicated right here in Kenya and perhaps made even better.
The idea is to create a fleet and a local Kenyan platform so strong in numbers and available round the clock, that it has no choice but to push the usage up due to large economies of scale and maximisation of other revenue streams that inevitably improve efficiency and the benefits to partners, drivers and riders.
Understandably, 'low prices' is certainly not the language that drivers and partners like to hear. The truth however is that reasonable fares increase the volumes of trips that each driver gets in a day, a foundational factor to the success of transport business.
“As evidenced above, in running hailing apps, platform owners are confronted by parties whose needs are mutually exclusive”, says the Maridady CEO.
A rider demanding lower fares and a driver/partner demanding many trips and at maximum returns per kilometre.
It’s thus a tussle between volumes and margins. You lower the fares, you please your riders but get cursed by your drivers and partners. Yet if you knee jerk react and hike the fares, the riders stop hailing still annoying drivers and partners with low volumes.
Therefore, to remain viable and sustainable businesses, hailing platforms must put in extra thought in order to balance the interests of all players.
Ngigi says: “The Smart PSVs model is well thought out as it guarantees that the partner will get the full return of the capital invested to buy the vehicle plus a profit of up to 40 percent. It’s thus a win for all as the partner gets to own a new vehicle after the two years while the driver automatically inherits the vehicle he was driving.
"To craft it, we started with the end in mind. We first sought to understand the objectives of each player. This smart model also allows Kenyans to own cabs where demand is high. A Kenyan in Turkana can for example invest in a cab to operate in Nairobi or Mombasa without worrying about its operations and management as Maridady shoulders that responsibility.
"For the first time, it also means that Kenyans living abroad now have a commercially viable platform to invest back home. This is huge as it will help create jobs while making a good return on their investments. Innovation and out of the box thinking is truly what we need to create blue-ocean opportunities."
Already in the market, Smart PSVs seem to want to kill several birds with one stone; keeping drivers in employment by offering them an opportunity to own cars cheaply with very flexible daily payments of as low as Sh1,000 per day, keeping partners and investors on top of their game by giving them a hassle free turn-key profitable business, keeping riders happy and running with affordable fares while developing transport infrastructure in Kenya to global standards and experiences.