Do you drive to and from work daily, or do you often travel outside Nairobi for work? If the answer is yes, would you consider car-sharing?
Though this is not a new concept in Kenya, it has not really caught on in the country, something that Mr Ramah Rugut, the chief executive of the ride-sharing platform Twende, hopes will change.
“The idea is to connect people travelling in the same direction, where, instead of making the trip alone, a car owner carries passengers in exchange for a pre-agreed amount of money,” explains Mr Rugut, an electrical engineer.
The idea for the start-up crossed his mind in 2017 while he was driving from Nairobi to Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County.
“I was alone in the car and the journey was boring, and I thought to myself that the long drive would have been more interesting if I were travelling with someone I could talk to, better still, someone that was willing to pay for the ride.”
In 2018, he teamed up with a friend, Mr Kiptoo Magutt, a software developer and the company’s chief technology officer, and Winnie Biwott, the chief operations officer.
Together, they came up with Twende, a car-sharing mobile-based service for travellers keen to avoid the long queues and inconvenience associated with public transport.
“Sometimes public transport vehicles go on strike, leaving thousands of Kenyans stranded, making car-sharing a more reliable option,” says Ms Biwott.
“There is also the matter of security — one would feel more secure working on their laptop or tablet in a shared car, rather than in a matatu or minibus. Besides, car-sharing is a good opportunity for creating beneficial networks,” Mr Magutt explains.
Twende is available on the Nairobi-Eldoret route.
Ms Damaris Chemutai, who prefers car-sharing to public transport, says that unlike the latter, the journey starts on time, and one can request the driver to slow down if uncomfortable with the speed.
“I also like that fare fluctuates depending on demand and supply, meaning that during off-peak hours, I get to pay less.”
As for Mr Martin Muiruri, who makes four or five trips a week from Nairobi to Eldoret and back, it is a good opportunity to boost his earnings.
“Sometimes I am lucky to fill all the seats before I leave, other times I get only two passengers but pick up the rest along the way. The money I get goes toward fuelling and servicing my car,” says the 40-year-old, who owns a seven-seater vehicle.
The app has an option to rate the driver and air your complaints or compliments, meaning that travellers get the best service from drivers who care about their reputation, retaining and attracting more customers.
The platform has over 450 registered drivers, who have served over 3,000 passengers over the past one year.
“We get a 15 per cent share of the total transactions made by each driver. We provide the platform, they provide the cars,” Mr Rugut explains.
But this is not the only carpooling platform in the country, with others such as Jaza Gari, Carpool World Kenya and Saafiri in operation.
With competition in mind, the youthful trio is developing a system that allows one to travel with fellow professionals, those they can network with. Every business comes with challenges, and for the trio, it is convincing more drivers to come board.
“The drivers we have can barely meet the demand. Another pressing challenge is pickup location. Most clients would like to be picked up from their homes, rather than at a specified pickup location. Another is that some users keep installing and uninstalling the app, which makes data monitoring difficult.”
With Kenya boasting high-speed internet and wide smartphone penetration, developers are tapping on the power of Big Data to expand carpooling solutions that have enabled travellers to find rides via reliable digital platforms.