From Taxify to Bolt: Ugandans might not see Bolt scooters in the next 5 years

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From Taxify to Bolt:
Ugandans might not see Bolt scooters in the next 5 years

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When it first occurred to me that Taxify was changing to Bolt, I thought that this was a strategy by the company to change suit in service and operation within their countries of operation. This was not the case. If you are to clearly look into it, not a lot has changed since the announcement was made (Apart from the application updating the name and logo).

Earlier in January, Taxify (now Bolt) faced a lot of backlash from Ugandans on social media who through continuous rants shared of the unsatisfactory and very shitty services offered from its riders, an image which reflected bad on the company. From speculations on Taxify closing shop in Uganda after it being dubbed the most hated ride-hailing app in Uganda, the rebranding gave me an impression that Taxify was going to hide away from all its mishaps by starting fresh again with better services, incentives and competitive pricing models, BUT this was not exactly it.

Taxify (now Bolt) was looking to expand its business model from cars (which the word “Taxi” accounted for) and Motorbikes to now scooter sharing and the public transport market.

Let’s look into these new integrations and see how Taxify intends to make its services better with these.

1. Scooter sharing

The scooter sharing service intends to use electronic scooters to enable people travelling for short distance (less than 3kms) not to go through the hustle of hailing and waiting for a car or motorbike which might take ages to arrive.

Here is how scooter sharing works.

Here is how scooter sharing works  - Bolt Uganda
  • Select the scooter mode in the app
  • See the nearest scooter to you and unlock it by scanning the QR code
  • Take ride with your scooter and pack it safely after use
  • End ride and lock the scooter

Read more on scooter sharing here.

Scooter sharing has been implemented way before Bolt thought about integrating it into its services. Companies like Bird, Lime & Unicorn had monopolized the market in the USA and Europe. Bolt came in late for this symposium.

Bolt scooters - ugtechmag
[Photo source: Google]

Here are some of the major disadvantages of scooter sharing and how it shall be tasking for Bolt to maintain them in Uganda.

Accidents.

There has been a report of 1500+ accidents caused due to electric scooters in the United States. Many of the people who use e-scooters do not have knowledge about good road usage skills, and this might lead to accidents, injuries and deaths.

Who shall be to blame for these? Will Bolt Uganda offer an insurance package to protect their users in such instances? Let’s watch the space.

Congestion on the road.

Uganda is plagued with Motorcycles, these have attributed to traffic congestion on roads – the scooters shall add to this. I have also not seen many roads in Uganda with bike lanes for Bicycles (an option which is encourage to be used for scooters), and now that e-scooters might come into play, the congestion on the road shall be intensified.

The payment mechanism.

For one to pay for scooter sharing, you have to purchase credit from your credit card.

Bolt Uganda has always been rigid in its credit payment options, and this has been accessible only for customers who have bank accounts.

Bolt Uganda doesn’t offer a Mobile Money option for purchasing credit, a service used by many Ugandans. Payment is the core for using any product such as these and if Bolt doesn’t make it easy for an average Ugandan to purchase credit, we shall not see scooter sharing come to life in the next 5 years.

E-scooters are damaged by rain.

When exposed to rain, electronic scooters can lose their braking capability due to the lowering of the traction in the system. With these unexpected Kampala rains, I wonder how these scooters will last longer and better.

The poor road systems

The largest part of Uganda’s road network is filled with potholes, and even with a road system in areas of Kampala and Entebbe, there is still many damages on multiple roads. The continous bumping of e-scooters in such roads will surely lead to damages and less durability of scooter sharing (just incase they are shipped in).

Running out of battery.

Since the scooters are electronic (they are unlocked by the Bolt app), chances are that you might not be successful at reaching your destination due to battery shortage.

The good thing is that before unlocking the scooter, you get to see the remaining battery percentage, so the users can know beforehand whether to embark on using a certain scooter or not. At the end of the day, the scooters are taken by the company, charged and then brought back for use.

Do the scooters really “Bolt”?

As compared to a motorcycle and/or a car, scooters are a slow option in case of rush hours and longer distances. Does this disqualify Bolt’s agenda of its services being fast? You tell me!

In my opinion I would say, the scooter sharing service offered by Bolt is for convenience at a time where a motorbike or car is not accessible and necessary –  plus the added advantage to using them is that they are flexible and can easily penetrate through traffic.

Should i even hint on the lack of security.

The people of Katwe can’t let these e-scooters breathe free (even with tracking devices embedded in them). We have had of cars stolen and tracking devices disassembled from them

Not in anyway am I disqualifying the success of this innovation on Taxify’s end, BUT they really need to study the market and analyse the success rate of such a product.

2. Bolt on introducing Public transport means

On its journey to make transportation fast and affordable, Bolt claims to offer cheaper transport options for their clientele as they do away with “Slow public transport” means. This change of names comes with an introduction of new services which include Public transport means.

Here is the explanation as per their portfolio: “Get a ride with Bolt app (Taxify). Your driver arrives in minutes. Forget about expensive taxi rides and slow public transport – move around fast and affordably.”

From taxify to bolt - ugtechmag
[Screenshot]

As we all know, Uganda has a variety of public transport means which include: Pioneer buses, Your average taxis and Coaches. If Bolt is intending to delve into this market, I wonder if they would still call public transport means slow, since they would now be apart of the public transport fraternity.

Uber started public transport in 2018

More on this, how does Bolt intend to implement its public transport agenda? In December 2018, Uber launched their first bus service, UberBus in Egypt, one of its major fastest growing business markets in Africa.

How Uber’s public transport means operate

The UberBus is operational and now accessed through the Uber app by allowing passengers request for a bus, after which they are matched with other riders on the most suitable route. Uber Bus is limited to particular locations (currently Cairo), and only works for people within this vicinity.

The Uber Bus is available within a certain time frame for a given number of days, and if Bolt intends to be the first to do this in Uganda, it should be ready for the advantages and disadvantages that come with it.

How ready is Bolt to offer this service to Ugandans?

Has Bolt won the hearts of Ugandans enough for them to be consistent with such a service? What incentives shall be offered for one to use such an option and not other Bolt options or its competitors?

This would mean that Bolt will not only be competing with the likes of SafeBoda, Uber and other ride-hailing option, BUT will also be competing with existing public transport means.

Hopefully, Bolt has studied the market enough to make this happen, we wish you all the best on this Bolt.

Bolt to launch food delivery service in Africa

With all this going on, it was reported that Bolt is looking to launch a food delivery service in Europe and Africa. With its competitors like Uber having UberEats, Bolt is looking to leverage on their already existing drivers to ensure the success of this new service.

With Uber not having extended UberEats to certain African countries (like Uganda) where both Uber and Bolt are in operation, maybe this shall be a virgin market for Bolt to kickstart with its food delivery service.

The big question is, with other food delivery options in Uganda like Jumia, KFC Uganda and restaurants with their own delivery mechanisms, what is the success rate of Bolt to penetrate and thrive in this market?

We shall keep you updated along the way.

NOTE: This is an opinion blog. The thoughts shared are for the writer.