BusinessTechnologyTrend Hunter: Taxi! Take me and my smartphone into town

Sat,18Nov2017

Posted on Thursday, 05 December 2013 16:48

Trend Hunter: Taxi! Take me and my smartphone into town

By Ruby Edwards

Photo©RICHARD PERRY/THE NEw YoRk TImEs-REDUX-REAGetting around the continent's bustling cities is about to get a whole lot easier.

South Africa is the launchpad for a swathe of smartphone applications with pan-African taxi aspirations.

They promise efficiency, ease and professionalism, as opposed to the traditional hustling to flag one down on the roadside.

The biggest player is Uber, a San Francisco-based start-up that operates in more than 35 cities across the world and launched in Cape Town and Johannesburg in August.

Uber may be the biggest company globally and very comfortably funded – it bagged a $258m investment from Google Ventures and TPG in late August – but it is not alone.

Others in South Africa also bear nifty start-up names, like Zapacab and SnappCab.

What they all have in common is drivers equipped with smartphones who are linked up to a mothership that connects passengers with the drivers.

All the customers need to do is download one of the apps, click a few buttons and a car is on its way.

The apps are also on the move. Not content with one city, they are racing to have a piece of a bigger pie.

While SnappCab eyes Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, Zapacab and Uber want those and much more. Both companies are planning swift expansions into Nairobi, Kampala and Lagos.

Zapacab's founder and chief executive Rupert Sully says: "There is a gold rush for taxi companies in Africa. The massive use of mobile phones and mobile money across the continent makes it a ripe market."

Jambu Palaniappan, Uber's head of Middle East, Africa and India expansion, says: "Our ambition is everywhere. It's not a matter of if, but when." ●



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