Uber Taxi Wars: Innovate Or Die


Nairobi taxi drivers now want Uber kicked out of town. The American taxi app service that has been praised for its convenience and availability since its entry in the country is now facing complaints and harassment from regular taxi drivers. The taxi drivers complain that the Uber drivers are undercutting them by offering low fares. This is seen by an example of a drive to Westlands via Uber charging Kshs 300 (when there is no traffic) while a normal taxi ride charges almost twice or three times the amount. Now there are attacks on Uber drivers increase as service gains traction in Kenya.

uber cab

In the limited period that the service has been operational, Uber has experienced a significant amount of growth because of the price, convenience and an easy to use app. This has seen the company grow as one of the most recognizable taxi services in Nairobi.

We can see a common factor in the on-going war. Failure to innovate. With the presence of Easy Taxi Kenya, Maramoja and now Uber, regular taxi drivers are taking to the streets to complain on how the government is unfair by allowing the taxi services to operate, but isn’t the real problem here failure to adequately react to competition?

One of the major reasons why businesses fail is the assumption that what they have done in the past will always work. In this case the taxi drivers saw that even with the introduction of Uber into the country, they will still have customers loyalty because that’s how it’s always worked in the past.

Times are changing, new ideas and innovations are coming up every day and most importantly people learn new ways of doing things every day. Businesses need to ask questions. Do you still do things the same way despite new market demands and changing times? What is your competition doing differently? What new technology is available?

Those who fail to do this end up becoming pawns or even so, working for those who do. Companies must be open to new ideas. They must be open to experiment and challenge the factors that led to their success.

Another key factor seen in the taxi wars is how to handle customers.

I personally had an experience with Uber as I was heading home sometime last year. The driver personally called me and told me that since he was held up in a bit of traffic just five minutes away and did not want to keep me waiting, he would refer me to his friend who wasn’t working and was close by. Not even three minutes had passed; I was already in the car on my way home. Courtesy of Uber, every person has his private taxi, just seconds/minutes away. Also, unlike the old ways where one has to call his/her cab driver and wait for them to come all the way from wherever he is, Uber allows you to contact the Taxi closest to you, hence time saving.

So how can you use innovation as a tool to fuel your company’s success?

1. Create an innovative culture: In a Harvard Business review interview, Katsuaki Watanbe of Toyota said, ‘There is no genius in our company. We just do whatever we believe is right, trying everyday to improve every little bit and piece. Innovation should be implemented into the foundation of the business and should be defined to include revolutionary improvements. The world keeps changing every day, so should you.

2. Create a product development system that rewards innovation: Google has developed a system as part of their innovation framework that pays its employees for spending 20% of their time on whatever projects they want.

3. Be on your toes: You cannot afford to stay still. Business is a moving escalator with customer expectations constantly changing, competitors always at your heels threatening to throw you off your game. Kodak finally formalized what had been expected from them for years and it ended up sinking. Kodak which was a former heavyweight in the analog film business saw them getting left behind. With rivals including Sony, Nikon and Canon that had innovation systems up in place, Kodak was outclassed by its competitors with better products and better service delivery.

4. Don’t be afraid to take your business forward: This is seen time and again in this digital revolution. Blockbuster laughed off Netflix as it was being launched, and then went bankrupt when it couldn’t compete with the competency and efficiency of the web-based competitor even when they had the advantage of being an already established brand.

5. Listen to your customers: Poor customer service has always been a major factor in why businesses fail in their early years. One of the reasons why Uber has received such positive reviews from its customers is how they handle their clients. In business, client satisfaction cannot be taken lightly. A customer can either make or break your company depending on how their issues are handled. Businesses should take it upon themselves to come up with ways of increasing customer satisfaction.

Check out our review of UBER – What you need to know.

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I am an idealist, an emotional dreamer. A goddess encapsulated in a densely melanated work of art. On normal days, I am an environmental enthusiast, PR practitioner, Events organizer, Coffee addict, Poetry lover. I also sometimes jot down my thoughts at toashtraysandheartbreaks.wordpress.com