Around the world, the emergence of ride-hailing companies has posed a threat to traditional taxi business. As a result, there is growing apathy between local taxi operators and their app-based counterparts, whose application of technology have given an edge over traditional taxis in the contested markets.
From the U.S. to the UK, local taxi operators have protested over the crippling impact the innovative app-based taxis have on their means of livelihood, as commuters prefer the ease the technology-based model offers.
Nigerian cab operators have also had their full share of the declining patronage, and now they are going digital in a bid to regain their market share.
As part of the effort to achieve this, an ICT firm, Univasa Nigeria Ltd has developed an app to enable local taxis in Lagos to have an online presence where they can be booked like Uber, Bolt and other ride-hailing companies operating in Nigeria.
The Cable reported that the platform was unveiled in an event held on Monday by Univasa Nigeria Ltd, in collaboration with the Lagos State Taxi Drivers and cab Operators Association (LSTDCOA), in Oshodi Lagos at the Association’s headquarters.
The app named “Baba dey online” is available for downloads in the iOS and Android Play stores.
Univasa Chief Executive Officer Ben Adeniyi said it was developed to end the discrimination against local taxis and help them win customers.
“Today, we are officially launching BabaDeyOnline for users to download on iOS and Google Playstore. This innovation will ease the stress of those who visit the taxi parks to order rides. We are leveraging on the perspective of the public to name this #BabaDeyOnline,” he said, adding that the Univasa app will help people to book Lagos taxis from the comfort of their homes.
It marks the second time the approach is being adopted in addressing the disparity that ride-hailing innovation has created in Lagos cab market, but there are a lot of bottlenecks to be cleared for the Baba Dey Online app to be a success.
Unlike app-based cabs, the Lagos yellow taxis operate only through their respective parks, making it difficult for them to operate in the same level with tech-based cabs who have unlimited space to operate in.
The LSTDCOA has 283 parks and 16 branches across Lagos, but yellow taxis are forbidden in estates, airports and many other affluent places in the State, limiting their opportunity even to cash in on the newly developed Baba Dey Online app.
In response to the development, the president of LSTDCOA Omolekan Taiwo said the Lagos State Government needs to accord yellow taxi operators a level playing ground as they move to embrace technology and close the existing gap created by lack of innovation in their operation.
“Univasa taxi apps came onboard at the right time, since technology is now the ultimate; we are ready to embrace Univasa taxi apps for all our drivers and the general public for usage. We are going to bring back all our members that have left the association due to lack of technology-based apps into our folds.
“However, I want to use this medium to appeal to the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Transportation to give all the taxi app users a level playing grounds by allowing the yellow taxi access into all estates in Lagos State,” he said.
Although besides this, there are other factors that will impact how commuters embrace the yellow taxi app, including trip fares and vehicle conditions, that need to be addressed. Adeniyi said the operators will need to be trained firstly on how to use the app, which functions the same way as Uber and Bolt driver and rider apps. He added that there is ongoing effort to eliminate the stigma that has limited yellow taxis’ operation in the state.
Uber and Bolt became public enemy number one to local taxi operators in Lagos as they eventually became the preferred choice of commuters in the state due to their easy online-booking technology and the leisure they offer. Calls by the taxi union to get the Lagos State Government to ban the ride-hailing companies failed, leaving it with no option than to embrace the technology that has kept Uber and Bolt winning.
In response to the LSTDCOA’s SOS call, the state government had in March, through the Ministry of Transportation, launched the Eko Cab app, in a bid to digitalize local taxi operations in the state and place them in parity with their online-based rivals.
There has been so far, insignificant success from the move, underlining the fact that it requires more than apps to accelerate digital transport systems and emphasizing the need for stakeholders to step in and fill the innovative gap.
Univasa’s Baba Dey Online app may be what the Lagos yellow taxis need to stay in business, but it will take much more than the app’s launch to make it work.