Uber is trialing a new business feature that may turn things around for its wobbling revenue, especially in low income countries.
TechCrunch reports that it discovered that Uber is testing Pool Chance, a feature that lets riders heading in the same direction share the cost of the journey, in Nairobi Kenya. And that an Uber spokesperson later confirmed it was part of a pilot of the service that it plans to roll out more widely, including to Ghana and Nigeria, pending the outcome of the smaller test.
“We are currently trialing a new Uber ride, Pool Chance, which will cut costs for riders in Nairobi (Kenya) when they share their ride with others heading in the same direction,” Uber’s head of communications for East & West Africa, Lorraine Ondoru, told TechCrunch.
“We use this approach when introducing something new and we want to ensure the marketplace remains healthy and balanced. We will share more details once this has been officially launched,” she added.
The Pool Chance trip option is available on the budget service, Chap Chap in Nairobi; in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos and Ghana’s capital Accra, it will be accessible on the UberX category, the report says.
A thread in an Uber drivers’ forum, shared by TechCrunch, describes the Pool Chance as a feature where you have a chance of getting a discounted ride if the driver picks up other riders; otherwise you pay the regular fees you’d pay for an individual ride. UberPool negotiates a specific carpool rate for the rider regardless of who else gets into the vehicle.
The Pool Chance presents a chance for Uber to win more market shares across Africa. Uber is available in eight markets across Africa including Egypt, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Morocco. The ride-hailing giant said on the app that Pool Chance will bring the cost of rides down by up to 30%, further making its trips more affordable to riders.
“Affordable shared rides can mean more riders using the app, which can lead to more trips, less downtime, and more overall earnings for you,” Uber said about the new service, in a message to its drivers, in the three African countries.
Pool Chance is similar to Uberpool, a low-cost ride-hailing service that was launched in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2014, and has been introduced to other cities around the world since then. But TechCrunch noted that the feature has been suspended in many regions in compliance with Covid-19 social distancing directive. But as vaccine roll out scores more success, and restrictions get eased, Uber is gradually bringing back the service, and introducing it in new markets.
Uber said Uberpool and Pool Chance share a similar concept but are not identical, without offering further detail.
However, Uber is widely introducing Pool Chance in other countries. In April, Uber launched Pool Chance in Auckland, New Zealand after introducing it in Kyiv, Ukraine in October last year. They also switched back on the low-cost rideshare service in Australia’s Sydney and Perth cities earlier in the year, and thereafter launched Pool Chance in Adelaide, according to TechCrunch.
As for Africa, there has been an uptick in products rolled out by Uber, buoyed by dwindling revenue and intense competition from rivals like Estonian-based ride hailing firm, Bolt and InDriver. As part of its African expansion, Uber earlier this month introduced its services to two additional cities in Nigeria – Ibadan and Port Harcourt.
Uber has foreseen a shift toward fare-splitting service in the transport ecosystem and it’s shaping its products around it across countries, especially in Africa. In a recent report quoted by TechCrunch, the California-based company said that “ride-sharing will likely play an increasingly important role within the public transportation mix in the next 3-5 years.”
The company explained that while bus and rail transportation will remain core to public transportation due to their ability to transport large numbers of people, they will be complemented by microtransit, ride-sharing and micro-mobility.
“The addition of new modes with a variable cost structure like ride-sharing and the proliferation of on-demand services will unlock new optimums of efficiency and lower cost structures for public transportation agencies,” said Uber.
This, it said, will go towards ensuring and improving “the equity, accessibility, resilience, and flexibility of their networks.”
However, apart from Bolt and InDriver, the Pool Chance will have to face another rival in Nigeria, Plentywaka, a ride-sharing bus service recently renamed Treepz. The startup is rapidly expanding to other cities across the country. A new player called Transtura just launched to join the fray.