What else is Uber bringing to SA and how are South Africans using Uber?
“I will Uber there” is becoming common phrase in South Africa as it is around the world where Uber operates. Uber, is the software company that has knocked the transport industry on its head as it provides a safe, convenient and cashless method for anyone to have their own chauffeur at a touch of a button. It also revolutionised the way drivers are able to maximise their earning potential by being exposed to thousands of potential Uber riders.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Alon Lits, Uber’s General Manager for Sub Saharan Africa to hear about how the company has done in South Africa and what the future plans are.
Small to 300 Cities
When Uber started in San Francisco, the founders were ecstatic when they saw that there are a handful of Uber trips happening around the city. Little did they know that within a couple of years, Uber would be available in over 300 cities around the world. In New York, there are so many Uber drivers that you are never more than a couple of minutes away from a ride. One would think that this would mean more competition and less rides, however, the opposite is true. As people realise that the Uber is around every corner, people are using the service more. On demand transport within an app!
Uber Scale for Uber Jobs
Uber has created over 2000 jobs in South Africa between 2014 and 2015 and is on a path to create 15000 jobs by 2017. These are real numbers and real incomes showing how Uber is delivering on what others (*cough Government *) are just talking about. In fact, one of the factors holding Uber back from being able to create more jobs is the fact that South African transport laws are interpreted differently in each province. In the Cape, there was/ is a hold on issuing specific licence which was due to be removed in October but is still in place. In Durban, there is a limit on number of licences issued. These regulations are hampering the growth potential of Uber and its driver partners and Uber is working closely with the powers-that-be to assist and work within the regulations.
Uber drivers are not only empowered to work when they choose to work, but are able to create opportunities for others. We heard from Kevin Dube who used to be employed as a taxi driver but once he tried Uber he was hooked and quit his job to become an Uber driver full time in 2014. Since then he has purchased three more vehicles and now employs three other drivers. Kevin says that he loves the fact that Uber takes care of all the technology allowing him and his drivers to focus on customer service.
How are South Africans using Uber ?
Whilst South Africa does have a public transport system (buses, trains, taxis), South Africans prefer to use their own vehicles. The Uber effect has begun to transform people’s perception as more of us are starting to use Uber on a regular basis instead of just on the odd Saturday evening after a night out on the town. In fact according to Uber’s calculations, if you travel 15km per day, it would cost R4500 if you used Ube daily. With this number in mind, it would be cheaper to use Uber verses owing a car when you take car repayments, insurance, petrol, parking and not to mention the frustration of being not productive in traffic.
SA stat say that there are 3.7 million cars in Johannesburg and 76% of these drivers are stuck in approximately 1 hour traffic jam on a daily basis. This number is compounded if load shedding hits or if you work in one of the major hotspots that is rush-hour every hour. Using the 20% off rides in the month of June, I have been travelling with Uber over the past couple of days. Whilst being driven, I was able to use my laptop and use that time as productive time without worrying about the road, the taxis overtaking on the emergency lane or the truck doing an illegal U-turn.
Looks like I am not the only one as on in 2014 South Africans enjoyed 1 million Uber trips whereas in only 6 month in 2015, South African have already undertaken 2 million trips. What is also evident is that Uber is being used as a link with other transport options such the Gautrain in order to complete the journey. There is also great evidence showing Uber rides starting and ending in Soweto as more people have access to tech, data and the reliability of a safe ride.
The Uber Future
I get to travel for TheTechieGuy work which involves catching a cab from the airport to the hotel. I often look out the window and see other people travelling to/ from the same airport to the same area of town. We are both paying the full rate of the taxi and going to similar locations. Imagine if you could summon an Uber and were offered to have your fare split with other people who were going to the same location?
This is what UberPool is and it is coming to South Africa once some “experiments” are concluded to prove and test its viability. With UberPool if there are multiple requests from the same area with a similar destinations you could pool those into one Uber car and share the fare between the passengers. Common places such as airports, convention centres, hotels would make ideal pool-commutes and you could meet interesting people along the way too.
UberEats is another possible service that Uber will bring to South Africa where you will be able to have food delivered to you within 5 minutes by an Uber driver.
Uber is clearly not resting on it achievements and is contently improving its core service, its driver relationship and its customer service. These are key to the success of the system along with safety. This is why customers can rate their drivers after each trip and drivers can rate their customers too. This allows Uber to protect both customers and drivers and keep the system safe as possible from both unworthy drivers and belligerent customers who mistreat their drivers. This is why the ability to send a friend your Estimated Time of Arrival is built into the app too in case you travel alone and want someone to know where you are. Being cashless system, means that drivers don’t have to worry about being robbed at the end of the night. It also means that customers don’t have to have the awkward price-negotiation chat when entering the vehicle and as the routes are monitored and sent as part of the receipt, customers can query the route with Uber if they feel they were taken on a longer route than they should have.
There is the discussion about how Uber logs and monitors all the data of the trips and some say its an invasion of privacy. I know that if my child was using a transport system to get home, I would much rather use a monitored service like Uber where I can watch the car drive her home verses her getting into a random car that happens to have “taxi” sticker on the door.
I look forward to following the Uber journey and experiments to see new services brought to South Africa as they prove successful around the world.