Love them or loathe them – and most people have mixed feelings – but for many Rwandans, moto-taxis are the most convenient form of public transport. While they have a poor reputation with regards to traffic safety and one has to haggle for the fare, they are often the only way to get you exactly to your chosen destination, as buses mostly ply the main roads.
Yego Innovision’s Yegomoto project aims to make Rwanda’s motorcycles more efficient while bringing transparency and fairness to the fares, for both the driver and passenger. Yegomoto equips the bikes with a Yegomoto meter, which, through GPS tracking, calculates the fare based on distance travelled and time taken while helping drivers navigate.
“We want to offer a frictionless moto experience,” explains Yego’s CEO Karanvir Singh. “Each Yegomoto has an internetconnected meter, which monitors the distance travelled and displays the fare in real-time. At the end of the ride, the meter calculates the fare, which saves you from having to negotiate before the ride.”
Prior to launching Yegomoto, the team at Yego spent 18 months conducting in-depth surveys to understand the market. They spoke with over a 1000 passengers and drivers, and took 1500 rides around the city. They negotiated with the driver for each trip and carried the meter at the same time, which helped them collect data about the existing fares and distances. This valuable data has been shared with the authorities to help them arrive at the official fare for taxi-motos.
In just 3 months, Yegomoto drivers have covered 1,793,693 kilometres and completed 368,102 metered trips. By early December, some 700 drivers had been verified and trained by Yego on how to use the meter, road safety, soft skills and etiquette, amongst other things. Yegomoto expects to have outfitted all 15,000 taxi-motos in Kigali by May 2018, and will then move to cover the rest of Rwanda.
The company provides drivers not just with meters, but also with new helmets and a charger for the meter that can also charge the passenger’s phone. To ensure the smooth functioning of the system, the company maintains the meters, provides SIM cards for the meters and pays for the data bundles.
The market research also showed that 400 new taxi-motos are being added every month, and their number has quadrupled in the last 3 years. This unrelenting growth congests the roads, increases pollution and the possibility of road accidents, and in the end makes the business unsustainable.
While it may sound contrary to Yego’s business model, Singh says that they are keen to encourage the motorcycle drivers to move on and open small businesses. Yegomoto encourages the drivers to adopt a habit of saving, and can provide them with a statement of their monthly earnings to help them get loans from banks.
Yego will also soon launch corporate accounts, where institutions and companies will be provided with NFC tags that will be linked to their account. The company in turn can provide cards with different daily or weekly limits to their employees for taxi-moto transport.
The company will be able to manage their moto-related expenses and view statistics and itemized billing for every ride. This will bring transparency, visibility and easier accountability into an activity which is presently cash-based and difficult to manage, thereby helping companies streamline taxi-moto related expenses.
Yego Innovision is investing over $14 million in Yegomoto, but this is only the first step.
“It’s a precursor to something much larger,” Singh says. “The Yegomoto platform will become the logistics backbone and basis for e- and m-commerce in Rwanda. The idea is to transform Yegomoto into a comprehensive platform through which people can order goods and services. This could include groceries, hiring a plumber to repair a leak, or having a suit taken to the dry-cleaner and brought back in time for an important meeting.”
He adds that this will also give a boost to independent service providers – especially technicians like plumbers, electricians, cleaners, hairdressers etc. – whose customer base is normally limited to the area where they work. That is why the platform will also feature a rating system for the service providers, as well as their specialty.
This will also increase business for taximotos, as the system will also allow you to request for a motorcycle at a specific location and time, and they will be involved in transporting the service providers.
Since less than 30% of the phones in Rwanda are smartphones, Yego is investing in a 24/7 call centre through which all the services can be accessed by feature phone users as well by dialling the tollfree number 9191. It is expected that the system will be operational by February 2018, although it will take some time for the database of product and service providers to grow.
Singh compares that Yego is akin to a living organism, in that it is learning, adapting and evolving in response to its environment. He explains that not all has been smooth sailing – some meters have been stolen, lost or damaged, which has forced the company to institute a refundable security deposit of Rwf 50,000 (payable in instalments) which is approximately 10% of the investment in each driver.
Some passengers complain that Yegomotos are expensive – they claim they pay much more by meter than when negotiating – but Singh replies that it is important to understand that the taxi- moto business is extremely competitive, which means drivers often accept just half of what they would normally charge, because they are desperate to make any money.
In addition, drivers tend to think in absolute figures. For instance, they might agree to travel distance of 16 kilometres for Rwf 1,000, when in reality this only covers a distance of 8 kilometres. All this, in the end, is unfair for the drivers, who already have a tough job of 12 to 14 hours per day, with numerous occupational hazards.
The meter, on the other hand, calculates a fee based on the distance travelled – and since RURA will be setting the tariff per kilometre, it will be fair for both the passenger and the driver.
Looking at future, Yego’s overall aim is to provide infrastructure that will help entrepreneurs and small businesses, and generate more employment opportunities for youth.
But for now, it has its eyes firmly set on revolutionising the way taximotos operate.
Read this article and more in issue n° 81 of Hope Magazine.