Taxi-hailing startup Little has a lot on its plate at the moment. A couple of days ago, Little announced a future incorporation of Microsoft Cognitive API for online driver verification using face recognition technology on its platform for safety purposes. This launch was preceded by Little Wallet that we covered here, in addition to M-PESA API integration that has done away with lengthy punching in of pay bill numbers when making payments. It should be noted that these additions are motivated by Little’s commitment to security, innovation and productivity to differentiate itself from global competition like that fronted by Uber.
To keep its innovation’s fire burning, Little, which is owned by Nairobi-based Craft Silicon, is said to be hunting for an investor from America’s Silicon Valley to fuel its expansion goals across Africa. As previously mentioned, the cab-hailing firm already has plans to take its business to Lagos, Nigeria by October. Its Nigeria plans are even larger as the organization will start with 5000 drivers, which is 3000 more than Kenya’s. Contrastingly, Uber has about 5000 active drivers (in Kenya) and up to 345,000 active riders. Also, Little operates in Kenya’s three cities, and is the only cab-hailing product in Kisumu. These are impressive numbers for a company that has been operational for 12 months.
Little CEO Mr. Kamal is aware that Uber cannibalizes its offering by numbers and sheer financial muscle. It is for this reason that Little wants to have an edge by outing innovative features and developments like plans to venture into public transport using electric buses (more of this in a second). What’s more, Little wants to be Africa’s go-to cab-hailing app, a feat it hopes to pull by scouting an investor from the southern portion of San Francisco Bay Area aka Silicon Valley to help scale up the company.
According to Reuters, the company plans to start offering rides using motorcycles/boda-bodas in the near future. That’s not all as Little looks wants to venture into public transport especially in Nairobi. To stay true to its innovation mission, the cab-hailing organization is in the process of importing an electric bus to disrupt Nairobi’s crowded shuttle services.
This will be a game changer because an electric bus in Kenya will a first of its kind. The beauty of it is that people will be booking a seat with the Little app, meaning the bus has to come to you or wait for it on a certain route (which is a plus and economic from ordinary shuttle services where you manually head to specific bus stops). Hopefully, this development , whenever it goes live, will call for several changes in the industry. While there are a very few electric and hybrid vehicles locally, Little Bus or whatever they will call it will be a wake up call for the already messy public transport in the city and its surroundings. It is a necessary disruption that will benefit everybody, although it is clear such an adoption will not be unchallenging based on past happenings. In addition, there are many intricacies in local public transport system, which is why adapting to technological changes will not come easy.
Imagine booking a bus ride without leaving your work premises? Futuristic.
On the other hand, Little has so far invested more than KES 600 million in its business.
Little’s hunt for an investor from the Valley can only make so much sense. The company is actively pursuing amazing new technologies like the electric bus, and wants to tap thousands or millions of prospective customers in Africa. It is an interesting prospect to scale up a company, and Little has demonstrated compelling insight to expand its turf. Ideally, online taxi-hailing companies have showcased their disruptiveness, and building on that advantage should be a default.