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Tuktuk Operators In Thika May Soon Become “Uberised.”

The world today is fast getting used to the idea of rapidly developing technologies, changing what we can do and how we do things. In a world where technology is moving so fast, it is only those businesses that are willing and able to take advantage of the latest technological innovations that will reap the benefits of revenue generation and productivity enhancement.

Who doesn’t remember last month’s breaking news that Barclays Bank’s 100 years’ establishment in Africa is now on the verge of calling it quits due to its failure to ‘move with the times?

When Barclays Africa Group was formed in 2013 we created one of the biggest banking groups on the continent. 10 years ago Barclays Kenya was 4 times bigger than Equity Bank.

Unfortunately, they were for a very long time rigid to change, only engaging high net worth customers and operating with some crude conditions like a minimum balance of about Sh. 60,000 or the account gets closed. The bank was very slow in taking up the fresh opportunities that presented themselves in the past decade. It was bogged down by the internal bureaucracy of tying up all its assets in a merger with South Africa's ABSA bank in order to create Barclays Africa.

Kenya then came up with local solutions to their own banking challenges as Barclays was still ham-strung in a situation where it should have had first mover advantage.

The emergence of Equity Bank and other micro-finance institutions that were people friendly started spelling doom to these multinational banks in Kenya. When the ever famous M-PESA came into existence, the dice was cast.

Today, Equity Bank is twice as big as Barclays Kenya. Currently, the 4 biggest banks in Kenya are all local. Financial inclusion is what drove growth at Equity and the rest of these local banks. They were quick to embrace technology for our local environment like mobile banking etc.

Now, with the entry of the RE60 Bajaj Qute quadri-cycle into the Thika market, I foresee the same scenario befalling the local TukTuk operators.

Bajaj Qute has been designed keeping in mind only intra-city travel (town service). Its maneuverability is a definite advantage in the crowded urban streets, meaning that its primary target customer are the 3-wheeler Tuktuk commuters.

The Bajaj Qute, whose overall length is 2752mm and width is 1312mm, has a claimed fuel efficiency of 36 km/l. It is powered by a 217cc engine producing 13.5 Ps power at 5500 rpm & 19.6 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. This gives it a top speed of about 70-100 km/h.

The front of the vehicle houses the luggage area. It is deep enough to carry two mid-size bags easily. It is well equipped to carry 4 passenger with luggage, up a 27% gradient. The legroom for the rear passenger is decent and quite spacious. It also has some added safety features like seat belts even for the back seat passengers, which is surely an upgrade from the Tuktuks that ply on Kenyan roads.

The car comes with 5-speed manual transmission and also has a radio player with USB port.

In Kenya, the vehicle goes for about Sh. 530,000, just about a hundred thousand above that of a Tuktuk.

Very soon, this quadri-cycle will surely be a revolution in intra-city commuting, especially as a taxi.  

Undoubtedly, the RE60 could indeed be a safer, more comfortable alternative to the conventional Tuktuk.

Just as Uber has disrupted the local taxi industry by using mobile apps backed with data analytics to provide cheaper taxi services to consumers, local Tuktuk operators too should be wary of the new entrant’s ability to “uberise” them from their comfort zone.

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