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Kenyan ride-hailing service banks on trust to compete against Uber

Vince Matinde | July 20, 2015
App-based taxi hailing services are not new to Kenyans. But a little-known local app called Maramoja hopes to challenge the established players by tapping social networks and catering to local practices, primarily Kenyans' penchant for using familiar, trusted drivers.

Maramoja has also launched its "boda boda" motorcycle taxi service. Motorcycles are a popular form of transportation in Nairobi and motorcycle taxis are common. This means that Maramoja's trusted taxi service is available at a much lower price tag for users who like to depend on motorcycles for their travel.

Eisen, an American-born entrepreneur, spent a lot of time in Kenya and saw the tremendous growth of technology as way to solve serious problems, including the adoption of mobile money services as a way to serve rural people without bank accounts. In November 2012, he resigned from his job as a consultant with a U.S.-based firm and came to Kenya to start Maramoja, which launched publicly in March 2014, beating the international companies to Kenya.

The big venture capital-backed Uber and Easy Taxi have become formidable forces in the market, however. Uber has the money to offer subsidized rides while Easy Taxi has taken its advertising campaign to overdrive in the Kenyan media.

On its part, Maramoja received funding from a local angel investor last year, but Eisen declined to provide details.

But money is not the only thing needed to succeed, Eisen said. "There is no question that resources can help get your name out, or buy technology to make your service better or more locally relevant; at the end of the day I don't think it's a substitute for a product that fits Nairobi and drives well with the culture we have here."

 

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