lyft logo

In simple terms, Lyft is Uber dressed in pink (Pink being the official color of Lyft) They are more like the same but in most cases different especially with their approach in areas of operation. Whereas Uber is often the bully and deep pocketed, Lyft would be its younger humble brother only that they’re born of different parents with the young capitalizing on the misdemeanors of the older brother , and as such it has gained ground stateside as Uber is embroiled in PR nightmares and court battles. Anyways to summarize it all, Lyft is a ride hailing service, an alternative to Uber.

Uber has had a strong presence here and it recently celebrated its first anniversary for achieving this milestone. However, it all hasn’t be rosy for Uber but it has maintained a dominant position in ride hailing services in Uganda even after rivals like Taxify came knocking. Before I continue, full disclosure– Uber is a sponsor on this blog.

Much more like Uber before it officiated its services to the flamboyant Kampala residents, Lyft has made its app available to download in both the local Playstore and App Stores. Previously, it was regionally restricted with an unwanting disclaimer of it not being available in our dear country Uganda.

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Lyft is also accepting rider signups and there is an enticing option of making money by signing up as a driver. Well, what more can explain their imminent launch here?

It goes beyond the app being available to download by prospective riders or drivers, to having actual drivers on ground on top of logistical support and hey, an operating license. Also making some noise about it here and there since we Ugandan urban dwellers love new and flashy things with a cosmetic feeling to their name.

Uber was welcomed with open arms so was Taxify though the latter has struggled to attract driver partners making Uber the destination for riders hoping to hail a taxi. If Lyft were to launch, is the market ready for them?

Hmm, we are undecided for now but all signs point to a promising upstart industry. Uber has so far registered over 48,000 riders in a city of over 2 Million people of which only 38,000 open the app every month. So there is room to grow though they are some struggles too, here and there like Uber fighting hard to please its drivers while Taxify too, struggles to attract drivers to chauffeur enthusiastic riders.

When Taxify launched, it climbed app charts so quick emphasizing the thirst for a competitor to Uber and that actually Ugandans where ready to embrace a new service. This means Lyft could still find a warm reception amongst enthusiastic riders if it were to launch after-all choice isn’t a bad thing.

Also, Uber struggles with its driver partners could play to their favor if they could take less of their earnings, offer them a big cut and just maybe embrace cash given this is a cash leaning city. There was no cash option on signing up with lift, its all cards and Paypal.

On the contrary, the ride hailing segment of the market is still small if compared to the traditional taxi services. The only difference it brings to table is the luxury of comfort, security, convenience among others, all of which don’t come cheap to the average Ugandan. So here the local taxis take the prize home.

Other Problems?

Yes, these are plenty in size depending on whom you listen to but even some people involved in the industry haven’t yet grasped the dynamics of ride hailing and how it operates. The one problem always echoed is Payments. Incumbents use Cards and Cash but it turns out the  market appreciates cash than anything else yet this entirely relies on honesty from drivers, who have to deposit the accumulated funds to their respective accounts and the hailing service takes its cut.

Cards on the other hand are seamless as the transfer of money isalmost virtual and provides better accountability to both parties thus prominating a schooling campaign to overcome this.

Then driver cuts

Uber rider KampalaUber takes 25% of drivers earnings while Taxify takes undercuts Uber by charging 15% of their earnings. This is one grievance many drivers have charged towards Uber emanating from Uber cutting their earnings to attract riders. They seem not to have welcomed it though and they instead welcomed Taxify that took a lesser cut but only acted as a ransom towards Uber by the driver partners. If you don’t meet our demands, we can as well walkover to team yellow. Team yellow (Read Taxify) however seems to lack the marketing might of team black

Moving on, there is still competition from local taxi cabs some of which have have now embraced marketing techniques like branding their fleet for not just a good visual identity but also a distinct feel to their services. These include Quick Taxi and Friendship taxi among others but surprisingly you find some  of them driving for Uber.

Regulatory hurdles? Nope though any aspiring service has to get approval from the Transport Licensing  Board, URA, KCCA among others. Our government is yet to come up with the required regulations for such services.

But is Lyft launching for real?

There is no official communication from Lyft and also, they have never ventured outside North America. For a company its caliber and the type of services they offer, South Africa would normally be their fast destination then Cairo, a few tests in Nairobi and then an eventual roll-out.

As for why the app is available for download? For business should be the answer or test phases for the yet to commence service. You would also say to serve tourists after all it is always summer this side of the world but they again they would need drivers to chauffeur them around.

We remain undecided on this one but you can also offer your thoughts.