Little: Digitizing The Mobility Space In African Cities

Alex Mwaura, General Manager-Little

Commuting through most African cities has been described as ‘having a ride through hell’ by many international travel writers. Dogged by heavy traffic gridlocks, unpredictable fare tariffs and happy-go-lucky matatu drivers- famous for defying rules- African cities have a long way to catch up with their western counterparts. Driven with a deep interest to digitize the transport sector in Nairobi and major African cities, Little was established in 2016 to provide transport solutions.

Three years on, the startup is already on course-revolutionizing the Kenyan transport industry. “With a tap of a button, a rider can hail a ride closest to him/her within a radius of 3 kilometers using our app. The same applies when booking a seat on a our shuttles or securing a parcel delivery on Little. Moreover, riders can get price estimates before booking a ride,” says Alex Mwaura, the General manager of Little in an interview with StartUp Magazine.

According to the General Manager, the company also continuously monitors closely the integrity and performance of their drivers. “We train our drivers on matters of quality and delivery of services. We monitor the riders’ ratings of our drivers on our platform. If a driver is rated below 4.3 out of 5 stars, he/she is recalled and retrained. If the driver persists in performing 3 times below Little market standards even after being retrained, he/she would no longer be able to operate on our platform.”

But what exactly is the competitive edge of Little cab?

“We have the lowest expected time of arrival of approximately 3 minutes,” says Mr. Mwaura. E.T.A is the timeframe between hailing a ride and its arrival to pick the rider. This has been made possible, adds the GM, by constantly monitoring and managing the number of their drivers and ensuring they are sufficiently motivated and strategically positioned to go online and accept rides.

Maintaining a first class riders’ experience has also made Little to shine among its competitors. “We are keen on how our drivers communicate with our clients on phone, at the pick-up points and during the ride. This has also been supported by our robust customer care department which handles customer queries on chat, in app, email and call centre. They can also physically visit our offices to seek assistance.”

Front from right Brian Kokonya – Head of Operations and Strategy, Nyawira Maina – Regional Sales Manager, Esther Kairu – Customer Service Team Lead, Alex Mwaura – General Manager, Richard Meek – Chief Financial Officer, Ashish Kukreti (General Manager – operations).

Continuing its innovation and relevance, Little is the only mobility service provider in Africa that has institutionalized gender policies to attract more female drivers in the male dominated transport industry. “We have a product known as Ladybug. This is an exclusive category for professional lady drivers. Ladybug services are available to all male and female customers everyday up to 7pm. Thereafter, only female riders can access the ladybug category,’’ he avers.

Another brainchild of Little that is reshaping the mobility sector in Kenya is the introduction of the ‘Drive Me’ feature. The product’s main target market are Kenyans who drive themselves to clubs or need to be chauffeured for whatever reason. “Drive Me enables a client to hail a driver from his point of need to drive him/her home or to an alternative destination of choice. This will go a long way in reducing accidents that are caused by drunk driving, among other obvious benefits.”

Little drivers, unlike their counterparts in other platforms, enjoy loan and credit services within the application. The GM reveals that the app has loans and savings facilities that enables drivers to save a certain percentage per trip. Further, drivers on Little are able to also make an early withdrawal instead of waiting until the end of the week where they have a pressing need or daily operational concern. Apart from that, the company has partnered with other institutions to finance drivers in purchasing vehicles and phones among other, to better aid the driver’s output

Despite Little’s revolutionary services in the transport industry, Mr. Mwaura, is critical of the government’s slowness to involve key stakeholders in the transport sector when formulating policies of governance on the industry, and this evidenced to within the digital ride hailing space.

Nevertheless, this has not blurred the company’s future prospects. The executive says that Little continues innovating and employing Artificial Intelligence to revolutionize the industry andto move people more efficiently. “Machine learning and AI will lead to a shift from linear-driven routes to more dynamic demand-driven routes. This will eventually decongest our cities, drive down carbon footprint, recover lost man hours spent on roads, make it even more affordable to move in shuttles and matatus among numerous other benefits,’’ he says.

Little Cab also plans to venture into green vehicles to reduce carbon emissions in African cities. “We are working in partnership with firms that have had a significant impact in this field. Plans are already set in place to introduce L.P.G -propelled vehicles, electric as well as hybrid vehicles in the market.”

Currently providing transport solutions in 4 African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia) little cab is set to expand to 12 countries in the continent in the coming months.

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