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EkoCab: The Good Time for Yellow Taxis Drivers

The good times may be here again for yellow taxis and cabs which have been close to extinction as a result of stiff competition from tech-driven competitors with the deployment of Ekocabs,

Are you one of those who feel competition may kill or force the ubiquitous yellow taxis in Lagos out of business? Perish the thought. The yellow taxis are back and better as they have gone digital. Soon, you may just be the next passenger.

From today, a new experience begins with the yellow cabs with the deployment of the Ekocab Apps.

Like their competitors, such as Uber, Taxify and InDrive, the Ekocab will from today roll out its digital platform via the Ekocab app downloaded from google playstore, or an apple store.

All a passenger needed to do after downloading the app is to follow 10-short steps – turn on his location, so that he could be located on the Google GPS, select his destination, confirm his/her pick up location, and select service type (which may be either the yellow taxis or the unpainted private cabs that enlisted on the app).

The app finds you a driver close to your location, the one who arrives to service your request, you enter and enjoy your ride. When the driver arrives at your destination, you pay either cash or online via the app and finally, you end the service, terminate and rate the driver.

The old culture
The Lagos State taxi drivers and cab operators, otherwise known as the Yellow Taxi, has come of age since the introduction of Western Nigeria Taxi and Federal Taxi, which informed the adoption of the New York Taxis’ Yellow colour by former Governor Lateef Jakande who introduced the uniform taxis for commercial vehicles in 1980.

Former Governor Babatunde Fashola later modernised taxi operations by encouraging air-conditioned vehicles in 2009 and privatised taxi operation into various franchises, which operated distinct colours with the official stripes of the Lagos State Government of red, blue, green, and yellow.

The advent of technology soon made that obsolete as taxi business moved from the traditional flagging down of taxis on the road to electronic ride hailing services, in which taxi drivers could be called from the comfort of your homes for a ride to any part of the state.

Flagging off the service in Ikeja, the state capital, last week, the Commissioner for Transportation Dr Frederic Oladeinde commended the initiative, pledging the government’s support for any initiative aimed at providing succour against traffic congestion in Lagos.

Oladeinde, who was represented by Sewedo Oluseyi Whenu, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, described the event as historic and congratulated the taxi operators for their doggedness, which according to him, will “undoubtedly transform their professional career”.

Addressing a gathering of drivers who enlisted on the app and have been trained to optimise its operations, Oladeinde noted that technology has reduced the world to a global village and there is the need to move all sectors, including transportation, to meet global best practices.

Oladeinde said the state with a 22 million population cannot afford to live in the past, but embrace technology that will make the state be at par with societies deploying digital mobility.

Incoming President, Taxi Drivers and Cab Operators, Mr Richard Taiwo Omolekan, said the innovation was a result of its members’quest to find an answer to the challenges posed by its competitors, who despite their shallow knowledge of the topography of the state, have pushed the real professional drivers out of business.

He said it was sad that for several years, his members, who were professional drivers, had been threatened by app-backed hailing operators who were at best part-time operators.

Omolekan, the erstwhile Secretary of the association, said his members would deploy air-conditioned taxis on the app. According to him, about 150 taxi drivers have been trained by its technical partners on how to profitably use the app.

Omolekan said some of its members, who were not regular operators (popularly called Kabukabu), were also accommodated in the new initiative as passengers have the option to pick either the yellow taxis or the unpainted ones.

New revolution
The state’s Director Vehicle inspection Service, Akin George Fashola, lauded the initiative, saying it would revolutionise taxi culture.

He however advised them to take proper care of their vehicles, noting that the traffic laws are clear and government will sanction any defaulter.

The Sector Commander of the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC), Hyginus Omeje, urged the drivers to ptotect their apps, comply with traffic laws and up their games as the era of aimless roaming of the street for passengers was over.

Omeje, who was represented by R. O. Olaosebikan, said the app will bring the drivers to a new level of profitability.

The General Manager, Lagos State Drivers Institute, Mrs Afusat Tiamiyu, said as much as there would be a surge in the demand for taxi and cab operators, to ensure the safety of their passengers, operators should embrace the training and retraining offered by the institute.

Tiamiyu, who was represented by Mrs Adebisi Alabi, said soon, it would be mandatory for professional drivers to carry LASDRI certification, among other documents.

One of the trained drivers, Mr Oladele Ojo, said he and his colleagues looked forward to the deployment of the app.

He praised the Omolekan-led leadership of the union for its novelty, adding that history will never forget Omolekan for the introduction of the hailing app on taxi operations.

The young app founder
Ekocab developer, Segun Cole, 27- year-old Business Administration graduate of the Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State said Ekocab will revolutionise taxi operations in Lagos.

According to him, Ekocab is a solution to the challenges facing taxi and cab operators whose market share had been eroded by app-based operators.

“We looked at the industry and we asked ourselves, how can we help these people who are being unfairly chased out of their profession by competitors, to regain their market and put food on their table and we came up with this solution which for simplicity of its objective we decided to call Ekocab.

Cole said after he designed the app, he approached the Lagos State government, which linked his team with the taxi drivers and the rest was history.

On the features of the app, Cole said it has similar features with other apps and because he intends to make these people earn more and to make the app more attractive, he would be taking only 15 percent commission, while the drivers go home with 85 percent.

Another unique feature, according to him, is that while other apps make operations offline illegal, under Ekocab, operators can work offline and online and receive either cash or online payments as well.

Cole said the tech support firm looks forward to rolling out soon other initiatives which will, ultimately, help in reducing its reliance on commission charged per trip from drivers.

“One of the initiative we intend to come up with soonest is the opportunity to put vehicles for rent from among the drivers that may enlist on our pool. This will be advantageous to the aging taxi drivers who may wish to retire from active driving but wish to earn residual income from his vehicle which we would help him manage on agreed commission,” he said.

Besides these, he said, the Ekocab has a unique opportunity to assist the government develop a data base which could be mined either by the government, the academia or research and marketing institutes that might require all sorts of data on the state’s transportation systems and this would ultimately become another goldmine for the company.

Cole said Ekocab has shown capacity to turn the stakes against other operators.

He said the 150 drivers trained on the use of the app would be deployed to areas, such as Ikeja, Surulere, Victoria Island, Broad Street, Abule Egba, Ikorodu, from today, while attempts would be made to train another set of 600 drivers between the second and third quarters of the year, who would be deployed to further enhance the capacity and coverage of the drivers.

Cole lauded the government for believing in the young team, adding that he and his team would continue to work at developing tech-based solutions to any area they feel the state is challenged.

He said he had no doubt that Ekocab will be a success, because there is a ready market for taxi drivers whose capacity and reliability over the years for safe, reliable and affordable service have not been in doubt.

“Our rates would be by far cheaper than that of our competitors because we believe that we are the operators to beat. We know the terrain and we have the massive network as all taxi drivers are willing to come on the platform.

He said the only thing a driver needed to possess is his taxi. ‘’We encourage only those with fairly new, air-conditioned taxis or cars to enlist on our platform. If they have a car and a smart or android phone they are good to go and start making money,” he added.

Credit: ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE

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