Kenya’s Maramoja broadens taxi app concept through social connections

Kenya’s Maramoja broadens taxi app concept through social connections

CC image courtesy of Goya Bauwens, on Flickr.

Kenyan relationship-based transport app Maramoja Transport is seeking to connect customers with safe, reliable transport services through mobile, broadening the Uber-style model to other forms of transport.

Though functioning in the same way as market leaders Uber and EasyTaxi, the Maramoja app also offers access to forms of transport other than cars – motorcycle taxis, 4x4s and luxury vehicles, for example – while allowing users to find a reliable driver based on personal preferences and social media connections.

Co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Jason Eisen told HumanIPO he and co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) Stephen Kimani came up with the concept after witnessing problems of over-reliance on a limited number of drivers by customers in Kenya.

“Most taxi users develop fiercely loyal relationships with drivers on whom they always rely. Over-reliance on few providers though often leaves customers stranded and conversely leaves drivers extremely vulnerable to the behaviour or departure of a single client who could account for up to a third or half his income,” Eisen said.

“This trust and relationship-based taxi culture calls for a model that leverages users’ networks to connect them with trusted transport solutions across a range of vehicle types and price points.”

Maramoja, which is awaiting a patent and charges commissions on each ride it connects, helps users identify preferred providers using social media connections.

“It’s a layered approach. We do have customer feedback ratings but those serve mostly as a backup for when we can’t find you a provider that is already linked to you,” Eisen said.

“The first preference is a driver that you have directly favourited within our system or that you referred to us, in which case we automatically designate him as a favourite on your account. After your favourites are the favourites of your social media connections. After them come providers whom have been linked in our system to your favourites – essentially your favourite drivers’ colleagues.”

Once a driver has been chosen and the job accepted, Maramoja confirms the ride and sends images of the driver, driver credentials and vehicle. It also has value added plug-ins from third party providers, such as panic monitoring and response services, training, mobile-based small business software, and asset financing.

“We also deliver a transparent cash management solution that taxi firms have desperately needed while providing them with a free and easy means to accept mobile money, credit card, and digital corporate invoicing,” Eisen said. “As the interface between user and provider, we aim to build an ecosystem around transport that creates value for both sides.”

Eisen said the importance of safety was one of the most important things the team had taken away from their market research.

“We knew we wanted to build something that put trust at the centre and that would benefit our driver network as well as our users,” he said.

“As a baseline, we differentiate ourselves from our competition by only accepting credentialed drivers. We go well beyond this with our relationship-based matching of clients to drivers and integration with private security emergency response capabilities. Our commitment to driver empowerment through access to technology, training, and asset financing further distinguishes us from others in this space.”

Maramoja is a finalist for the fourth edition of mobile startups event PIVOT East, which takes place in Nairobi later this month.

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