In the past six years, Nigeria's taxi industry has experienced a series of upheavals and innovations that, with companies such as EasyTaxi, Metro Taxi and Red Cab Online setting up shop. Some of these operators withdrew quietly, while others limped on before publicly shutting down.
For some, these cabs were too expensive and for others, the drivers weren’t much different from regular cabs - the volume of the radio was still too loud, the drivers were impolite, and they didn't let you listen to what you wanted, forgetting that you were paying for the ride, and deserved some courtesy.
The red 1s re from hell!!! "@_ibukunO: Cabs r so bloody expensive in lagos!"— Cruise (@Lex__ander) November 15, 2011
Fellow Nigerians here's a tip for red cabs dnt let them knw u can speak yoruba so u dnt listen to radio lagos— Mariam (@mt_bello) July 12, 2010
But things changed in 2014 when Uber launched in Lagos, with Nigerian hip-hop artiste, Ice Prince as its first passenger. Those who had never heard of Uber were left wondering why the taxi service was so special. Why was it was such a big deal in the news? I remember this because I was one of those people.
As at July 23, 2014 when Uber launched in Nigeria, the focus was on UberBlack, a luxury car service that was more expensive than UberX and UberXL.
The minimum fare was N1,000 (US$6 at the time), and average Nigerians found it too expensive.
At this point, Uber was perceived as elitist, and those who used it service weren’t comfortable paying in dollars for rides within Nigeria.
@Uber_Lagos why are you people charging in dollars for Naira Based Trips??? You lot are part of the problem.— Cinderella Man (@Osi_Suave) December 21, 2015
The price @Uber_Lagos charges me in naira and the money been taking out my naira account is about 1k more,i think its time to stop— fueksy megs (@fueksy) December 21, 2015
However, 16 months in, Uber has provided 30% more rides in Nigeria than it did in London in its first 16 months, according to Uber Nigeria General Manager Ebi Atawodi.
Uber has made inroads in Lagos and Abuja, with more Nigerians warming up to the service. This can be attributed to the fact that the service bypasses typical Nigerian inefficiencies - you don't have to wait in line, and the driver comes to you rather than you having to find them. The ratings system has somehow managed to squeeze out the politeness in Lagos drivers who have to stay on their best behaviour in order to earn 5 stars.
For the more than 1000, drivers on the service, Uber provides much needed additional revenue as well.
The brand has generated buzz and visibility over its 2-year existence through the use of promotions, partnerships and social influencers. They've also made a couple of slick videos like this:
Looks like the competition still has a long way to go.
Uber showed Nigerians what real taxi service should look like - clean, fast and polite. If Uber keeps its fares and commission fair, there's a likelihood that it may dominate the N28 billion taxi market in Lagos.
It should be interesting to see what the next two years have in store for Uber in Nigeria.