Taxi business and transportation for that matter is not just about getting people from here to there. Passengers aren’t just guests. They are royalty.― Femi Oni
Technology aside, what’s up? Really?
This is 2014 and so I’d be an idiot to pretend that technology is not important. On the contrary, I swear by it. By technology, I refer to the application of knowledge to create better things. This definition sure covers the entire nine yards of software, hardware and interfaces. This is not just about some Jackie Chan (a term for dexterity) App doing miracle. Although, Apps have made life much more easy for us and by so doing impacted on productivity, my bone of contention in this piece is to attack the institutional thinking around technology and specifically deride any “inordinate technology agenda” as it relates to the modern Nigerian taxi business. I hope at the end, I’m able to contribute my quota towards this ongoing narrative. My intention is not to cast aspersions on the brilliance of the practitioners but to challenge the fundamentals of this evolving sector.
Productivity versus novelty.
In the final analysis, one thing is clear and that is the fact that the objective of technology isn’t the feel good novel factor that comes with new things but the doing more with less and getting more from less. Productivity is the holy grail of technology. The global landscape today is awash with yuppie fads and many executives are caught up in the euphoria of new things. There are Apps for almost everything today and that is truly commendable. The digital landscape is maturing fast, so also, the plethora of tools. Phones are getter smarter. Codes are getting shorter. What is more true also is the commoditization that is omnipresent today. Building a decent enough App doesn’t require rocket science. Truth be told, some Apps are more intelligently designed better than others. Just a few days ago, I downloaded the mobile App of one of the banks in Nigeria and I was truly impressed. This particular bank isn’t my first choice but they seem to have delighted me with their clean interface and simple protocols. As a pseudo designer, I could only imagine the type of algorithms that lay underneath. They have my attention. The point however is that, having an app today is hardly ever a differentiator.
Differentiation it is.
The inspiration for this piece didn’t come from a place of anguish. It wasn’t as a result of a bad taste in my mouth. From afar, I am enthused by the burgeoning taxi business in Nigeria. The space is growing by the day. This much is obvious. The other day I even felt rubbished on behalf of a colleague of mine whose model of car (similar) was adorned in the colors of one of the operators. This was a state of the earth automobile four years ago. This is a good thing for the larger market/society I guess at least. These operators have elevated our taste palate and they continue to do so. Two things have stood out so far in this piece with respect to how technology has been applied in the Nigerian taxi space. First is that there are Apps. Second is that there are better cars. Neither of which are differentiators. Lest I forget, there has been very brilliant promos (free rides, freebies e.t.c) too. At this early stage of the market, we now have new entrants too. Just a few weeks ago, an operator with a global market presence entered into the Nigerian market. These pocket of events bring up the ultimate question of what must a taxi operator do to stand out?
It is too early to declare victories and losses but, the shear scale of the new entrants makes it a deluge of a challenge for the old timers to survive. This is besides the fact that the nascent players leverage technology to connect to users. It must be asserted here that the real product isn’t the mobile/web Apps as much as the cars are and it doesn’t just end here. The real deal here is the user experience which itself is a journey. If we were to map the customer journey from the point of booking a cab, to the arrival of the taxi, boarding, the journey and then arrival at destination, each of these touch points are opportunity moments. The modern taxi business should ordinarily tap into the nuances. To do this, it must first unearth the nuances. This can be done by seeing things from the perspective of the users who should be treated more than just mere passengers. Think Virgin. Think South West. Its about service and soul. In the nearest future, there will be a sorting into the class of profitable and less profitable which will be determined by how much efficiency the operators are able to build into their architecture. A smart entity will set out to be lean and agile. The business model must explore every window of opportunity to enrich the users experience while keeping costs at bay.
Its my space.
Avis; the contending car rental company recently changed its tag line of 50 years. Its earlier tag line “We Try Harder” helped catapult the company into the game in a market that was dominated by Hertz. Today, Avis is hardly No 2 as it claimed but its proposition stacks up well. Its new mantra is “Its your space“. Asked why Avis is moving away from its longtime positioning, Ms. Haas (Avis, CMO) told Ad Age : “Consumer-centric brands must always evolve in order to keep pace with ever-changing customer needs and preferences. The new tag-line, she said, is “reflective of [Avis’] ongoing mission to be a customer-led, service-driven company, and presents the brand in terms of the customer experience and the advantages inherent in renting from Avis.” The car rental business is not exactly the same as the TaxiCab business although, one could almost argue that the lines are blur, the modern taxi operators in Nigeria will do well to tap into the functional, cultural, sensory and emotional context of this environment. The brand(s) that embrace this wisdom and do more to push the envelope will not only win in the market place, such brand(s) will occupy a cherished place in our hearts. I hope they deal us good stories along the way.
Image Credit: Google