The taxi industry has over the years contributed to saving time, providing income and employment. Taxi operators have taken advantage of gaps in the formal public transport environment, such as customer care, to provide more friendly services. However, like any other business, the industry is faced with challenges that have to be overcome. Simon Oduor shares his experiences in the industry with The African Executive.
A.E: What were you doing before you joined the taxi business?
Oduor: I was a matatu (public transport minibus) driver on several routes in Nairobi. I have operated on the route to Komarock, Lang’ata and Zimmerman.
A.E: What was your experience as a matatu driver?
Oduor: I realized that each customer has his own expectations to be met. While one does not like loud music in the car, another one likes it. Another passenger resents music. In addition, the customer expects good service from little pay. He may expect to pay Ksh. 20 from the city centre to Zimmerman, which is approximately 15 kilometers from the city centre during peak hours, forgetting that the car consumes too much petrol when there is a traffic jam.
A.E: What motivated you to operate the taxi business?
Oduor: I always wanted to be a taxi operator. Taxis are enormously flexible to user demands. One is able to serve the customer to his satisfaction unlike in matatus where one cannot serve all the twelve customers to their satisfaction.
A.E: How is the business so far?
Oduor: It is doing well. I now have four cars, up from one. On a good day, I can make up to Ksh. 12,000. I have permanent customers who require my services on specific times. I also have customers who hire my car for full day use.
A.E: What are your terms of agreement with those who hire the car for a full day?
Oduor: I charge Ksh. 3,500 for one to have the car for twelve hours. The customer is expected to fuel the car for himself. If he exceeds the 12 hours, I charge an extra one thousand shillings per hour. In case of any damages, he is liable.
A.E: Are all your cars stationed at one point?
Oduor: No, we park at different Nakumatt supermarket stores. While I am stationed on Ngong road, the other three are on Thika road, Mombasa road and the City Centre.
A.E: What have been your challenges?
Oduor: My biggest challenge has been with cheats.
A.E: Briefly cite your experience
Oduor: I had a customer who would hire my car for a week on a monthly basis. He did this for more than an year and would pay me in advance, return my car in good order and keep communicating with me when he had it. One day, I received a call from a friend asking me if I had changed the car's colour and tinted its windows. When I objected, he insisted he had seen my car parked in a city garage. I immediately drove to that garage and was shocked to see the car. While trying to contact the person who had hired the car, three policemen appeared and asked where the owners of the car were. A mechanic directed them to one of the buildings. Out of curiosity, I followed them. The men were arrested and the car was taken to the police station. I was informed that those who had used the car were thugs. They had been involved in several robbery cases using my car.
A.E: What do you do to avoid such cases?
Oduor: I am now more strict. I do not leave my car at the client’s disposal for over twelve hours. If he really needs it, I insist that he has to be with one of my employees. My past experience taught me a lesson. I lost business for over a month.
A.E: Any other challenge?
Oduor: At times, a customer wants my services late in the night, and the place he wants to be taken to is insecure. In such instances, I refuse to take the job.
A.E: How can value be added to taxi business?
Oduor: All taxi operators should join hands and come up with a taxi training institution that will enhance the capacity of taxi owners. The institution can train all those in this industry on various aspects such as business management, customer care and what to expect in the field. The institution can also serve as an advisory centre and conduct research in the field. This will help us serve our customers in a better way.
A.E: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Oduor: Owning my own taxi company with a fleet of 50 cars. I plan to advertise and ask people to bring cars for taxi business. I will then be paying them a fee at the end of the month. The cars to be brought will meet specific standards to avoid losses as a result of frequent repairs. I will then have the cars stationed at several places in town.
A.E: What advice would you give to upcoming investors?
Oduor: You should always strive to achieve what you want. In any business, one has to plan ahead and after a certain period evaluate oneself to see whether he has met his goals. If not, the strategies may require change.
By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer
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