LOCAL MAY BE LEKKER FOR DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS IN SA

For years South Africa’s e-hailing service has been dominated by two international companies – Uber and Bolt.


New South African e-hailing service plans to put more money in the pockets of drivers and users

But NextNow, a new local startup, plans to eventually service the entire continent through up-to-date technology, ensuring drivers earn more money, and offering “affordable” rates for various categories of users compared to its international counterparts.

What also sets the company apart from its multinational competitors is its focus on ensuring that drivers are upskilled through several programmes. Mlungisi Ntombela, who is the Head of Operations South Africa for NextNow, told 4IRSA that the business planned on introducing workshops and training to help drivers manage their finances, and improve their business communications so that they could communicate effectively.

Drivers also receive health and safety training so that they know first aid in the case of an emergency, and mentorship programmes will be established.

“Not only will drivers be able to earn higher margins than those offered by our international competitors, but we also care about the financial wellbeing of our drivers. We aim for professionalism and transformation in the on-demand and ride sharing industry and working hard to ensure we are investing in drivers and assisting them in making a decent living and building sustainable businesses.

“We are making it accessible for our drivers to have all the necessary skills to assist them to manage their income and further increase their chances of running a successful business,” he said.

“In this new age of on-demand and click of a button to make a ride request, our drivers are our last mile heroes. NextNow is intervening as a domestic brand with a world-class technology poised to ensure that the challenges of drivers should not be compounded with high commissions. We want to alleviate this by charging lower commissions as compared with the other platform providers in the industry. This will assist the drivers to earn better income as South Africa economy recovers.”

Ntombela said the company charged drivers a 10% commission and they were able to keep track of their earnings on the NextNow app. Women drivers were charged a 5% commission. According to media reports, Uber drivers pay at least a 25% commission and Bolt, which changed from Taxify in 2019, charges 20%.

NextNow though, does not dictate the terms between the owner of the vehicle and the driver, he said. Since the soft launch of the e-hailing service in April 2021, Ntombela told 4IRSA the company was growing steadily. It currently had around 2000 drivers and over 1000 riders.

For now, it operates in Johannesburg and Tshwane. It will launch in Cape Town and Durban soon, and then the rest of the country. NextNow Business Development Director Babatunde Orimoloye said the aim of the company was to be part of the push to help move Africa beyond being a natural resources continent, to one adopting the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“As with many other African ‘children’, NextNow will be raised in South Africa before expanding into the rest of the continent,” he said.

“… once the service has been established across most of South Africa and this market has been fully developed, it will use this experience to launch in other African countries.”

To address crime linked to e-hailing services, Ntombela said he believed the company’s verification service would help put riders at ease.

“Driver safety is a priority for us as well as passenger safety too. As we are in a digital age, all trips are geo-localised, and details of the driver and vehicle are shared with the passenger. This can also be shared with passenger’s contacts such as family and friends,” he said.

A One Time Pin is sent to the customer that needs to be verified by the driver. This ensures that the driver is authenticated and legitimate. The company also provides 24-hour assistance to its users. To vet drivers, their professional driver’s licence, permit, photographs and selfies were required. The company also inspects the state of vehicles to ensure they are safe and roadworthy.

While more competition in the market will be welcomed by drivers and users, it has not been plain sailing for e-hailing drivers and delivery workers, who earned at least 50% less than they did before the lockdown, while having to financially support more people. This is according to International venture firm Flourish Ventures, which focuses on a research report on South Africa in its The Digital Hustle: Gig Worker Financial Lives Under Pressure research report.

Immediate financing and long-term financial planning have kept these gig workers awake at night. They include planning for emergencies and saving for old age; while three out of five are focusing on how to optimise their incomes and new skills – especially in financial planning and the digital skills. Services that the new kids on the block aim deliver on.

E-HAILING SERVICES

NextNow has four options and clients can either pay cash or with their credit cards.

They are:

  • NextGo – an entry-level service for cost conscious customers where small and hatchback vehicles are used
  • NextRide – an affordable service that makes use of entry level sedans.
  • NextPro and NextPro Woman – this service features luxury sedans with men and women drivers
  • NextWoman – a service offered by women drivers for women passengers, which uses sedans

“We find ourselves in a post-pandemic landscape where there is a strong drive towards economic recovery. We see an opportunity to roll out our ride-sharing platform as part of the move towards digital transformation, which is ushering in more digital services and the sharing of assets,” said Orimoloye.

Those who are interested in the service download the app from Google Play or the App Store.

By: Amy Musgrave