Toy­ota Premio, Axio, are a stark dif­fer­ence from the BMW 3Series, Mercedes C class and Cadil­lac SRX serv­ing other UBERSELECT mar­kets

Business Daily (Kenya) - - BDLIFE TRENDS - Wendy Watta

Uber in­tro­duced a high­end op­tion for Kenyans a few weeks ago— UBERSELECT— which it said was a “new way to get around Nairobi in style.”

It is an up­grade from Uberx and it has promised af­ford­able com­fort and lux­ury, mak­ing it ideal for spe­cial events like a date night with your part­ner or an im­por­tant busi­ness meet­ing.

I have tried UBERSELECT in Dubai where thanks to the law, prices are about 30 per cent higher than reg­u­lar taxis. The ride that showed up was a Lexus.

I was ex­cited to try UBERSELECT just after it launched in Nairobi.

One evening, I hailed a cab and tapped on the UBERSELECT op­tion. I got a call from the driver and about three min­utes later, I stepped out to find my ride wait­ing: a Toy­ota Premio.

The base fare for UBERSELECT is Sh100 against Uberx’s Sh80. It costs Sh43 per kilo­me­tre against Sh33.60 per kilo­me­tre, and the re­spec­tive min­i­mum fare is Sh300 ver­sus Sh200. Be­fore the roll-out of this new ser­vice, you could have likely got­ten the Toy­ota Premio at a cheaper cost on Uberx. After Uber Kenya in­tro­duced the ‘up­grade’, their com­peti­tor Tax­ify rolled out Tax­ify Com­fort which fol­lows the ex­act mech­a­nism al­beit at a fee of Sh250.

In other mar­kets such as Europe and the US, cars that ar­rive to pick you up on the UBERSELECT in­clude BMW 3Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class and Cadil­lac SRX, all com­plete with leather in­te­ri­ors.

In Kenya, about 20 car mod­els are on this new grade in­clud­ing Toy­ota Axio, Fielder, Noah, Prius and Sienta. There is a dis­par­ity given the type of cars on the same ser­vice in other mar­kets.

Uber’s most lux­u­ri­ous and con­se­quently ex­pen­sive level is UBERLUX which is avail­able in se­lect mar­kets like Las Ve­gas and Los An­ge­les and al­lows one to be chauf­feured in cars like Tesla Model S, Mercedes Benz S-class and BMW 7-Se­ries.

There is also UBERBLACK which as the name sug­gests, is typ­i­cally a black SUV or lux­ury sedan.

Is UBERSELECT giv­ing its Kenyan users a raw deal?

Janet Kem­boi, the Uber spokesper­son for East Africa says UBERSELECT was launched in Kenya with ‘‘spe­cific mod­els of sedans and seven-seaters that are avail­able and sus­tain­able in this mar­ket.’’

‘‘It pro­vides more choice to rid­ers in Kenya and the cars are driven by their most highly rated driver-part­ners,’’ she said.

When the ser­vice was rolled out, driv­ers who have com­pleted over 300 trips with a 4.7 rat­ing and el­i­gi­ble ve­hi­cles as per the stan­dards set for Nairobi au­to­mat­i­cally re­ceived UBERSELECT re­quests in ad­di­tion to Uberx. Tax­ify Com­fort em­u­lated the same process.

‘‘It [UBERSELECT] caters for spe­cial oc­ca­sions such as busi­ness meet­ings, trips to the air­port and events such as wed­dings, birth­days and date nights,’’ Ms Kem­boi said.

Ar­rive in style

As the com­pany looks to grow in this mar­ket, it faces com­pe­ti­tion from lux­ury car hire firms tar­get­ing wealthy Kenyans who have no qualms spend­ing more to ar­rive to a birth­day or wed­ding event in style.

Over the years, firms such as Le­sus Ex­ec­u­tive have tar­geted the wed­dings mar­ket and com­pa­nies that want their ex­ec­u­tives or VVIP in­vestors chauf­feured around Nairobi.

Dan Njoroge who started the com­pany four years ago says he hires out top-of-the-range ve­hi­cles such as Range Rover Es­calades, lim­ou­sines, Mercedes S-class com­plete with vin­tage mo­tor­cy­cle es­corts.

‘‘This mar­ket is dif­fer­ent and UBERSELECT is not nec­es­sar­ily a threat, but only if it brings in top-of-range cars such Range Rovers and Chryslers. My clients go to red car­pet events, they would not want to show up in an Axio,’’ he says.

Also, Mr Njoroge says, Uber may not eas­ily get driver-part­ners with high­end cars.

‘‘I deal with in­di­vid­ual car own­ers and they earn be­tween Sh20,000 to Sh60,000 a day, and de­pend­ing on the num­ber of days that a per­son hires a ve­hi­cle, some­one can get up to Sh120,000 in a few days,’’ he says.

If UBERSELECT is tar­get­ing the high­end mar­ket, it also faces com­pe­ti­tion from nor­mal air­port taxis and ho­tels such as Villa Rosa Kempin­ski and dusitd2 which have opted for more lux­u­ri­ous rides such as a BMW X5 and 5 Se­ries, Chryslers, Range Rover Sports & HSE and Porsche Cayennes to pick and drop their visi­tors who are mainly busi­ness trav­ellers.

“...we launched Uberselect with sedans and seven-seaters that are sus­tain­able in this mar­ket”


TOP UBER ap­pli­ca­tion shown as cars drive by in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

INSET Uber East Africa spokesper­son, Janet Kem­boi.

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