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Will local startup Scoop A Cab really offer meter taxi drivers a way to take on Uber?

SA ride-hailing startup Scoop A Cab claims it will offer meter taxis a way to take on the likes of Uber and Taxify with their new app and in doing so help reduce recent taxi violence, but will it work?

The self-funded startup, founded earlier this year by Princess Ncube, began offering the service via its app to Bloemfontein from 1 October, after the service launched in Johannesburg and Pretoria earlier this year.

The Scoop a Cab app offers three vehicle types that passengers can utilise: hatchbacks, meter taxis and private cars.

In an email to Ventureburn, a marketing representative for the startup, Anesu Matewa, claims that encouraging meter taxi drivers to join the platform “will help minimise the violence between them and ridesharing competitors Uber and Taxify”, while creating employment.

However, when called by Ventureburn Matewa admitted that while the startup has been trying to convince meter taxi owners to join “they are not 100% on board” and added that the startup is “trying to get them to keep up with the times”.

Scoop a Cab has engaged with seven meter taxi owners each with about 10 vehicles, are using the app, but that only a few have used the app so far

Matewa referred Ventureburn to the startup’s operations manager Tendayi Mawoko, who is also a shareholder in the company.

He claims that there are many potential customers who prefer to use meter taxis over private vehicles sourced through a riding hailing app, likely he says, because they view the former as safer.

However, he confirmed that it hasn’t been easy to convince meter taxi drivers to adopt the app.

He says while the startup has signed up between 150 and 200 drivers in Bloemfontein, the startup has also engaged with seven meter taxi owners each with about 10 vehicles, are using the app but only a few have used the app so far.

The biggest challenge he says is that drivers don’t even understand what ride hailing is. Despite this he reckons there are a large number of people who prefer to use meter taxis possibly because they view them as safer than using a private car to transport them.

He claims that the app can help what he claims are already struggling meter taxi drivers, to find more rides. The meter taxi option is charged at a higher rate than hatchback or private rides. “We’re not saying stop using the system (of meter taxis) but adopt this one (too),” said Mawoko.

In an attempt to encourage more driver and meter taxi owners to utilise the app, the startup has at present waived its 12.5% commission that it usually charges on rides. The startup’s commission rate, claims Mawoko, is lower than the 25% charged by Uber and 15% by Taxify.

In addition to gain traction he said the startup has purchased its own vehicles and is recruiting drivers. The company hopes that this will help drive interest needed to recruit private drivers who have their own vehicles.

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So far the company has 2o cars in Bloemfontein as well as a further two in Johannesburg (which are branded).

Mawoko said the startup took the decision not to brand the Bloemfontein vehicles because they “don’t know how the situation will turn out” — whether meter taxi drivers will accept the cars or not.

However he believes that eventually there will be more private cars using the app than meter taxi owners. “It’s a matter of these guys (meter taxi owners) accepting and adopting,” he adds without explaining further.

While Mawoko says the company can take on Uber and Taxify, he adds that the startup has opted to roll out its offering in smaller cities (where these operators are not present) first.

The startup claims its app offers “cool features” for riders such a panic button which allows you to add five people to contact in-case of an emergency and a pre-booking system.

Far more important will be whether it can indeed compete against well resourced established players like Uber and Taxify.

Featured image: screengrab of Uber vehicles torched last month in Sandton, Johannesburg from Graeme Hosken via Twitter.