Matatu app SWVL eyes upcountry rides amid clash with NTSA
Published on: October 17, 2019 07:56 (EAT)
Bus-hailing service SWVL has set its sights on operations between Nairobi and other towns even as the firm remains embroiled in a spiky regulatory hurdle. The expansion plan is indicative of the company’s intent of staying put in the domestic market against the yet to be concluded dispute with the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) on licensing. While the firm had previously hinted at setting up operations in other cities and towns, the Egypt-based digital app is now seeking upcountry rides in a revamp of strategy which leverages on the company’s presence in the Nairobi Central Business District. “The hub and spoke model would make more sense to us. Upcountry commutes already account for a significant fraction of trips out of the CBD. This presents a huge market for us to capture,” SWL General Manager for Kenya Sivachi Muleji told Citizen Digital in an interview on Wednesday. Muleji says further consolidation on its Nairobi hub will serve to rope in additional clientele even as the firm already boasts of a path to breaking to profitability from a strengthened 62.5 percent average load factor on passenger coaches. The matatu hailing platform has sought to drive disruption into the cagey public transport system through the creation of order and efficiency in an innovation that has since incorporated other industry pioneers including Little and Safari Express. Even so, the hunter has become the hunted with the NTSA having frozen its license alongside that of Little at the start of the month. SWVL has however continued operations in defiance as it holds out for an amicable resolution to the dispute having hit the road running on its engagement with the transport allied regulator over the impasse. “The digital disruption in transport is here and it wouldn’t be a case of whether the regulator wants it or not. Given the current laws, we will never comply as they are no provisions for our model of operations” Mr. Muleji added. “I don’t think it would make for the best use of time to have shouting matches with the regulator.” The digital firm currently operates within the bounds of Nairobi and its satellite towns and has an estimated fleet of 150 coaches on its over 100 city routes. The company currently charges a flat Ksh.200 on trips, an incentive expected to largely stick across the next 18-24 months as the firm moves to operate its recently unlocked Ksh.1.5 billion in additional project funding.