As it stands, it looks like Uber leads the South African mobile taxi hailing industry.

Sure, there are active local competitors but neither have seemingly made enough impact to resonate with locals as much as the international company does, so will the addition of another similar make any difference? Tim Pearson thinks he is the one who can.

Pearson is the co-founder of a company called Ryda, a taxi-hailing app that works pretty much the same as the likes of local offerings, Uber, and Snappcab do, but with a few twists to set Ryda apart from its competitors.

Tim Pearson
Tim Pearson

“When my business partner Jan Ferriera and I discovered Uber, our first thought was ‘it’s a brilliant service and they’ve completely disrupted the metered taxi industry’, but then we thought we want to offer a local solution,” Pearsons explains about where the idea for Ryda arose from.

Pearsons and Ferreira received venture capital funding and began developing Ryda in December 2014 and since then, it has partnered with a number of transport providers and launched a pilot with an Android app, which saw it being downloaded 400 times.

Riding options and pricing

Ryda-website-image

Ryda has two main separate categories, one is a partnership with existing metered cab companies and the other the company’s own offering.

QuickCab and CityCabsa’s services are available in the cabs category at a base fare of R20 plus R8.10 per kilometre. There is also a 50c per minute fare tacked on, which will make sitting in heavy traffic slightly more expensive.

Ryda has three different riding sub-categories under its own offering: Xpress, Cabs for Women and Take Me Home.

Xpress is Ryda’s cheapest option which will get you a ride in a car such as a Toyota Corolla, Toyota Avanza, VW Jetta or Honda Jazz.

Cabs For Women is an option female passengers can choose should they want a woman driver for additional peace of mind during their trips, while Take Me Home is for those times when you’ve had a bit too much to drink after a fun night out.

Currently, no other similar service offers tailored pick up services apart from the type of vehicle package you would want to use.

“We knew nothing about this industry when we started, we just wanted to build something awesome that people would want to use,” Pearson says.

Interestingly enough, Xpress has a  pricing model that’s almost identical to UberX, save for the odd few cents here and there. UberX, has a base fare of R5, and rides are charged at 75c per minute and R7.50 per kilometre. Ryda has the same base fare, but charges R7.20 per kilometre and 72c a minute.

“Xpress is 5% cheaper than UberX. Uber takes a much bigger margin than we do, so we’ve sacrificed some margins to try and undercut their prices and get our drivers paid more per kilometre,” Pearson says.

But is it licensed?

One major step Uber missed when it arrived in South Africa was getting all the necessary licencing in place for them and drivers to operate, which led to battles between the company versus metered cab companies and its association and the cities of Cape Town, Joburg.

To avoid this happening to Ryda, Pearson says it has all the necessary driver/vehicle permits and licencing documentation from the relevant city bodies, as well as a partnership agreement with metered cab brands who helped create an understanding of what it’s offering.

“We sat down with members of the metered taxi council in Joburg who have been looking for a partner for a while to become a main aggregator to compete against Uber,” he says.

Pearson does admit though that the general reception wasn’t completely positive. “We did have resistance from a few cab companies that didn’t want to partner with us because they think the answer to Uber is to protect their brand and hike fares up,” he says. “There will always be resistance but we think in a year or so, they won’t have that option anymore.”

Pearson says Ryda will be launching an iOS app next month and users should look out for that, but as for other OS platforms, it’s something the company would have to look at once it’s made a dent in the industry and can afford to develop more.

He does however say that customers will be able to access Ryda via PC and that a “book now, use later” service will be available, allowing you to book a ride for later on in the day or week when you would want to make use of it.

At the moment Ryda is predominantly targeting Sandton, Fourways, Bryanston and surrounding areas but does have plans to spread out into the rest of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town by the end of the year and ultimately, more South African cities where Uber does and doesn’t operate, in due course.

You can download the Ryda app from the Google Play Store and look out for a special discount promo htxt.africa will be announcing tomorrow exclusively for our readers.

[htxt.africa and Ryda are running an exclusive readers promo. Get R100 off your first ride in Ryda cab, click on this link to read up on how to take advantage of it.]