(English) Sudan’s Very Own Uber – Tirhal Taxi Success Story

Natalia Korol
Jul 27, 2017

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Tirhal is the Sudanese version of Uber. In less than a year the company can position itself as a market leader with over 2,000 cabs to date. With sanctions preventing Uber from operating in Sudan, there was an opportunity for a local transportation service. Mohamed and his partners found the ideal solution in the TaxiStartup software.

Tirhal Success Story

About the company

Tirhal from Arabic stands for ‘trip’. The company was established by two friends with no taxi driving experience but with an ambitious aim to lead the transportation market in Sudan by harnessing the potential of the latest mobile technologies and AI (artificial intelligence).

Tirhal owners visiting TaxiStartup office
Tirhal owners visiting TaxiStartup office

Entering the transportation business

‘Taxis are a convenient way of getting around Khartoum and fares are inexpensive. But usual taxis taking a passenger from point A to point B are not metered. So you and the driver should agree on the fare before your ride begins, which causes inconvenience, ’- said Mohamed Elzakey, deputy general manager at Tirhal.

With that said, car service apps with price estimation and a possibility to follow the progress of a ride as the driver approaches were the key factors to choosing the TaxiStartup platform. Stressing clear driver management and affordable fares.

TaxiStartup + MercadoPago = Cashless payments via the booking app

‘Passenger apps offer ‘open trips’ that is second to none, especially when there is an issue with Google maps. Now our passengers can book a cab and make stops during the trip at any place.’

In the early marketing days, to find the ‘silver bullet’ of the fares, the company run some trials. They included tests over the most popular routes in the city centre. Average prices and time were compared to competitors estimates and public transport tickets for the same trip.

Attracting new drivers

Tirhal began driver recruitment focusing on the competitors’ weak-side arm. The company wanted their drivers to earn more money driving with Tirhal.

‘We spent a lot of time defining our own strategy so that we could show drivers just how successful driving with Tirhal could be. First, we defined that flat rate doesn’t work for us and switched to order percentage.


According to our ‘driver leaderboard’, the max number of completed trips per one driver is 254, which equals to 1,000 USD (with an average monthly wage of 150 USD),’ explains Mohamed.


Seven months after the soft launch the company’s fleet has grown significantly counting 1700 active cabs with 20 new drivers submitting applications on a daily basis.

Despite this, Mohamed is pragmatic about working within thousands of drivers. ‘The main issue we have here in Khartoum is training the drivers to a level that we’re happy with the quality of the services provided to our passengers.’

Rolling out driver registration fees

As we know, taxi drivers belong to a group that doesn’t spend that much time on social media, and, evidently, online marketing campaigns to attract drivers wouldn’t be the best option here. Word-of-mouth continues to be the most trusted source for growing drivers.

To eliminate idle drivers and motivate new ones, so they take the job seriously, Tirhal has introduced a registration fee. The company charges an application fee of $5 which every driver can earn back quickly as soon as he starts driving with Tirhal.

From a registration fee to an educational center

In the beginning, drivers have a vague idea about the efficient working algorithm within the driver app. So the key point here is to educate drivers to use the application properly.

‘We found out that a little training beforehand also contributes to the higher income for taxi drivers, compared to the guides how to sign up to drive with Tirhal. That’s why we have established an educational center working 4 days a week.’

Every week a Tirhal representative guides 80 – 160 newcomers how to handle instant and future bookings, replenish the balance or send money to a fellow-driver using the app.

TaxiStartup + MercadoPago = Cashless payments via the booking app

Cancellation fees

Tirhal uses the cancellation fee feature of the TaxiStartup platform to track and minimize order cancellations by drivers. They found out that after imposing the fee drivers began to call an operator rather than press a ‘Cancel’ button.

‘We focus on control over how drivers use the app to eliminate money losses due to cancelled orders.’

Conclusion

In all businesses, scaling is do or die. Tirhal’s plans are to expand to other countries while simultaneously expanding service types. Women taxi, vans, high lux cars, and tow truck topping their list.

Every two months the company reveals a new service type offering women with kids, businessmen and travellers to make instant or planned trips safe and easy.

Muhamed is confident that TaaS (transportation as a service) is only a starting point. Looking ahead, Tirhal plans to scale up the idea providing any on-demand service in future.

P.S. Eager to share your story with the TaxiStartup society? Please feel free to contact me at natalia@taxistartup.org