(English) Kaiian: “Starting a taxi business is a social move”

Julia Alexeenko
фев 22, 2018

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Kaiian is an app-based taxi company in Saudi Arabia. Less than a year ago they’ve launched their app, aiming to compete with Uber and another local company alike, Careem.

Within about 9 months, Kaiian reached being in the top-three on-demand businesses in Saudi Arabia. Now they give their clients 4,000—5,000 lifts per day, 80% of those — in small towns of the country.

The scale of Kaiian company

The CEO of Kaiian tells us about growing a taxi business and marketing it rightly.

Start developing own taxi business idea

Bader, the founder of Kaiian, has been a taxi-chauffeur for a time long enough to understand all the peculiarities of the business. He has gathered enough knowledge to come up with a business idea that would give both drivers and passengers exactly what they need: an affordable, ready-to-order, reliable taxi service. The platform for it had to be easy to use, modern, and have enough front-rank features to outperform Uber which was already present in the big cities of Saudi Arabia.

Bader started with outsourcing a company to develop the application for Kaiian. After it was clear explaining all the demands to the outsourcers takes too much time and doesn’t pay back, Bader ordered a white-label app.

Customize a white-label product to your needs

Being different than their competitors was extremely important to Kaiian. The company was looking for a platform they’d be able to customize completely. The “musts” were:

    • user-friendly apps for both passengers and drivers;
    • easily operated dispatch panel;
    • highly automated drivers management.

Another essential demand was using Kaiian’s own design: logo, color scheme, the whole branding.

Kaiian branded mobile apps

Bader tells:

“We needed to be different, to be loved for who we are. It’s not easy to enter even a small town here in Saudi Arabia: each town is a community, nobody likes strangers there. We needed to make sure people know and trust Kaiian. Being functional and recognizable are the top priorities, thus.”

Ordering a white label was a way to save a lot of time and effort for the company.

Develop a sustainable growth strategy

When Kaiian was launching, there were already big players on the taxi market of Saudi Arabia — Uber and Careem. It was evident that competing with them right away would demand a plenty of investments. Kaiian chose for developing a strategy with the aims to:

      • avoid direct competition with Uber and Careem;
      • make own business well-known and popular.

The initial step was “taking over” the small, quiet towns of Saudi Arabia. Because each town is a community, Bader counted on getting enough positive buzzword.

Small towns market penetration strategy

And he was right:

“We’ve started in the city of Al-Kharj. As soon as people knew we are reliable, knew their friends were using our services, we stopped being “some other taxi company”. We’ve became their trusted family members. Starting in a small town is maybe not that ambitious, but you can succeed easily — and move on to more!”

In three months after the launch, the company managed to reach the point of providing their clients 200 trips per day. After that, the growth paused. Kaiian has already made enough revenue to invest into expanding geographically.

Kaiian market growth

To enter the market of the next two towns, Hail and Yanbu, the company had to lower the prices almost twice. But very soon, the pricing was not the key-factor anymore.

“We were actively present in 30 towns within 2 months. These were small cities, nobody knew Uber over there at first — and when they did, Kaiian was already a strong alternative. At that point we were ready to compete: we had enough money, enough expertise, and enough loyal clients.”

Market your services well

Expanding to the new cities meant attracting new customers and new drivers. Looking for a right tool to do that, Kaiian chose for social media marketing.

“We wanted everybody to talk about Kaiian. So, we needed to choose the most suitable channels, but also to cast our social influencers wisely. Working with the celebrities followers are just jealous of did not fit us. We needed people who are truly loved.”

To find the right influencers, the founders of Kaiian did some hardcore customer development. They settled behind the steering wheels themselves and asked the clients simple questions: “Who do you follow? Who do you really trust?” This was the reliable way to learn about the most respected influencers, but also about the most relevant channels.

Marketing tips from Kaiian

At the first stage of promoting, Snapchat and Instagram marketing worked best for Kaiian. As the company wanted to attract people of lower and middle incomes, engaging young clients via Snapchat was a good decision. Instagram promotion was targeted at middle-class people in their 30s and 40s.

We never hesitate to ask them for a referral or to ask who they follow on social media. This is what our best drivers keep on doing.”

At the next stage of marketing their taxi company, Kaiian decided to invest more into professional support. When the business was about to go to the big cities, they’ve hired a local marketing agency.

“Local marketers have a huge advantage: they know all the regional specifics, understand the way of thinking here. Hiring an agency allowed us to focus on our services, while specialists are dealing with the PR.”

Expand the fleet

Growing a taxi business meant expanding the customer base — and the fleet as well. Kaiian needed devoted drivers, ready to make not less than 200 trips per day.

Attracting new drivers was easy. Kaiian simply set better driver tariffs than the competitors had. The word of mouth followed immediately. The new drivers got a free trial period. Why?

“Giving a free trial doesn’t bring us money. But it brings us clients. Even if a driver will stop working, the clients stay with Kaiian. Free trial also allows us to deduce which driver plan is the best to offer to a certain driver.”

Kaiian expands the fleet

The TaxiStartup platform allows adapting fares to the market requirements. Driver plans can be adjusted anytime. Kaiian was able to make good use this feature: they’ve analyzed the Saudi-Arabian taxi market and invented two driver plans:

      • commission per order (for drivers who take a few orders a month);
      • monthly charge plan (drive more, earn more, “Turns out to be a very addictive plan!” — laughs Bader)

“A huge part of driver management happens automatically within the TaxiStartup solution: registration, billing, access management. This saves a lot of time to think of ways to improve drivers’ performance. We provide them with uniforms, motivate them to work more and better. Forcing never helps, making good offers does.”

Never stop developing further

Are there more heights for Kaiian to reach? It’s time to enter Mecca and Riyadh, huge and important cities of Saudi Arabia. Bader says:

“Marketing your taxi business in a big city is not necessarily about money. As taxi business is very social, it’s about right social moves. If you want to market in Dubai, you have to match the city which is multicultural and creative. Advertizing 1 crazy creative thing per month would totally work. This would distinguish a company. If your platform is good, your services reliable, you will always find a possibility to develop further.”

As you see, there’s a lot to learn from the Kaiian case. Here are some of the best practices:

      • Relying on well-functioning white-label software;
      • Knowing your competitors and how to outperform them;
      • Using word-of-mouth marketing to insure initial turnover;
      • Using customer development model;
      • Hiring a marketing agency in order to develop further.

We hope the example of Kaiian will inspire the boost of your taxi business😊