Kenya’s ride-hailing firm Little to plan for African expansion

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Kamal Budhabhatti, Chief Executive Officer of Little, Kenya’s ride-hailing company, said the company will expand  to Tanzania and Ghana by May and plans to raise about $50 million more from investors.

Budhabhatti said Little, which competes with global players Uber and Taxify in Kenya, is valued between $70 million to $75 million.

The Chief Executive Officer noted that the company will offer rides in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam from next week and plans to launch in Accra by May, adding to operations in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.  Budhabhatti also said Little was talking to investors to raise about $50 million in series A funding, the financing received when a start-up opens up to outside investors for the first time. It aims to finalise this by mid 2019.

According to Budhabhatti, “we are meeting a couple of investors, both on the continent and in Silicon Valley. The interest is there”. He added that new funds would be used to develop technology and to expand to more countries. He did not name the potential investors.

Budhabhatti said without the deep pockets of its ride-hailing rivals in the region, Little has been attracting drivers by encouraging them to offer extra services to earn money. He revealed that “our drivers are agents, they can sell insurance to you, they can sell [mobile]airtime, they can pay light and/or water bills, they can do all those little things around that increases that income”.

Little has a marketing partnership with Kenya’s biggest mobile operator Safaricom, so it is available to Kenyan customers who do not have a smartphone. The CEO noted that “about 20 percent of the rides come from non-smartphones”.

The company started in 2016 and has 10,000 registered drivers in Nairobi, with about 60 percent of those active, and more than 1 million users on its platform across all markets, with more than 60 percent of those in Kenya.

Little launched a bus service in January in Nairobi, on top of its car taxi service and motorcycle taxi service, known in Kenya as “boda boda”. It is also looking at a delivery service.

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