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Soccer star wants to revolutionise metered taxis

Industry news

Scoring goals is not Kenny Niemach’s only talent. While most will remember the former Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs hit-man for his prolific goal scoring record, Niemach is, in fact, a man of many skills.

After retiring from professional football, he ran a number of successful nightclubs and pubs. He even tried his hand at radio presenting, football coaching, analysis, and commentary. “I tried many things, it’s just in my nature,” Niemach says.

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Former Kaizer Chiefs striker Kenny Niemach in his office in Rosebank. 
Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso / Independent Media.

The Dutch-born footballer simply doesn’t buy into the notion that footballers are all brawn and no brain.

In the next month, Niemach together with his Joburg-based IT company Yookoo Incorporated, is launching South Africa’s newest cab-hailing app in Joburg. The app, Yookoo Rider, which is similar to popular cab-hailing app Uber and Taxify, is set to connect users with hundreds of metered cab drivers around the country.

His firm has teamed up with the SA Meter Taxi Association in the hope that meter taxi drivers can “reclaim their relevance on the road” .

He explains how the country’s traditional metered taxi industry has taken a “huge knock” with the arrival of cab-hailing apps such as Uber and Taxify.

This has caused conflict between app-based cab services and traditional meter taxis. “The association has existed for a very long time but nobody has come in and operated a parallel business,” he says.

“They’re suffering, so we took it upon ourselves to develop an app that will help them compete.”

But meter taxi drivers will no longer have to fight their rivals with “sticks and stones”.

The association even has a stake in the company.

Panic button, driver profiles

YooKoo’s new features include a panic button, which alerts armed response, an on-board entertainment centre, which a passenger can use while travelling, as well as voice prompts. “We also have a messenger application, so should the driver not have airtime, he or she can use the messaging system.”

“The drivers will undergo a lot of training including etiquette training so they know how to treat their passengers.

“If you’re in the service industry, you need to know how to treat your customer. You need to ensure that the customer comes first. And these are things that we are currently addressing.

“We’re running workshops where we are teaching drivers how to dress, and how to engage with customers. It’s important because these drivers’ reputations have been tarnished because of the past.

“We want to change that image now as a company and want them to really succeed with the technology.”

Passengers will be able to view the driver’s pictures and personal details before booking. “When you book a driver, all of his/her information comes up. You’re able to see a picture of the driver that will be picking you up along with all his/her personal information.

“You can either choose to take the driver or not, that is all up to you. We have a rating service so passengers will be able to check the ratings of drivers and decide whether they want to use him or her.

“All drivers will also have to put their fingerprints through our thumb print system, so there’ll be no falsified information, therefore eliminating any criminal element.”

"Competitive" fares

Niemach adds taxi fares and rates will be “very competitive and fair. It’s not going to be a rand more than Uber is offering.”

The app will be launched countrywide next month and is available for download for free on android and IOS.

Saturday Star

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