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Absa using taxis to gain mass market share

Makes free, uncapped WiFi available to commuters.

JOHANNESBURG – Unlimited free Internet connectivity is now available in 50 taxis across Johannesburg, enabling commuters to download digital content and earn points via a mobile app, which can be translated into data.

The brainchild of Megan Harrison, CEO and founder of media company OnRoot, Moovah! is sponsored by Absa and is an app accessible on any Blackberry or Android device.

It allows commuters to browse the Internet and download digital content onto their devices, such as music, articles and podcasts, without consuming any of their own data.

Although Wi-Taxi has been offering 50MB per month free in taxis across the country since 2013, the Moovah! WiFi offering is uncapped and operates at download speeds of approximately 100 megabytes per second.

It also enables commuters to earn points that can be translated into data by performing certain activities on the app, such as filling in a quick survey for a retailer or restaurant chain or viewing an ad.

“Commuters never have to pay money to access the Internet,” OnRoot’s Harrison emphasised.

Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are embedded in the app, providing commuters easy and free access to these popular apps while on their journey.

Commuter-specific content

The taxis, 50 in Johannesburg and 25 in Cape Town, have been fitted with a device developed by India-based software company, Winjit Technologies, which ensures the reliable, high-speed connection.  

Each device also holds cached content, specific to the taxi route, which commuters can access without having to download it from the Internet. Content consultants have helped OnRoot develop content to cater to the tastes of the taxi’s relevant audience and will track and update this on an ongoing basis.

“This is known as hyper-local or geo-specific content,” explained Ashwin Kandoi, director at Winjit Technologies. Kandoi was speaking to media in a taxi en route to the Moovah! launch in downtown Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Moovah! will also offer geolocated deals to app users, from retailers such as Shoprite, Checkers, Clover and Unilever brands, which the commuter will be notified of based on their route.

By partnering with Moovah!, brands can gain insights into their customers while also gaining access to the taxi market, according to OnRoot’s Harrison, who noted that the average taxi passenger spends an hour a day in a taxi.

Taxi operators paid monthly

SA Taxi, a subsidiary of JSE-listed Transaction Capital that finances more than 10% of South Africa’s entire minibus taxi population, is the financier behind all the taxi operators involved in the pilot.

Its telematics system helps identify routes that should be used, which will help with marketing efforts.

According to an SA Taxi spokesperson, 18 million South Africans are transported daily via taxis, accounting for the vast majority of the country’s 20-million odd economically active citizens. “The taxi industry contributes R40 billion to GDP each year. By improving its profitability, the knock-on effect could be tremendous,” the spokesperson said.

Taxi operators, which have been paid R450 to have the devices installed, will have R300 deposited into their SA Taxi finance accounts monthly to carry the devices.

Absa wants more of the mass market

Absa, which is financing the devices, the data costs and the monthly fees to the taxi operators, is marketing itself more aggressively in the mass market, commented Craig Bond, CEO of retail and business banking.

For instance, product offerings relevant to the market are explained and promoted within the app.

Absa is winning back some of the 3 million customers it lost since 2011, growing active banking customers from 8.6 million in June 2014 to 9.2 million by December.

Bond said the energy at Absa parent Barclays Africa’s Johannesburg headquarters was extremely positive, with the bank’s turnaround well on track.

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