Before the introduction of ride-hailing platforms like Bolt, Uber or Indrive, interstate movement by road in Nigeria was nothing short of inconveniencing. For those without cars, the experience was characterised by sharing a very tight vehicle with other people.
Sometimes, owning your car does not mean you are free from sharing it with people—with friends and neighbours who ply the same work route as you, or even unfamiliar faces on your journeys, as you constantly hear phrases like ‘‘Can I join you?” and “are you going my way?’’ from commuters who hang on to a spot looking for the cheapest possible way to get to their destinations. I mean, who would blame them? Transport fares have tripled over the years.
But now, thanks to MyCoPilot, that whole process and the seemingly free rides have been commercialised and made even more suitable for all those involved. The platform allows users to book a seat with a private vehicle owner headed their way on a fixed date and pay a fair price for a luxurious, more private, exciting journey.
On the other hand, private car owners (drivers) can premise their travel plans and have people pay to join them on their journey.
Nnamdi Jeffrey Emmanuel Chizoba, MyCoPilot’s CEO and co-founder, says, “When you add the skyrocketing cost of air and land transport in Nigeria due to the hike in fuel prices, it makes sense that people want to share private rides and enjoy luxury while paying less or earning on the go (as car owners).
“After getting validation on the idea from a friend, I decided to fix this friction with MyCoPilot. With MyCoPilot, we aim to enable Nigerians to share their travels with others and get paid as a private car owner; ride privately and in style with individuals headed for their destination; pay less and enjoy more comfort during long-distance travels, and much more.”
On this episode of Founders Spotlight, Nnamdi Jeffrey Chizoba shared the model behind MyCoPilot, the uniqueness and safety of the model, and the quest to become a force in the ride-hailing industry.
How safe is the MyCoPilot model?
A major concern for ride-sharing is safety and quality customer experience. Security concerns have heightened recently in the country, with the spate of violence and harassments recorded sometimes in these trips, leading to increased safety calls. Hence, ride-hailing platforms have begun taking initiatives to improve their customer’s security and safety.
According to Nnamdi, MyCoPilot ensures all safety precautions for its drivers and customers.
“First, the driver and the passengers (pilot and copilot) are verified, which means everybody is verified. The verification is different from the conventional e-hailing platform in the sense that your registration bio must match a government-issued ID, which is usually your driving licence, NIN, or voter’s card. And then we send an API call, which should return everything as authentic.”Nnamdi Jeffrey Chizoba
“Then there is the next step of verification of address, which involves a utility bill. The utility bill should also match the address on the IDs. Lastly, we use an AI facial recognition scan to get the facial match. All these are done before the driver is onboard,” he adds.
Nnamdi asserts that another key feature of the app is that trips are tracked end-to-end to ensure that customers are safe. Customers can also hit a panic button on the app at any point of the trip to alert a security agency if there is an emergency.
Thriving in a competitive market
Although a recent one, the ride-hailing industry in Nigeria is already crawling with established companies like Uber, Bolt and InDrive. The market is also projected to reach US$0bn in 2023. But Nnamdi says the MyCoPilot does not compete with these companies because it offers a unique solution to the industry.
The model is very distinct from all the conventional ride-hailing platforms, he said. We looked at the Nigerian situation, the Nigerian economy, and the Nigerian masses, he adds.Nnamdi Jeffrey Chizoba
According to him, MyCoPilot has been carved out from the conventional ride-sharing platform to solve a niche: the challenges peculiar to the Nigerian economy and masses.
“What MyCoPilot does, in a nutshell, is allow you to use your car to make money every day while going to work and coming back, which is offered by no one else in Nigeria,” Nnamdi says a car owner stands to earn over N600,000 just from picking 4 persons in his car going and coming from work daily in a month, according to an analysis done by his team.
Apart from the earnings of monetising their regular vehicular travels and movements, Nnamdi asserts that the platform offers drivers that complete a certain number of rides health insurance and health care coverage.
Requirements for onboarding on the platform
For individuals looking to be onboarded on the platform, Nnamdi says they need to download the app and complete their registration by providing all their vital and accurate information.
“First of all, you need to start by verifying yourself, put in your details, your name, and your address, as it is exactly on your government-issued ID which should be a driver’s licence since it is for a driver. Then your car has to be up to standards in terms of registration, aesthetics, maintainable with no government debt to your name.”
“Also, the car must have insurance coverage. After all, these have been satisfied, then a driver is required to take pictures of the car and do a short video starting the car to show that it is in good health. For a passenger, the process is the same other than the car aspect.“
The MyCoPilot platform offers users the opportunity to both be a passenger and a driver, according to Nnamdi. With the app, a user can conveniently switch between being a driver and a passenger if all the registrations have been effected and approved.
Adoption since launch
Nigerians, especially those resident in major cities are gradually warming up to the idea of ride-sharing. In fact, in Nigeria’s Ride-hailing & Taxi market, the number of users is expected to amount to 8.9m by 2027, according to Statista.
Being a relatively new name in that industry, MyCoPilot would also be jostling for a part of that figure. Surprisingly, Nnamdi says the adoption and market acceptance of the model has been monumental since its launch.
When we were doing a market validation, we were amazed to see that we had 10/10 market acceptance. People found it amazing and could not wait to get onboarded. Only 30% were concerned about safety, but after explaining the safety features, they all accepted.Nnamdi Jeffrey Chizoba
“Even though we had projected about 500 downloads in the first month, we recorded over 2000 downloads and currently, the platform has over 3000 users”, Nnamdi says.
Keeping drivers and customers happy with fair pricing
The current fuel price crisis unsettles many in the transportation industry. Ride-hailing drivers, such as those with Bolt and Uber, have consistently called for fare increases to match the rising prices. But, MyCoPilot has launched in the face of these challenges to provide solutions to them.
According to Nnamdi, MyCoPilot has solved the issue of fair pricing using an AI algorithm. “We use AI to track the price of transportation across Nigeria and the price of fuel in the country,” he says.
We use that to marry the distances and we arrive at a very fair price at all times. We must be lower than the conventional public transport, which is our model.Nnamdi Jeffrey Emmanuel Chizoba
“We are always improving and looking at indices to correct the price to the realities and make sure that Nigerians are having the best value for the money they are paying”, he adds.
Challenges so far
Nnamdi reckons there have been challenges, both pre-launch and post-launch. But he says the major challenge has been getting the word out about the product and getting enough people onboard.
We thought we didn’t need to get more people on board. We just want to grow slowly over a year and then accelerate over the next. But we found out that people call us and they, they are not happy. are not happy about us not being everywhere. So the challenge has been how to move our playbook from slow growth to exponential growth.
Future plans and funding moves
According to Nnamdi, the company has not made any raise and funding moves. This, he says, is not unrelated to the founders’ decision to watch the business grow before making any decision on external investments and funding. However, they are now willing to listen to investors as they hope to scale and reach their short-term goals for the product.
But in terms of future projections, he says he projects the company to hit a million active users on the platform in the next couple of years.
I see us having a couple of millions of active users if not tens of millions of active users. I also see us doing better, much, much better than we had anticipated.Nnamdi Jeffrey Chizoba
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!