E-hailing drivers bash Bolt’s 10% commission plan, insist economy-class rides mean less pay

Ejike Kanife
In the wake of the recent fuel hike across the country, some e-hailing drivers in Lagos have lamented the reluctance of app companies to increase their fares

E-hailing drivers are reacting to Bolt’s latest policy which promises a reduced 10% commission rate even though it requires them to accept rides from its economy class.

The drivers described the initiative as nothing but a ploy to finally slash fares in the app company’s bid to compete favourably and win back customers from its more aggressive and more flexible competitor, InDriver.

Technext reported earlier that Bolt is introducing a scheme that ensures drivers pay only a 10% commission if they agree to accept rides from the lower-priced economy class. The company told Technext that the idea was generally to avail the drivers of more rides and as a result, more opportunities to earn. While it is optional, the option was only open to select dedicated drivers.

For emphasis, the economy class is the lowest rung of Bolt’s service offerings. It is reportedly reserved for drivers with old vehicle models ranging from 1999 to 2003. This essentially means drivers in the higher Bolt category will be offering higher-class service for lower-class pay.

E-hailing drivers, speaking to Technext, have roundly rejected the offer, insisting that it was just a trial by the app company that will bring nobody no good in the end. They argued that if the few selected drivers “foolishly” embrace the initiative, Bolt would then be confident enough to make economy class pricing its regular standard pricing, thus slashing its price.

According to Solomon: “Bolt knows how to play their tricks. They said they’ll charge only 10% on economy trips, but the 5% booking fee is still there. In the same way, they charge 20 per cent plus 5 per cent booking fee. A trip that should cost 9000, on the economy it’s 6000. If you remove 2250 (25%) from 9000, your income is 6750.

For economy, if you remove 15% (900) from 6000, your income is 5100. How does that help me earn more? I’m never gonna accept that rubbish trip on economy.”

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The General Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of App-based Transporters of Nigeria (AUATON) also waded into the matter, insisting that Bolt appears to be losing its way. It attributed the turn of events to a failed marketing gimmick which could have been avoided if the company had listened to the Union.

“Bolt is already completely confused with this system and they are exposing their instability. Let me tell you, they are not getting it right any more and they’re running out of marketing ideas because they fail to recognise the union. Very soon more interesting things would happen and they would be stuck because right now they can’t continue like before,” he said.

Consequently, the drivers are threatening to block off the economy class option on their apps and encouraging each other to do the same. Moses, for instance, believes that if every driver on the regular Bolt deactivated the option, the initiative would die a natural death.

“With this new policy of Bolt giving 10% commission, I think we should all go on our app and deactivate that option to be on economy. We should be on Bolt. Because why should I be offering the same service for a lesser price? We are rendering the same service for a lesser amount all because they said they are collecting a 10 per cent commission. Let’s deactivate the option so that the policy will die on arrival,” he said.

Analyzing fares across the two main categories as seen in this screenshot, the highest fare for a Bolt regular trip was N9,400. 20 per cent of 9,400 (Bolt’s regular commission) is N1880. This leaves the driver with an income of N7,520. 

For the economy ride, the highest fare for the same trip was N7,200. 10 per cent of 7,200 is N720 which leaves the driver with an income of N6,480. While this represents a difference of N1,040 per trip, Bolt is probably expecting the promise of more trips (volume) on the economy class to erase the difference.

Competition with InDriver

InDriver burst onto the Nigerian e-hailing scene with a more radical approach to their business. While Uber and Bolt set prices for the trips, InDriver gives the drivers the power to set their own prices as well as bargain with the prospective passenger on the app.

In the wake of the hardships faced by drivers on both Bolt and Uber apps with both companies failing to improve fares to guarantee good earnings for drivers, many of them decided to opt for a platform that would allow them to take their own fate in their own hands. InDriver was that platform

The drivers believe that InDriver, with its alternative and currently appealing model, is taking business away from Bolt. They believe the app company is looking to reclaim this business with this scheme that would slash its fares and make its platform more appealing to the riders

“Personally I think it’s a plan to drag back their customers from indrive,” Oluwatoba said. “Check the price of the same trip on Indrive, it isn’t even up to the amount on Bolt economy class yet drivers are rushing it,” he said.

Moses agrees, saying: “Bolt is trying to hijack its customers back from Indriver. That’s what they are trying to do. If they try it and it works they might remove the Standard category and put every car on Bolt and economy class. They are testing it now to see the reaction of both drivers and passengers.”

Vincent said: “Bolt is responding to competition from those two apps..Indrive and Rida came to kill the business.. it’s so sad. Same fastest fingers on Rida & Indrive are the ones that’ll be rushing economy trips on Bolt.”

Making a case (again) for a slash in commission 

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While this matter rages on, it is imperative to once again bring up the matter of 10% commission, one of the initial demands the AUATON made during its one-week strike. As noted in a previous post, accepting a flat commission rate of 10% might be the policy that turns the situation around.

Take, for instance, the fare for the trip analyzed earlier. For a N9,400 trip, a 10 per cent commission would be N940. This would leave the driver with an income of N8,460, way above the N7520 they would otherwise earn. While this appears like a lot business-wise for the companies, the drivers already smell the coffee on the fire and are once again demanding a flat commission rate of 10%.

“Bolt’s assumptions are quite alarming here. Trying to copy the economy class of Uber. Uber need know now that with Bolt’s reaction, reduction of commissions in all categories is the way to go to make agitations cease for the time-being,” Vincent said.

As for Moses, he believes it’s time both drivers and app companies started putting efforts into salvaging what is left of the Nigerian e-hailing space now or risk losing it forever. 

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