UruDrive did go unusually silent about its ride-hailing service in Owerri, and after a spokesperson, last year, shared a hint with me about expanding to other cities in South-South and South-East, It seems they have done the opposite – at least that’s what I thought until now.
With a chunk of large billboards displayed across major areas in Owerri, Imo State’s capital city advertising it’s newly launched technical school, I thought Uru failed at its ride-hailing business then re-launched as an IT academy to cover up. I was wrong. A chat with Odinaka Onuigbo, an ex-staffer at Uru, via text message exposed a different reality the startup that once said it will fix transportation in Owerri is trying to follow or to create.
“UruDrive has not shut down,” said Odinaka.
“UruDrive is still very much in operation and is expanding, we’ve launched in the city of Port Harcourt and set to shake up the ride-hailing scene over there.”
It has a Port Harcourt address listed on Google My Business for confirmation. Port Harcourt won’t be an easy market for Uru; it has to either be cheap, double down on acquiring enough drivers on its app accompanied by mouth-watering offers and off course, be ready to dish out lots of free discount codes to at least compete with Joshua Josh’s Cabby.ng, PalmDrive and CeetyTaxi for a share of a market.
Lagging but Operating
With all claims by Odinaka about Uru not shutting down, it indeed had a surge in the numbers of app users in the past few months. There’s no solid data to back this up as Uru refused to provide metrics about the number of times the app has been installed or monthly average users, but a large amount of negative reviews about its app on the Appstore is alarming.
It could be the app’s not working properly or not at all, Confirmation code coming in late or never came in, the really expensive trip fares and not being able to locate drivers for hours are constant issues Owerri users face. “Horrible app”, “very wicked people, they cheat a lot. When you board their cab and get stuck in traffic, your money keeps going higher”, “nonsense service,” are the few answers you’ll likely hear when you ask someone about UruDrive.
We get it, Uru isn’t at Uber or Taxify type kind of level, but at least it should work properly.
Maybe there’s a surge in app usage or not, however, the different options Uru made available to book rides and register drivers was where it got it right. Owerri is an offline-first market, Uru allows users without its app book rides via phone calls or physically in its office and it works. Prices can be bargained as compared to having a computer inaccurately calculate trips fares and you get assigned a driver immediately.
It’s a two-sided thing really. Online performance might not be at its best, nevertheless, the number of calls for rides and the number of individuals that register as drivers physically at Uru’s office increases daily.
Launching an Academy and Bridging the Talent Gap
It’s unsettling that Nigeria’s Universities have failed or are coming off short in educating students with globally competitive skills. Students either in secondary schools or tertiary institutions are being taught using an education curriculum that was last reviewed two decades ago. Uru is trying to bridge the knowledge/skills gap with Uru Academy – A training hub focused on equipping individuals with IT skills for jobs of the future.
All of Uru’s engineering was done in Ghana where they launched first. It’s unlikely to say Uru is starting a school because it lacks the employed engineering power but rather there’s a shortage of tech talents in Owerri and starting an IT training business has become relatively very lucrative, reasons associated with the increase in the demand to learn an IT skill to stay relevant in today’s workforce.
Uru Academy course offerings span from software engineering and graphics design to artificial intelligence and digital marketing. Each course runs for a duration of four months for basic level and another four months for advanced level. However, the fixed ₦95,000/4months it charges for courses is a bit of an overkill.
I think courses should be priced based on its level of complexity. For example, charging ₦95,000/4months for the basics of digital marketing is a bit too pricey for a brand like Uru that’s a new entrant in the IT training business. People need to hear testimonies about its training before deepening a hand in their pockets to splurge ₦95,000.
Uru should make fees for the first set of students a bit lesser, do a good job with training, the people who have successfully completed their training can also help tell others, then they can charge what they want( a reasonable amount).