Juha Suojanen is the CEO and founder of EkoRent, which initially started as an electric car rental app in Helsinki. He’s in Nairobi promoting the firm’s new ride sharing company, Nopia Ride. Hailed as an ‘eco-Uber’, the service wants to break into the city’s competitive taxi market by offering zero-emission rides at lower rates.
“It’s important to shift away from a transport model dependent on fossil fuels and personal cars,” says Ariadne Baskin of the Electric Mobility Unit. “Nopia Ride is helping do that, combining both shared transport and electric mobility. Scaled up, this reduces the number of vehicles on the road, relieves congestion, and cuts back on energy use and emissions.”
Explaining why a Finnish company chose Nairobi for its first international expansion, Suojanen says, “The city is growing really fast with huge transportation and congestion problems that cause more issues with emissions. So, it was a clear choice. Growth potential in Finland is quite limited. We saw that there’s a big business opportunity while also an opportunity to do some good for the environment by going to bigger cities outside of Europe.”
The use of electric cars allows the company to charge less, pay the drivers more and protect the environment. According to Suojanen, this win-win model will ensure that the company becomes truly competitive in the market once they start to grow.
“If you talk to any taxi driver they hate Uber, because it makes 12-hour work days. What is unique about our business model is that the drivers don’t pay for gasoline, so they’ll make 30 – 50 per cent more than with Uber or Taxify. So, we can ensure low prices for the passengers but also that the drivers are making a living,” said Suojanen.
While Nopia Ride has only had a foothold in Africa since August of 2018, the company is now in the scaling up phase, building new charging stations and setting a goal of having 1,500 vehicles on the road by the end of 2021. Looking towards the future, Suojanaen is confident, “If we can prove the model here, then we can continue to expand outside Nairobi. We’re not stopping here. We want to go everywhere in Africa.”