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A new riding hailing firm, Zoza Cab, is trying to break into Addis Ababa’s dominated ride-hailing market by deploying its own vehicles and bringing down prices. 

The company, which was launched at the beginning of 2023, says it has a fleet of around 100 cars that it either owns or rents.

Founded by Surafel Belay, the firm also does not charge flag-down fees, and passengers only pay for the distance traveled. Pricing its service at 25 birr per km charge, Zoza aims to be the favored mode for short- and medium-distance travel.

“Zoza Cab is unique in the market, and our goal is to be an affordable ride-hailing service provider. Many people do not opt to use ride-hailing for short distances because of high flag-down fees,” Surafel Belay, founder and CEO of Zoza Cabs, told Shega.

“With Zoza, when people are traveling for 3 km or 4 km, the price meter is still at 75 or 100 birr. These prices are below the flag-down fee of many ride-hailing companies. We are trying to address this niche market,” added Surafel.

Zoza, which has around 2000 users, is available on both the Play Store and App Store and is backed by a call center (8865). The company comprises a team of 15 employees in addition to its drivers, who are directly employed by Zoza Cab. The company provides drivers with a monthly payment of around 5,000 birr to operate its fleet. Automobiles like Yaris, Vitz and Corolla make up the majority of vehicles Zoza owns.

Zoza also has School Bus Service and is partnering with schools to ensure a secure and hassle-free transportation experience for kids. According to Surafel, student transportation services have several problems in the capital, including a lack of safety, proper communication, as well as students traveling in overcrowded minibuses.

Aiming to address these challenges, the Zoza School Bus service comes with a real-time tracking feature. Parents can stay updated on their child’s journey through text message notifications, receiving alerts when their child arrives at school or returns home safely. In addition, a dedicated guardian will be on the minibus, and vehicles have a strict no-load policy.

Set to be launched when the upcoming school year begins, Zoza is deploying its service via a subscription model.

“Parents will be charged 1800 birr per month to onboard their kids into the school bus service,” said Yeabsira Gebeyehu, marketing manager at Zoza Cab.

Its third product, on which the firm is working, is a minibus booking platform that will enable users to book seats on minibus taxis. To be available on a sperate app, these minibuses operate on fixed routes at fixed times. All the routes as well as the timings are displayed on the app, and clients are picked up at designated pick-up spots and times along the route. The company plans to charge a nominal fee in the range of 20 to 30 birr, depending on the route.

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“We have already finished the product. We will be releasing it after our ride-on-demand service becomes well known among the public,” said Surafel.

Zoza Cab is following in the footsteps of the likes of Sergela in its car ownership model. Seregela, launched in 2020, provides taxi hailing services by women drivers to corporate and individual clients in Addis Ababa. Feres and RIDE, two prominent ride-hailing companies in Ethiopia, dominate the majority of the market share.

The newcomer Zoza says it has been receiving good feedback from its customers so far.

“One thing we are working on is meeting demand with the number of cars we have. Because we only have cars we own under the system, the number is limited. We are trying to expand our fleet,” Yeabsira told Shega.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.