Taxi-hailing app Bolt has terminated job ties with 5,000 drivers due to misconduct as the company aims to restore its image amidst security concerns in Kenya. The Estonian mobility company, which rebranded from Taxify, has pursued a growth strategy focused on having the highest number of drivers in the market, making it the most readily available mobility company within the city, and offering discounted pricing to ensure a steady flow of customers.
However, this strategy has created vulnerabilities, leading to the infiltration of the application by criminals who have kidnapped and even sexually abused customers. Bolt, headquartered in Tallinn and operating in over 500 cities in more than 45 countries in Europe, Africa, Western Asia, and Latin America, has faced allegations in recent months, with the most recent cases involving a Bolt driver caught exposing himself to a client.
When Uber entered the Kenyan market, it aimed to assure customers that it had their backs by conducting background checks on its drivers and implementing strict policies to ensure their discipline and compliance with local regulations, including licensing and insurance.
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Bolt’s laissez-faire approach
However, as Uber was displacing traditional taxi drivers, Taxify entered the scene. According to Markus Villig, Bolt’s strategy was to offer customers discounts to incentivize them to use their platform, thereby ensuring even more traffic for drivers.
Kenyans eagerly embraced the discounted rides, making the application very attractive to drivers. However, Taxify, which later rebranded as Bolt, struggled to meet this significant demand while maintaining the level of discipline in driver onboarding seen with Uber.
Bolt, adopting a laissez-faire approach, allowed licenses to expire, permitted drivers to upload cars that were not their own on the platform, and witnessed others creating accounts solely to rent them out to unregistered drivers. This situation led to criminals and individuals reported by customers rejoining the platform unnoticed. Consequently, the company soon found itself grappling with a public relations nightmare, facing allegations of rogue drivers and instances of assault, and even kidnappings.