Motoring with Bob Roco Romeo: Sustainable, affordable, safe and reliable mobility solutions – the Bolt story so far

  • a conversation with David Kotei, Bolt’s Country Manager

It has certainly been a successful year for Ghana’s leading ride-hailing platform, Bolt. From a major expansion drive that has seen it extend its operations to eight (8) cities and towns to the roll-out of innovative features to improve its customers’ experiences, the mobility company doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

The B&FT sat with Bolt’s Country Manager in Ghana, David Kotei, to explore its vision of a future where people are no longer forced to buy a car to get around, how it is handling the macro-economic challenges occasioned by local and global forces, and its outlook for 2023.

Here is the low-down on how Bolt continues to focus on offering reliable, affordable, safe and sustainable solutions to Ghana’s mobility challenges.

Q: The world has, in some ways, been permanently changed by the recent pandemic. How has it impacted Bolt?

A: Bolt, as part of the global economy, has not been immune to the changes brought about by the pandemic. Changes have been felt in all aspects of the business. Internally, even though our employees are used to flexible working conditions, this time helped us refine the productivity levels of team members regardless of where they worked from.

Within our core business operations, we have had to change some of our processes to be more flexible to the needs of our customers. For example, drivers could now be enrolled onto the platform and trained more remotely, and this is something that we are committed to improve upon even in a post-pandemic world.

Q: To what degree has Bolt’s services — partner-driving, ride-hailing and food delivery — increased consequently?

A: For a tech-enabled mobility firm, our goal – at Bolt – has always been to make cities better. This challenge, therefore, turned into an opportunity for us as customers became even more willing to use technology to improve their lives. We definitely saw an uptake in all sectors of our business as people prefer our accessibility and reliability, whether in deciding what to eat or where to go. This has cemented our belief that Bolt offers the best value for money for drivers, couriers, passengers and eaters; and we will continue to drive the market.

Q: Has there been any noticeable increase in the number of women driver-partners?

A: We have seen an increase in the number of women driver-partners, and we are eager and keen for even more. Those who have tried it have mostly found it satisfactory, and more importantly, we have been able to get valuable feedback to try and make our service even better for women who choose to drive or ride with us.

Recently, we started a Women Category Reward for drivers in Accra and Kumasi as part of our Monthly Driver Rewards. It has been a joy to witness the stories of those being rewarded and how Bolt is improving their lives. ‘Anyone can drive’ is our key message to all Ghanaians.

Q: What were some of the challenges with this sharp rise in demand?

A: The biggest challenge was getting enough drivers and couriers to meet the growing demand. However, an additional challenge was growing service quality as we grew in numbers. We have made several product improvements to our overall package to ensure we grow sustainably.

Q: How has Bolt navigated the sharp rise in the price of petroleum products this year?

A: It has been tough for the business as drivers and couriers, and their welfare lies at the centre of everything we do at Bolt. Regarding rides, we have had to review our fares upward multiple times within the past 12 months to ensure that drivers do not get impacted unduly.

This has not been challenging in a very competitive landscape where some players might take the opportunity to undercut on price. However, we are relentless that it is the right thing to do, and we will constantly evaluate the marketplace and respond accordingly when required. We are grateful to our passengers who have stayed with us and kept us as number one as we go through a difficult time as a country. So we are hopeful that brighter days will come.

Q: How has Bolt been able to surmount these challenges?

A: It has required us to listen more to drivers’ concerns as we organise quarterly roundtables to improve our overall service delivery for all stakeholders.

Q: Safety has been at the forefront of concerns for riders and drivers alike. What measures has Bolt put in place to ensure enhanced safety?

A: Safety is extremely important to us at Bolt as without both riders and drivers feeling safe, we do not have a business. Admittedly, one safety issue is one too many and we continue to roll out new features always based on driver and rider feedback to close any gaps. In the past years, we have introduced:

  • On Trip Insurance with Star Assurance to ensure if there are any issues on a ride, covering both the driver and rider. This is only for trips taken through the app so never settle for an ‘offline trip’ as you are short-changing yourself.
  • Trip Sharing is available for both driver and rider, where you can share every trip with a trusted person to monitor where you are.
  • Rider Destination, where drivers now know where riders are headed before deciding to accept the trip or not.
  • High Priority Support Team that deals exclusively and swiftly with matters of safety
  • SOS Button

Q: Also, car ownership remains an elusive dream for many drivers. How is Bolt helping drivers to own cars?

A: This has been one of the biggest challenges facing the ride-hailing industry in Africa, and Ghana is no exception. We have the problem of extremely high duties, taxes and interest rates, meaning that drivers find it challenging to raise funds to buy cars.

We have partnered with vehicle finance companies to provide an affordable and more flexible solution for drivers to varying degrees of success. We are open to partnerships and discussions with credible partners to improve our offerings. The key for us is allowing drivers to win in life. They are the reason we exist, and anyone with that mindset will find a willing partner to collaborate with us.

Q: What regions is Bolt currently operating in? Are there near-term plans for expansion?

A: Bolt is currently in eight (8) regions – Greater Accra, Ashanti, Western, Central, Eastern, Bono, Volta and Northern. Four (4) of these happened over the past 12 months, so in a period where many businesses were downsizing, Bolt continued to invest in the Ghanaian economy in providing jobs directly and indirectly to many more Ghanaians.

In the near term, we still have ambitions to expand not only in terms of cities, but also with new products and services such as the recent launch of our Call-A-Bolt Service, where even people without smartphones or data can request a Bolt Ride. Bolt Food also has great scope for growth. We will take each of these decisions calmly driven by data as long as we see the room to grow profitably.

Q: In what areas should we expect further innovation from Bolt shortly? What exciting products and services are in the offing?

A: We continue to look for new ways to improve mobility and its ancillary services in all our markets. Right now, we are celebrating our latest offering, which is called ‘Call-A-Bolt’ or CAB for short. As we grew, we realised that there was an entire section of the population that were not so inclined to technology. At the same time, even those with no technology issue sometimes had instances when they had a bad network connection or no data.

This service is meant to bridge that gap and allow anyone with a phone, even without credit or data to call a toll-free number 0800 400 400 to order for a ride. While we have launched it primarily in Accra, we anticipate rolling it out in all our operating cities in the next few months. For the Bolt driver, this creates an additional source of demand, all while ensuring that they get the same best earnings they already get on Bolt.

Leave a Reply