Downtown Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Picture: ISTOCK
Downtown Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Picture: ISTOCK

Nairobi — Kenyan ride-hailing company Little will expand to Tanzania and Ghana by May and plans to raise about $50m more from investors, CEO Kamal Budhabhatti says.

Little, which competes with global players Uber and Taxify in Kenya, is valued at between $70m to $75m, Budhabhatti said, a minnow compared to rivals but it has aims to expand across Africa.

The company will offer rides in Tanzania's commercial capital Dar es Salaam from next week and plans to launch in Accra by May, Budhabhatti said, adding to operations in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.

Little was talking to investors to raise about $50m in series A funding, the financing received when a start-up opens up to outside investors for the first time. It aims to finalise this by mid-2019, Budhabhatti said.

"We are meeting a couple of investors, both on the continent and in Silicon Valley. The interest is there," he said, adding that new funds would be used to develop technology and to expand to more countries. He did not name the potential investors.

Without the deep pockets of its ride-hailing rivals in the region, Little has been attracting drivers by encouraging them to offer extra services to earn money, Budhabhatti said.

"Our drivers are agents, they can sell insurance to you, they can sell [mobile] airtime, they can pay light and/or water bills, they can do all those little things around that increases that income," he said.

Little, which has a marketing partnership with Kenya's biggest mobile operator Safaricom, is also available to Kenyan customers who do not have a smartphone.

The company worked with mobile operators to introduce a code to identify a passenger's location. "About 20% of our rides actually come from non-smartphones," Budhabhatti said.

The company, which started up in 2016, has 10,000 registered drivers in Nairobi, with about 60% of those active, and more than 1-million users on its platform across all markets, with more than 60% of those in Kenya, he said.

Uber, which has been operating in Kenya for four years, has 6,000 active drivers.

Little launched a bus service in January in Nairobi, on top of its car taxi service and motorcycle taxi service, known in Kenya as "boda boda". It is also looking at a delivery service.