Hytch offers ride-sharing and hitchiking

If you’re a 9-5er and have great coworkers who own cars, then you probably know the concept of riding along. Let’s say your office is in Ikeja, you live in Surulere, and your colleague who also lives in Surulere has a car. So, you tend to get a ride with them, sometimes paying for fuel, saving you quite a bit of money that you’d have spent on transport.

What if you could ride along with someone else going the same way? That doesn’t sound too safe, right? Especially if you’ve been following the recent news on social media about insecurity on some ride-hailing and even government-owned transport systems.

Laolu Onifade believes he may have hit a sweet spot when launching his ride-sharing startup. Hytch.

But what can Hytch do for us?

According to Onifade Hytch connects car owners with passengers traveling in the same direction. Using our earlier example, say you’re trying to get to Berger from Surulere, all you have to do is launch the app, find drivers within a 2-3km radius going in that direction and, voila, you’ve “hytched” a ride.

Similar to GoMyWay’s defunct service, three other riders ride in the same direction. This makes it cheaper.

Modeled after popular ride-hailing companies like Bolt and Uber, Hytch doesn’t own any of the cars on the platform and only onboards drivers, with certain safety restrictions — which we’ll get into later — built in to prevent mishaps.

Hytch charges 15% for every ride, and offers a cashless payment option. All users — drivers and passengers — have a wallet, so passengers are automatically debited the amount for the trip when it ends.

The idea for Hytch was birthed between 2019 and 2020, following Onifade’s frustrations with ride-hailing platforms.

“I have encountered this problem myself moving around and with Uber being so expensive; I’ve had this problem with Uber since 2019/2020. I noticed that Uber, Bolt and other taxis were getting more expensive. So I wondered, what if I could just hop on a ride?

“Why can’t I just be in someone’s car? Sometimes when I’m in an Uber that’s costing me say ₦5,000, I don’t mind sharing the ride with three other people in the back seat going in the same direction.”

In 2021, they started building Hytch with the help of their friends Femi Omoniyi and Olawale Aeyeye (Chief Imaginer) and Kemdirim Abkujobi as Product and Design Lead.

After several months of beta-testing, during which they had to onboard 200 people, Hytch has come out of stealth mode. Today, the app is available on both the Google Play Store, and the Apple App Store.

Ensuring user safety

Last week Friday, March 18, 2022, this tweet by Twitter, @_kimaura set Nigeria’s Twitter streets ablaze.

@_kimaura said that the Bolt driver robbed her phone, debit cards and IDs. This was less than a month after Oluwabamise died on a BRT in Lagos. Many people were narrating different incidents.

@ade_IDD, another Twitter user, told how she was nearly kidnapped in a Bolt car driver whose appearance was very different from what was shown on the platform. He told her that he was using his brother’s account because his had been blocked.

She was able to get to safety before anything bad happened.

A tweet from @shugadupri that was deleted has another user reporting the same driver.

Interestingly, while Bolt’s support team acknowledged some complaints on Twitter, it is yet to release an official statement on the matter.

Hytch hopes to make user safety a priority with Onifade

Onifade stated that both riders and drivers are protected by the same safety measures.

“For drivers, we verify driver’s license. You must take a photo of yourself at the time you sign up for a rider’s license. The driver will use the picture you took at sign up to identify you. So you have to make sure you’re taking an actual picture or else the driver is not going to pick you up.

“You also have to put in your legal first and last name while signing up.”

Hytch has partnered up with IdentityPass, a Nigerian digital security and compliance company, to ensure it is an exact picture. They plug in an API that checks if it is a real face.

Driver and rider receive a pin to confirm their identities on the app. This can prevent drivers from starting trips without arriving.

Like other ride-hailing/ride-sharing companies, Hytch provides a panic button that enables users to alert family and friends when they are in danger.

A rider who has three consecutive bad ratings is automatically banned from the app. However, they can be reinstated. After an investigation has been completed, the driver would need to contact the company to have their account unblocked.

Onifade stated that there are plans to include NIN verification as a security measure. However, he acknowledged that this could be restrictive for users without NINs.

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