From 'sushi king' to taxi boss: Kenny Kunene takes on Uber with new app

Kenny Kunene recently launched a new e-hailing app, Yookoo Rides.
Kenny Kunene recently launched a new e-hailing app, Yookoo Rides.
Image: Kenny Kunene Instagram

"We've been inundated with calls from all over the country," says Kenny Kunene about his latest business venture.

Driven by the realisation that technology is the gateway to the future, Kunene has decided to enter the world of taxi e-hailing. He recently started a business to compete with global giants like Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify).   

His foray into the world of high-tech transport is a far cry from some of the earlier antics that got him media attention, such as eating sushi from the bodies of naked women.

Kunene’s service, called Yookoo Rides, was launched in February. It has several additional features compared to those offered by his competitors.

“Besides the fact that we are a 100% black-owned South African company, our app offers a panic button that will be linked to next of kin and our offices for emergency purposes. So in an event of any emergency, we will be able call the customer, contact the police or even dispatch security services in the area,” Kunene said in an interview with TimesLIVE.

Kunene said the app also offered a convenient payment method that allowed customers to load money for future rides. Also setting it apart from the competition is the fact that more than one trip can be made at a time. 

“People use these services for different reasons and some very often. A person who uses it to work can put R2,000 on their wallet account and pay for their trips from it. Even those who travel around for fun can be able to have a budget,” he said.

Kunene said some people did not have cards nor cash (as required by Uber and Taxify), so his app allowed for trips to be paid for by other users using the "wallet" feature.  

The company has so far rolled out its services to Gauteng. There are plans to expand the business to other provinces - and beyond. “In the past two weeks, we have been inundated with calls from all over the country and some neighbouring countries that want to use the service. I can assure you that we will go global,” said Kunene.

Another feature differentiating Kunene’s business is that it offers substantial discounts. “Yookoo Rides offers massive discounts of up to 40%. This varies on distance, of course. The smaller the distance, the cheaper the ride. It’s a different case when it is a long distance trip,” he said.  

Local users of e-hailing services have been involved in a number of incidents in which drivers have been accused of attacks and assaults. Kunene explained that his drivers were subjected to strict vetting processes, including the submission of professional driving permits.

He said his company offered various technological innovations that are aimed at  creating jobs and uplifting the youth. “Our young people have the brains and ideas, so we want to create a platform that will assist in polishing their ideas and become billionaires, because smart technology is the future.” 

While the business has been up and running for almost a month, Kunene said his team had been working on it since 2015. “It didn’t just happen. It took a lot for it to finally take off. I was blessed to come across people with the same passion - and qualifications, because I am just a businessman. It was a dream come true,” he said.  

TimesLIVE tested the app and the discounts varied. It was rated 4.6 out of 5 by users on the Google Play Store.

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