KENYA – Zuru, a startup that designs, manufactures, and markets innovative toys and consumer products, has launched its vehicle-sharing app that allows car owners to rent out their cars without using an agent.

Zuru Car Rental enables car owners to upload images and descriptions of their car, and set a rental price, with users able to book and pay for the rentals through the app’s secure M-Pesa-based escrow service.

The company’s chief executive officer (CEO) Rawlings Otini said the startup was aiming to increase transparency within the car rental industry by applying an Airbnb model, additional security features, and insurance.

“Currently, there is a lack of order and credibility in the industry. There are con-men posting cars online and asking customers for deposits, after which they switch off their phones. We want to end that,” said

The company started as a car hire agency linking car owners to clients but decided to automate the process in order to easily scale the service to remote areas. It has already signed up a number of car hire companies that are using the app to list their vehicles and is active in Nairobi and Mombasa. Otini said a Kisumu launch was imminent.

The new innovative aims to reduce the number of idle cars (which happens to be 95%). The system has an in-built rating system that rates users with stars rewarding the best owners and customers.

At the moment, payment is via M-Pesa, Kenya’s leading mobile money transfer medium. However, there are plans to include other forms of payment. Individual car owners can list their vehicles at no charge.

In a cautious yet smart move, the company has thus far signed trusted hosts who have uploaded their vehicles, i.e Go4 Fun, Unicorn Car Hire, Discovery cars, etc.

The app employs big data analytics from the devices to secure cars while reducing instances of theft. It also employs Google tracking.

10 percent of every transaction is deducted by the platform and the rest goes to the driver. This amount includes transaction fees. The company currently works with an insurer to provide pay-per-use insurance.

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