The all-female crew bringing prestige to the matatu industry

The Prestige Shuttle crew.

Photo credit: Joseph Openda | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Prestige Sacco has stormed the matatu  industry with women as its main crew.

  • The ladies, dressed in red skirt suits complete with hats resembling those of flight attendants, are in full control of transport services, something that has seen the transport company feted for being the best in the country.

  • The female crew does all the touting, customer care and ferrying of passengers to different destinations across the country.

Travelling by public means can be a nightmare to many passengers. In an industry perceived to be marred with chaos and uncivilised characters, one would only hope to safely arrive at their destination.

However, when you get to a bus station and are welcomed by smartly dressed ladies who diligently assist you with the ticket booking and even pray for you before you embark on the journey, you certainly want to be sure you are not at an airport.

This is the exact situation you meet at one of Nakuru town’s matatu termini – it is changing the status quo of the matatu industry.

Prestige Sacco, which has been in operation for years, has stormed the industry with its unique style of operation, a total shift from the norm.

With women as its main crew, the distasteful attributes of the sometimes rowdy, foul-mouthed and uncivilised touts is nothing in sight.

The ladies, dressed in red skirt suits complete with hats resembling those of flight attendants, are in full control of transport services, something that has seen the transport company feted for being the best in the country.

Ms Ann Grace Wanjiku ready to ferry passengers from Nakuru to Nairobi.

Photo credit: Joseph Openda | Nation Media Group

The female crew does all the touting, customer care and ferrying of passengers to different destinations across the country.

Ms Grace Njoki, who holds a diploma in information communication and technology is in charge of customer relations. Now in her fourth year working with the company, the 26-year-old’s job is to ensure customers leave the station satisfied, comfortable and motivated.

Once a passenger arrives at the booking office, Ms Njoki welcomes them with a gentle smile, warming their hearts before directing them to the booking office.

“I help potential customers with booking of tickets, direct them to their seats, tuck their luggage safely in the back compartment and ensure they belt up,” she says.

She then ensures each customer has received their cash balances, in case of any, before introducing the trip driver.  What follows is the invitation of a pastor to pray for the journey before the vehicle takes off.

When she was first offered the job, Ms Njoki says she was reluctant as she did not want to be associated with a job that has a negative perception from the minds of the public.

Ms Carol Nduko assists customers in arranging their luggage inside the compartment. 

Photo credit: Joseph Openda | Nation Media Group

But upon learning their way of operation, she gladly accepted and has since been part of the crew.

“I realised that the customers appreciated our services so much and I started loving the job. I do not regret taking the offer,” says Ms Njoki.

The company named her the hostess of the year 2020. One of her main challenges is dealing with different types of customers, which she says can be overwhelming.

Ms Carol Nduko, on the other hand, is in charge of sales, marketing and customer relations department. A holder of higher diploma in sales and marketing, she says her job involves looking into the welfare of customers.

As a team leader, Ms Nduko handles complaints or compliments arising from the passengers using their vehicles.

“My work is to create a long-lasting relationship between the customer and the company by ensuring they get quality service. I even keep their contacts to follow up on them to know their journey experience,” she says.

Ms Ann Grace Wanjiku is a driver who criss-crosses the country ferrying passengers to different regions. The 27-year-old is a certified driver with more than five years’ experience.

In her fourth year working with the shuttle company, Ms Wanjiku says the experience has been thrilling, especially considering that she is among the few female drivers.

Negative attitude

She notes that doing a job that is dominated by men has not been all rosy as she has had to deal with negative attitude from some men who despise her.

"What keeps me going is my love for the job and the appreciation I get from the passengers at the end of the journey. Most of them congratulate me, including those who had issues at the start of the journey,” she says.

After operating for a decade, the company recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. For the second consecutive year, they were awarded for being the best fleet shuttle of the year.

They received a trophy last month in a colourful ceremony hosted by the road safety agency, Safety Plus Consulting Limited formerly the National Road Safety Agency.

Speaking during the celebration, Mr Alphayo Otuke, the Chief Executive Officer of Safety Plus Limited said the Prestige Shuttle has proved to be an important stakeholder in the government’s efforts to promote safety on the highways.

He said the agency considered many parameters ranging from the manner of operations, company innovations systems such as the Information Communication Technology that enable efficiency and accident ratings among other things, before settling on the winner.

“We need to see all stakeholders play their part in promoting road safety in order to reduce the worrying surge in number accidents along our roads,” said Mr Otuke.

Prestige Shuttle director Mr Steven Muli and his wife cut the cake to mark 10 years of operation. 

Photo credit: Joseph Openda | Nation Media Group

While receiving the award, the company director Mr Steve Muli, who is also the chairman of the Central Rift Matatu Owners Association, said his aim is to change the traditional perception of the industry by offering decent services.

“We promise to maintain our quality standards to be emulated by other stakeholders in the industry. As we begin our second decade, our aim will be to see the matatu industry respected as any other serious business,” said Mr Muli.

The company has invested heavily on customer relations with their focus on the female employees.

Ms Chebet, a regular customer with the service says she has used the shuttles for four years now.

“I live in Baringo County but work in Nairobi, so I travel every weekend sometimes with my family, and I have been using the shuttles. I love the services because I do not need to worry about careless driving,” she says.

Mr Muli says he initially employed men before changing the strategy after four years of poor business. The director says the decision to have women in the crew turned out to be his golden opportunity as business blossomed very fast.

“We were shocked when the high number of customers overwhelmed our staff. We were forced to recruit more women after realising that the customers loved their services,” he says.