Those of us who live in Zimbabwe have recently been exposed to a cash crisis that has hit our economy and along with it, an all too familiar era of fuel shortages has started to occur as a result. According to an assessment done by the Financial Gazette, a local business weekly, most fuel stations in Harare ran out of either diesel or petrol the second week of September.
Now, if you were a driver during that week, you were probably screaming “someone please help me, where is the fuel in Zimbabwe?!”.
The everyday things like finding fuel that are big problems for many
As a driver, you’ve felt the frustration of going from one fuel station to another in search of petrol or diesel depending on your car model. As your search progresses, you’re disappointed time and time again as each fuel station you approach says that they don’t have any fuel.
It quickly starts to seem like you’re going to finish the fuel in your car while just trying to answer the question where is the fuel in Zimbabwe. If you’re unfortunate, your car does run out of fuel before you get the answer to that question but what if someone could tell you the answer and save you time and money.
Wouldn’t you want that?
I know I would definitely want someone to just tell me where the nearest fuel station to me that has fuel is located.
At this point in time, you’re probably thinking oh he’s going to tell me that there’s a startup solving that problem. Well, if you were thinking that then I’m sorry to disappoint you because I have not come across such a Zimbabwean startup. Yet.
You could answer where is the fuel in Zimbabwe…
So if you haven’t also come across a solution to that problem then you’ve just got yourself a startup idea. Create an application or a website or a web app that helps people locate fuel stations that have fuel and are near to them. People could simply open up the application for example and your app would get their current location then based on that, it would recommend a route to take for them to get to the nearest fuel station that has petrol or diesel.
The app would have a database that it would get all that information from and you’d have a team of people across Harare for example at key points that are constantly in the know of which service stations have fuel. Yes, that might seem expensive and too much work and there’s still that important question of where is the money in this idea…
Umm… Where’s the money in showing people where the fuel is?
Well, you could approach the fuel stations for a partnership and earn money from the partnership. Now, we recently talked about intellectual property and how to protect your idea in Zimbabwe especially from a big corporation that might end up stealing the idea, so have a look at that before you just run towards the fuel station or any company for a partnership.
Assuming you’ve got your idea secured, you go to one of the largest fuel stations with hopefully a working prototype to prove the concept of the idea. If there’s something that big companies want, it is to be innovators. They want to be the ones that bring the next convenient solution to their customers. The ones that leverage the new broadband economy using this new age technology to solve real pressure points that people are facing.
I think because of that, if they see the value in the idea and what it could do for them, they will be willing to have it be their own by buying you in. They know that if they secure this piece of technology then they’ve got a slight edge over their competitors.
Another way of making money from showing where the fuel is…
Now, that’s one way for you to get a payout once then just leave it to other people to improve on the solution etc. A different route you could take is to build out this solution to such a scale that these big corporations who might not even be fuel stations will want to advertise on your platform.
In this case, you own the idea and have full control so you can get as many advertisers onto the platform as you want. You could diverge a little from route number 1 that we mentioned earlier and instead of being bought out, you enter into a partnership with several fuel stations that will sponsor the project but you still retain full control and are able to get advertisers onto the platform.
They’ll laugh at that fuel startup until it is so big that it can’t be silly
Before you go on running around saying that you have a million dollar idea, it won’t be that as easy as eating ice cream to bring just one corporation. This is Zimbabwe, nothing is easy. And that’s exactly what makes that such a great thing because it’s not easy, very few people will try.
If you try and you succeed, you’ll be that guy or girl that came up with a solution to a problem while the economy was facing a crisis. Someone recently was laughing at how a startup is helping people send money from Zimbabwe to South Africa using Bitcoin.
To this person, it was so simple to just buy the Bitcoin themselves and send it to their relatives in South Africa then they help them get the Bitcoin to rands. So they didn’t see the need for someone to create a whole business around such a simple thing. The problem that this person failed to see is that it’s not easy for everyone. In fact, for the majority of people, Bitcoin is still a new thing.
Likewise, it might seem like one of those problems that can be solved easily by just driving around looking for the fuel yourself but for most people, they don’t have all that much fuel to use doing that. And if you were to help them save the fuel, they’d surely appreciate it.
If a Zimbabwean doesn’t answer where’s the fuel, someone else will
So it’s up to you to see if you’d like to take this idea and bring it to life. I might be totally wrong that this is a problem to be solved but if your startup around this idea turns out to be a huge success, I won’t come knocking at your door saying that it’s time to pay up for the idea.
This idea is free to take as it was passed on to me by someone freely. If you don’t think that it’s also something you’d want to do or maybe you just don’t have resources to dedicate to it, pass it on to someone else. As Zimbabweans, we need to start solving all these problems that are sometimes right in our faces, otherwise, the Americans will just come and do it for us then it’s back to complaining about how all the great ideas are taken.
After all, great ideas only become that because a once small idea that solved a problem was implemented. Speaking of great ideas, I’m still curious, why doesn’t istherezesa.com exist?
The Financial Gazette is an online and weekly business newspaper. The company is owned by Modus Publications, which is in turn owned by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe. Called Fingaz for short, the newspaper was established in 1969. Read More About The Financial Gazette
Total Zimbabwe is the country operation of Total S.A, a French multinational integrated oil and gas company. In Zimbabwe it focuses on the retail of fuels of Petrol engines and diesel engines, domestic fuels (paraffin), aviation fuels and automotive lubricants. Read More About Total
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority Holdings is the country's biggest power producer and regulating company. It operates under the Ministry and Energy and Power Development and it runs a number of subsidiary companies with various specialities in power regulation and communications. Read More About Zesa