Pamushana Africa Transport is an intriguing company. It’s not very often that we see kombi operators take to social media but that’s what the company did and they took the world of online interaction like a duck to water. With 16 850 followers, the transport company has more followers than certain local banks, football teams and
If you ask me personally theirs is a story that illustrates the power of branding and how embracing the internet before your competitors can pay dividends…
We recently got a chance to interview Pamushana Africa (referred to as PAT in the interview below) representatives who gave us insights on why the company embraced social media and the impact this had on their business. We also touched on how branding can be a double-edged sword and the things Pamushana would like to see change in their industry.
Techzim: Pamushana is a transport company and that isn’t usually the type of company that people rush to follow/like on social media but your company has done well building a strong social media following. Why is that the case?
Pamushana Africa Transport: We began by connecting with our patrons through a WhatsApp platform, we would get their feedback, they would share updates and also interact on the platform.
This gave us an idea that we had to connect with other patrons through other existing platforms; ie Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We learnt that there were more people to connect with; apart from those who would use our services, there are potential users of our services, some who we may not serve, but still like our ideas and concepts. So we went on to pursue our strategy, to stay connected and engaged with our audience.
We participate in conversations, share content — it could be pictures from our previous tour, or client we served, or memes and other interesting material, or just thoughts to encourage and inspire our followers. We make sure we exist on social media like any other people because that’s how our brand can show its fine personality.
But it might have been a stroke of luck for us to gain as many followers… Or people find it amusing that a “Kombi company” has a social media presence, it’s not the norm in our sector.
TZ: Has your social media presence led you to opportunities you might have missed out on before?
PAT: The first opportunity is to have friends and companions. There are people who come through social media and show support for our work, they give us encouragement to keep working and to keep looking for innovative ways to serve our clients. Companionship may not be valued in monetary terms, but it’s something priceless, we may not have done much without our companions, many of which we have met on social media.
Secondly, we’ve gained clients, because social media presents an opportunity to advertise products and services. As we share our work, our services, our products, and packages, someone is likely to see them, and next they could be interested and come on board. A significant number of our clients are people who got an idea of our work and services through social media.
In addition, social media enables people to leave reviews and comments on our services. Hence someone who sees the positive reviews we get could be convinced that we are the best organisation to work with, and the next thing they become our client. This is why we always want to leave clean footprints on our social media, it helps people make decisions about working with us.
Thirdly, social media connects us with partners. There are people who may want to invest; funds, their resources or ideas towards a project with us. They can easily get a reference of our work through tracing our social media footprint, and that helps in getting confidence and assurance that we are definitely the team to work with.
Finally, Social media gives us an opportunity to listen to people. In listening, we grow. By hearing what people are talking about, what people are saying about us, or our products, we get to see what to improve on, or what to reinforce. It also helps us to build packages that suit the consumer preferences; of which we would have gotten the insights on social media. To us, social media has done many things for us. And daily it keeps presenting us with opportunities. Even as we have connected with you lol!
TZ: You already mentioned that your social media presence has helped you acquire clients and I was going to ask about revenue. Maybe explain how your presence on social media has impacted revenue in a bit more depth?
PAT: Social media helps to reach out to more people at a lesser cost. It’s the equal alt to of touting but on the internet… So just as there are hwindis at ranks calling for people to come on board; our social media activities are meant to encourage people to be keen to make us their transport service provider of choice and to make us the best solution to their transport needs.
And as we have mentioned earlier, social media helps more people to know of us — people want to do business with who they know. We have had large corporates pick us to be their transport service provider because they see us on social media, equally, daily we have people who call to make an inquiry on our products, and become our clients because they have come across us on social media.
TZ: Outside of social media and your use of the internet, your kombis also have unique branding. Does this give you an edge over other Kombi operators taking into consideration that Pamushana kombis also go into the rank just like regular kombis?
PAT: We support Manchester United, just like any other progressive person lol! That’s a joke. However, we do like Manchester United, a club which has one of the largest following across the globe and in Zimbabwe too. Those who affiliate with the club will happily board our vehicles, but they associate with it. Those who dislike Manchester United, eg Chelsea fans.. will still have to choose us for a different reason — great customer care. So whilst our vehicle branding does a great job towards connecting with Manchester United fans, we still have to go an extra mile to show clients that we are indeed committed to serving them.
Otherwise, the prominent branding could work against us; people will easily identify us and refuse to be served by us if there’s something wrong with our service, “MaKombi aye eManchester United haaiite…” So we always make sure that we do not get involved in situations which brings us into disrepute. We want to maintain the best image for our clients.
We rank like all the other kombis, however, because of loyalty, people can choose to board our vehicles even if there’s another vehicle ahead of ours on the rank. At some point, we knew that it takes not more than 2 minutes to fill up our Kombi on the rank! We are experiencing a transitioning on our vehicle branding strategy and in the near future, you will be seeing it.
For safeguarding our brand, ensuring clients can identify our vehicles, every vehicle has the Pamushana logo and contacts on the driver and passenger’s door. We’ve also made Pamushana Africa and it’s logo trademarks, and they are patented. We want to ensure that clients have confidence in our brand and what we stand for.
TZ: What frustrates you about the kombi/transport industry?
PAT: We want the industry to grow, we want to grow through partnerships, we want operators to come together and work towards a common cause; which is to serve the customer. Unfortunately, the sector has so many divisions which then impedes our desire to grow through partnership.
If you look at South Africa, transport operators come together to form associations, which can then get land, build service stations, can create payment solutions which give convenience to customers etc.
But it’s difficult to achieve that when everyone is pulling in their own direction, and at the end of it all, the customer misses out on many benefits of operator synergies, whilst the operator misses out on lucrative opportunities which come as a result of pooling resources, bringing minds together, and joining hands to lobby for particular causes.
TZ: What would you want to see change in the Kombi industry over the next few years?
PAT: If we could change anything; we would change the operator mindset from an individualistic line of thinking, towards thinking from a collective perspective. We understand however that such changes take time before they can be achieved but we remain hopeful.
In addition, our operating environment as transporters can be difficult; we are sure you know of the Police – Kombi chases which are frequent in the CBD, putting the lives of people on board or on the road at risk. Such things need to be brought to an end, and introduce new ways of monitoring vehicle behaviour on the road, and encouraging compliance. That helps in establishing a better working relationship between operators and the police service, and above all, reduces risk of injury and harm to other road users and people on board.
Regardless of these constraints, we still keep our heads up high and believe in the brilliant opportunities which the future holds.