Zimbabwe may be a small country but you often find that we have vastly different experiences in different locations. Those who don’t travel much will be surprised to hear that the Harare experience can feel worlds apart from even the second largest city, Bulawayo’s.
Apparently, the ride hailing industry in Bulawayo is not what it is in Harare. The services we are familiar with on this side do not have as strong a presence in the city of kings and queens.
One startup is looking to change that.
Thrive Technologies has a ride-hailing product called iTransi. I know what you’re thinking, ‘so, just another ride-hailing app, what makes you think it will thrive (see what I did there) where others failed?’
I wish I had your favourite prophet’s powers to see into the future but I don’t. So, I can’t tell you whether or not iTransi will crack the code but I can tell you that they are going about solving the problem a little differently.
The model popularised by Uber in the U.S has been copied and pasted all over the world. Uber charges it’s drivers 25% on all fares for use of their software. Copycats, if I can be so unkind as to call them that, only tweak the percentage and launch their own Ubers.
iTransi will not be doing that. In their research they found out that this commission is one of the main reasons why many local drivers end up deleting ride-hailing apps from their phones. I don’t imagine that’s news to anyone.
What’s news is that ride-hailing services largely still just stick to that model. iTransi will be using a different model, a subscription one. Their research showed that drivers are more willing to accept this model.
Drivers only have to pay a fixed monthly fee. To start, drivers will have to pay $30 per month to use iTransi software. You can see how this would be attractive to a driver. The more business you get, the less you actually pay for iTransi.
You will note that $30 translates into a dollar a day. On a 25% commission model a driver would pay that for every $4 trip.
The cost savings extend to the users. iTransi charges users $1 per kilometre. Contrast that with the $1.50 per kilometre normal taxis charge.
Signing up drivers and users
It looks like iTransi is offering good deals for both drivers and users. However, the chicken and egg problem remains. Drivers will only sign up if there are users and ditto for the users.
iTransi is offering drivers the first month free to try out the platform. A driver really has no reason not to try it out. Users can look forward to winning free rides the more they use the service.
So far, iTransi has only signed up a few drivers in Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls. There are plans to launch in other parts of the country too. That’s how non-Hararians roll, they understand that Zimbabwe is more than its capital.
iTransi was only setting up these past months and will now be going into a ‘recruitment’ drive. They will be holding meetings/bootcamps with potential drivers/partners. They will also be doing the usual social media campaigns to promote the service. iTransi however knows word of mouth cannot be beat and is working towards generating that.
Will this work?
The biggest question in most people’s minds is, ‘is there even demand for ride-hailing services in Zimbabwe?’ No service has truly succeeded yet. They all seem to be scraping by. The main problem of course being the low incomes we earn in this country confining us to public transport with its inconveniences.
iTransi sees the problem as a service side one. Their research shows the demand is there on the user side, they just have to have a good deal for drivers to succeed. Their deal does look good for drivers so, fingers crossed.
It should be noted though that although $1 a day should be attractive to drivers, reality is they still have to pony up $30 upfront plus a $5 registration fee to start. This is all without any guarantees that they will get rides on the iTransi platform.
This may cause some friction. In contrast, this is where commission models shine, if you get no rides from the platform you pay nothing. Not so with iTransi.
So, it all depends on whether users sign up early. To justify a $30 subscription fee, a driver will want to get rides worth hundreds at the very least. If they don’t get that, they will be hesitant to subscribe in the future.
Try iTransi out
If you have a car that’s gathering dust in a garage, or just burning holes in your pockets, you are the prime target for iTransi. Turn that car into a proper asset that earns money for you for once. With the first month free, you really have nothing to lose.
To try it out as a driver, you send a WhatsApp message to this number +263789654089 and you will get a link via SMS. The due diligence process starts after that.
Heads up, you have to be at least 21 with a valid licence, have 3 years of licensed driving experience and have a clean 4-door car with valid insurance.
Users, iTransi promises to be a bit more selective on the cars they allow to be iTransi cars. They will be doing their own roadworthiness tests etc and only fit cars and drivers will be approved.
They will also be taking responsibility should the unthinkable happen and say you are robbed by an iTransi driver for example.
To try it out as a user, you just visit itransi.ondelight.app.
There you have it. Let us know what you think about all this.
Update: Drivers are not getting a free month. Rather, they are getting a postpaid arrangement. They get to use the platform first, then pay at the end of the month.