Launching an on-demand transport app to compete with Uber is either brave or supreme folly, but South African entrepreneur Thabo Mashale thinks he has a model that can succeed.
Founded in December last year, Africa Ride is a location-based app for the hiring of on-demand private drivers.
The startup’s iOS and Android apps allow users to request drivers, and follow the process of that driver in-app. All this is very Uber-like, but Mashale says there are key differences.
“Our drivers own the business with us. We have put all the drivers under a trust and the trust owns a certain percentage of the business,” he told Disrupt Africa.
“We are offering accounts with corporates with weekly and monthly payment terms, we have an option to pay by wallet, and passengers can select the drivers according to the area they are in.”
Will this be enough to challenge Uber, which is well established in South Africa and seen off competitors such as Snappcab and Zapacab? Mashale is banking on his experience in the space to pull it off.
He left his call centre job in 2012 to launch a shuttle company with one vehicle, which expanded to a fleet of over. This has now metamorphosed into Africa Ride, funded from his previous businesses and boasting a team of 10 people.
“We realised that coming from a professional shuttle service we can mix it with the current available trend of technologies and offer customers better service at competitive prices while maintaining quality,” Mashale said.
“The gap is in offerings for corporates, NGOs, individuals and government departments. They want a variety of vehicles, which our app offers. Other corporates want month-to-month accounts and a personal touch where they can speak to a person when they want, not just an app. We also make every driver who comes to us own a stake in the business, thus providing empowerment.”
Africa Ride is seeking funding to reach new markets, but already has over 500 drivers on its system.
“It has been received very well by South Africans, who feel like finally our very own app is here,” Mashale said.
“We are operating in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Rustenburg. We are seriously going to expand in the next few months to very untapped markets that have never used this kind of service before.”