Find yourself desperately trying to renew your vehicle licence in your lunch break? Rushing to get your groceries done before the store closes at night? You’ll be pleased to hear, those days are over. South African startup Pocket-PA wants to run all your errands for you.
Launched as a pilot project in 2014 in Durban, with a hard-launch in 2016, Pocket-PA aims to take away the burden of errands from busy professionals, and provides an on-demand service offering to complete any administrative or organisational task on their behalf.
Ranging from school shuttles for children, to packing up homes in preparation for a house move, the company provides a full range of support services which can be pre-booked online, or requested in real-time. Customers can also order regular repeat services in advance.
Founder Scelo Nciki says the company spent the first eight months of its pilot phase testing the market to understand where demand lies, and this period led him to believe the key is in providing a flexible, wide-ranging personal assistant service; rather than limiting the offering to a single service such as couriering, or concierging.
“The benefits of offering diverse services include the fact that we retain clients that come to us for one thing, and end up knowing they can get something else in future. This means we convert a one-time client to a lifetime client. And we all know that businesses make money not by getting more clients, but by getting the existing clients to buy again and again,” he says.
The top five most popular services requested on the platform cover an interesting array of errands. Vehicle licence renewal is the most commonly requested service; followed by shuttles for children to and from after-school activities; house-moving assistance; mall runs – to exchange clothing items, go to the post office, and such -; and lunch hour transport for staff.
“The reason for the first one is the queues are long at the Department of Transport, and most often the computer system is down. So clients have identified this as a pain on their part. As well, they usually do this [errand]under pressure as either the licence is about to expire, or it already has and they already have a fine for it,” Nciki says.
Nciki believes the solution is incredibly scalable, and the startup has recently received ZAR500,000 (US$38,600) in funding from the SmartXchange TIA Innovation Seed Fund to build out and scale the solution.
“Needless to say this funding will go a long way in assisting us with our expansion plans. We are currently finalizing our app, and we plan to launch it around June or July,” he says.
There are challenges though, the entrepreneur concedes. The wide-ranging nature of the services offered means clients can request services which are not value-adding from a business perspective; while it is also onerous to remain up to date with how to quickly deal with a vast array of possible requests.
In addition, Nciki says in South Africa employed people have not yet learned to value their own time in a monetary sense, and as such can be reluctant to pay for a time-saving solution.
“Especially in South Africa, people often do not know the value of their time. This means that people do not understand that delegating a task to us can unlock a great deal of productivity on their part in them focusing on their core activities for the day, activities which generate revenue for them. So they think is it a waste of money paying us if they can squeeze an hour from their day to run their errands. Our challenges hence include teaching clients about the value of their time.”
Nonetheless, Pocket-PA says the potential scale of its solution is significant, and Nciki aims to take the company global.
“We are taking notes on Uber’s model, as we believe our service has a similar growth potential.”