On-demand errand service DropBuddies wants to conquer Nigeria

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Delivery services such as WumDrop and Sendy have attracted much attention, and now DropBuddies is taking the concept to the streets of Lagos.

DropBuddies is a crowdsourced on-demand delivery and errand running platform accessible through web and mobile apps, allowing users to tap into a fleet of couriers for errands such as collecting clothes or forgotten movie tickets.

Users make requests using the platform, detailing the pick-up and drop-off points. Local couriers – or “dropbuddies” – can then accept the job. The startup leverages of Google’s distance API to set a price based on distance, and users can pay through the app. Users can also follow the “dropbuddy” in real-time.

Launched in November of last year, DropBuddies has already made over 300 trips for around 30 customers, and seeing strong revenues – it takes 30 per cent of each trip.

“This was done with minimal exposure in terms of marketing as we had a very limited reach due to funding,” DropBuddies founder Oluwatomi Solanke told Disrupt Africa.

“A good number of those who use our service become repeat customers. So as the name begins to get more mainstream and the requests begin to grow we hope to keep this pattern of repeat usage growing.”

Solanke said with only the likes of DHL available in Lagos, there has been a lack of an efficient and cost effective way of moving things around the city.

“There is also a non-existent postal code system here in Nigeria, and we live a fast-paced lifestyle, which means we are unable to carry out tasks that we desperately need to do due to the limitations.”

This prompted the launch of DropBuddies, which is currently taking part in the Growth Academy accelerator programme run by Co-Creation Hub (CcHub). The aim is to provide a service that is accessible irrespective of a person’s location, and allows users to reach out to hundreds of independent contractors using only a mobile phone.

The likes of DHL offer strong competition, but Solanke said there is a clear differentiating factor with DropBuddies as the crowdsourcing element allows it to achieve deliveries in “unbelievable timelines”.

“The fact that you could have us do some mundane errands without you having to leave your couch to make these requests is another differentiating factor,” he said.

The startup is currently most active in Lagos, but also has a smaller presence in Ogun and Abuja. Solanke said the goal is to conquer Nigeria one city at a time.

Self-funded thus far, DropBuddies is looking at taking on funding to help it grow.

“We are at a pivotal point in the business, and more funds would help us iterate and grow faster,” Solanke said.

“Also, we need a lot of advice and mentorship. Finding an investor that would give us all these things would be a huge plus for us. So it’s a mix of mentorship, advice and funding that we are open to getting. If we see anyone who fits the bill, we would be more than willing to initiate discussions with such a person.”

As with many on-demand platforms, there have been difficulties with establishing trust.

“We are building a platform that is centered around trust, and so iterating on methods to ensure our dropbuddies are vetted properly to avoid issues that could arise, such as theft, has been major for us,” Solanke said.

“Quality control is key for us and developing an automated method around this has been a clear focus.”

The lack of funding also poses a challenge, but Solanke says the DropBuddies concept is strong enough to overcome all these issues.

“We are growing out of our challenges and becoming more self reliant as a company as more people begin to understand the value we have to offer as a business,” he said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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