Nigerian transport startup Gokada plans big year as expansion beckons

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Lagos-based on-demand motorcycle taxi app Gokada is planning a big year of expansion after celebrating its first birthday by moving into new offices and launching a driver training school.

Formed in February 2018, transport solution Gokada allows customers to order a motorbike ride through the company’s website, or by using its geo-location -based smartphone app. In its 12 months of operation, the startup has secured close to 1,000 bikes and completes around 5,000 rides across Lagos’ Mainland each day.

The startup recently celebrated its first birthday with the launch of its new office in Ilupeju, which will house a state-of-the-art driver training school that will train and verify up to 500 riders at a time. The school is due to open next month. But Gokada is not done there, with the startup’s co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Deji Oduntan saying it is “the future of quick, safe and reliable transport in Nigeria”.

Quite a statement from a platform that started life transporting students from the University of Lagos to locations around the Yaba area of Lagos, where the university is based. Uptake has been such that Gokada is now used across Lagos Mainland, and looking further afield. Oduntan said the startup has created its platform to “revolutionise” the regular okada – or motorcycle taxi – system by providing a fast and cheap service for Lagos commuters whilst creating jobs.

“We thought about how to solve transportation and traffic issues in Lagos, a huge problem for Lagosians. How do we get Lagosians to their destinations 50 per cent quicker and safer? Okadas! The quickest mode of transport in Lagos,” he said.

“We also wanted to provide jobs for unemployed Nigerians and I believe we have succeeded so far.”

Gokada, which has raised equity funding from experienced investors in the motorcycle taxi space in Africa and Asia, has been well received, as demonstrated by its strong numbers.

“If you are running late for a meeting, you can order a Gokada which would meet you at your location in minutes and you don’t have to worry about traffic because the rider will get you to your destination 50 per cent quicker,” Oduntan said.

“Our bikes are a lot more comfortable than the regular okada rides and the customers feel a lot safer knowing that the drivers are well trained to give them a fantastic experience on their daily commute. Unlike regular okadas we also do long distance rides across the city because our bikes are over 200cc.”

For now, operations are restricted to Lagos, but that is about to change.

“We plan to expand to other cities in Nigeria within the next few months,” Oduntan said.

The startup makes money by charging a commission on rides taken through its platform, but is also planning on launching new verticals to increase its revenues. It will relaunch its financial partner programme in the second quarter of 2019, which Oduntan said is aimed at stakeholders interested in investing in Gokada by participating in the purchase of bikes through crowdsourcing.

“The aim of this is to replace the traditional use of equity funds that have been used to purchase bikes up until now, which has proved challenging due to the cost of financing in Nigeria. Those who invest in Gokada’s bikes will receive monthly returns,” he said.

“We are also currently testing a new innovation that would help convey a brand’s message to its target customers or audience. The new platform is focused on getting brands to place their adverts on our bikes, helmets and drivers T-shirts. Although the platform is yet to be fully launched, it’ll be one of the easiest and most effective ways of getting a brand’s message across to a wider audience.”

Big plans indeed for a startup that evidently is not short on ambition. Gokada is worth keeping an eye on as 2019 progresses.

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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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