South African startup Thumela has developed a counter-to-counter last-mile logistics solution to help e-commerce businesses and individuals send and collect parcels faster, cheaper, and more conveniently.
Launched in May, Thumela transports parcels via trusted and vetted public taxi drivers who travel fixed routes. The logistics startup partners with tuck shops in townships or in rural areas, and businesses in or near public taxi ranks, as drop-off and collection points.
With this innovation, founder Zamokuhle Thwala said, Thumela affords its customers the convenience to combine their daily commuting with collection of parcels and thus improve collection experience.
“This is a problem that I experienced at hand back in 2019 when I mistakenly forgot my laptop charger at home in eMatiwane, in a rural place in Ladysmith. I had an option to use one of the courier companies, but that meant my sister had to take a taxi to town and that it was going to take between 3-5 days for me to receive the parcel in Pietermaritzburg,” he said.
“My friends suggested that we ask a taxi driver to bring it when coming to Pietermaritzburg. Surprisingly, the laptop charger was in Pietermaritzburg within three hours. That’s when the idea of Thumela was conceived, and with e-commerce booming I thought now is the perfect time to work on the idea.”
The bootstrapped startup has a number of early adopters, mostly small businesses selling clothing, laptops, and beauty and hair products.
“These are entrepreneurs who sell on e-marketplaces and on WhatsApp statuses – when the transaction is concluded, they use Thumela to ship products,” said Thwala.
Thumela is currently doing deliveries between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and has drop-off and pick-up points in these two cities.
“There’s been calls from prosperous customers to have Thumela points in areas like Ladysmith, Newcastle and in Empangeni. And there’s been requests from customers in Johannesburg wanting to send parcels in Durban,” Thwala said.