The courier/delivery services industry is growing rapidly in Zimbabwe. The items being delivered range from fast foods, documents, clothing, and large cargo. This is an industry which still has plenty of unexplored opportunities. Notably, remote areas lack formalized delivery companies although these have the potential to attain high returns on investment. Let us explore how you can start a courier/delivery business in Zimbabwe.
Company registration and licensing
Once you have registered your company with the Registrar of Companies, you need to make sure that your fleet is fully licensed. You may also need a route authority and a certificate of fitness from the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID). For cross border services, you also need a Bilateral Permit and a Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Carrier License. Proper registration and vehicle licensing will allow your vehicles to move freely without dodging the authorities or having to part with money for bribery or admission of guilt. It will also save your customers from a number of inconveniences caused by delays that you may encounter at ports of entry or roadblocks.
This may be a capital-intensive business, depending on whether you choose buy or lease vehicles. Procurement of reliable vehicles can be costly on its own. A mix of the two may be best depending on the size of the operation. Insurance may also prove costly though necessary. You may choose to use motorbikes for a start. However, these limit you to smaller package sizes and shorter distances. For pick up and haulage trucks, you may have to start with one and then grow your fleet as the business grows and makes money.
Vehicles and equipment
Your biggest investment in this business is on reliable vehicles. You may purchase brand new or second hand from Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom or South Africa. There’s also the option of renting vehicles. The size of vehicles you need will depend on your target market. If you need trailers, these can be found in Zimbabwe although prices may be a bit high. You also need to budget for other equipment like tents, ropes and garage equipment like jacks and other spares. The idea is to reduce downtime when you encounter breakdowns so always be prepared.
Your premises need to include ample parking space for your vehicles. Motorbikes may not be a problem but if you have trucks, secure space is essential. This means that your premises will most likely be located in an industrial area where such space is likely to be available. You will still need a small office to do all your meetings and paperwork though. The two do not necessarily need to be in the same location.
In this line of business, comprehensive insurance cover is ideal although you can get away with third party cover if you are lucky. But, you never know when accidents or robberies will occur so being protected from the onset is important. Apart from ensuring your vehicles, you need Goods in Transit cover for your customers’ items. This covers goods against loss or damage while in transit from one place to another or when in storage awaiting delivery.
For a start, you may need one or two people to take care of the administrative side of your business such as making bookings and logistics. As the business grows, you will definitely need more people to take care of marketing, operations, repairs and maintenance and other facets of the business. You do not entirely need to have full time employee in each role. A good number of your employees will be drivers or motorbike riders. In addition to their normal drivers’ licenses, they may need customer care training. Remember, they are the face of your business because they meet your customers whenever they make a delivery. It would be prudent to tailor-make your own customer care training according to your needs.
Like any other business, the courier/delivery business needs a lot of research even before you begin. Understand the needs of customers and where the offering can improve for them. You also need to know your territory very well. This will allow you to plan and charge accordingly. Zimbabwean roads are bad in some areas and only 4×4 vehicles can access them. You must be aware of these.
There is always a market for the right product. Manufacturers, farmers, miners, and individuals all need transport as they go about their business and they may not always have it. Tobacco farmers need to move their tobacco to auction floors during this time of the year and you need to have the awareness and strategy to approach them and offer your services. Miners also normally transport their ore from mines to milling plants regularly. All these need your services. It must be noted that you have to think of who your target market is and get the right vehicles according to their needs.
The need for reliable vehicles in this business cannot be overemphasized. When a vehicle is due for service, let it be serviced immediately. Breakdowns will cost you dearly. Secondly, you need to be better than the rest if you are to gain market share. Think outside the box and offer a few extras. Most importantly, always be punctual because this will keep your customers happy.
There is also a need to keep a record of all vehicle-related costs. This includes fuel, spares, service, downtime and even the drivers’ meals if you pay for those. This will help you understand if a particular vehicle is bringing in the money. You will then be able to make decisions on the vehicle going forward. It may be the case that a vehicle is old and is consuming more fuel or breaking down often. You need to pick this up as soon as possible and remedy it.
If your company can afford it, invest in a vehicle tracking system and other technologies that will help you improve your service. This information will also help you plan and forecast.
Despite being capital intensive, a courier/delivery business can bring in a lot in profits. The market is there and it will keep growing if economic activity increases. The right expertise and product offerings will set you apart and you will make more than the rest.