The transport industry is a multi-billion dollar industry whose business prospects seem limitless. Especially with the marked use of the internet and social media, the innovations have been remarkable. Taxis have always been the most prevalent means of intra-city commuting for ages. The advent of Uber disrupted that narrative and epitomized the new age of ride-sharing. Ride-sharing is now a global industry worth more than USD60 billion. Uber recently went through its IPO earlier this month with rival Lyft having done its IPO end of March. Across the world, we have seen fast-followers following suit with examples closer to home being Hwindi, G-Taxi and Vaya Africa. In the past few months, the Vaya service has been introduced into Zimbabwe with the initial focus being on Vaya Lift.
This service is just a basic ride-sharing platform. Car owners register on the app to be drivers and users also register to use the platform. The service focuses on linking up clients to the nearest available drivers depending on their current location. A significant number of people have already started using this service but it’s still quite a long way from becoming main-stream. Some of their remarkable services are still in the pipeline. Rest assured that if these services become full throttle, the traditional kombi system might be disrupted altogether.
This is a kombi-based shuttle service; a kombi-hailing service if you may. This service will facilitate a scenario where at least 5 people will be picked up (and also dropped off) by a kombi door to door. The working principle behind this service is to save people from the trouble of having to cover some distance by foot to and fro traditional pickup points. This will also even eliminate risks of being mugged whilst walking on foot since you’ll be picked up or dropped off right at your gate. The novel idea has many applications for school children and working commuters with either a similar origin, destination or both.
Vaya Club will be a ride-based service, more like the Vaya Lift service but a bit different. The number of individuals that can be accommodated will at most 3 or 4. Essentially people would have registered to be Vaya Partners if they are car owners and want to ferry people using the service. The uniqueness here will be in that the driver will get to pick and drop people who are along his/her route to wherever they would be going. So there will be a fair splitting system incorporated into the payment portal of the app. This will ensure each and every individual pay for the respective worth of their specific distance travelled. This will be opposed to the traditional way where everyone just pays a flat fee despite the varying distances covered.
Then there is this interesting service for those looking to easily traverse in congested areas. So this will be a service making use of motorbikes, electric cycles or 3-wheeler rides.
These are all very innovative services which are still to hit the scene locally but are very much in the pipeline. The feasibility of their implementation and how soon they can be introduced locally will depend on some aspects that I’ll briefly touch on now.
Vaya services depend on several co-dependent items such as mobile devices, electricity, internet connectivity and access to data. With the load-shedding schedules that are currently in effect across the country, the efficacy of this service can be disrupted. This can be regarding the service providers or clients and partners’ mobile devices. Power outages can lead to disruption of service, internet connectivity and low or lack of power on associated mobile devices. The other aspect is that data packages for both and mobile and otherwise are now extremely expensive. Many people are barely managing to consistently afford WhatsApp, let alone general internet connectivity. So these are some of the factors that’ll dictate the pace with which these services can be rolled out.
The other issue has to do with pricing – it’s a key issue. For all these services to be alluring they need to be priced within what people are willing to pay for the added convenience they offer. People are already accustomed to kombis and the recent ZUPCO shuttles which are more affordable for the commuting public. This creates a paradigm for these ride-sharing services to ensure they offer greater value for money than the traditional commuting options used by the public. If this can’t be done then these services may not gain enough popularity to make the businesses sustainable.
All things considered, Vaya wields the potential to seriously disrupt the computing industry in Zimbabwe. However, the factors that have to be satisfied to make that a reality are quite intricate. As it stands, Vaya Lift hasn’t really taken off as initially anticipated so it’s going to take quite a lot to break big. It’s even reported that Uber has actually been operating at a loss since it started out. So the business model for these services is quite problematic especially considering that the money paid by clients has to be split too many ways. Therefore, it’s probably safe to say that the kombi businesses need not panic as yet.