How this Kenyan CEO rose from pushing handcart to pushing million of deals through smart taxi hailing service

While there are many other products out there in the market offering all manner of crazy discounts and deals there is only one app that offers zero percent commission.

While there are many other products out there in the market offering all manner of crazy discounts and deals there is only one app that offers zero percent commission to drivers.

There is also the only app in town that comes with inbuilt sharing features where up to three commuters can share a cab at no extra cost or discomfort.

That revolutionary app is ShareCAB.

Kenya’s if not Africa's most affordable taxi App, is the brainchild of Virscom Company.

ShareCAB is also not just any other app, its mission is much bigger, apart from facilitating seamless connections, it also ensures that there is less traffic on the road, cutting emissions in the process and saving a few coins all with a single click of button.

Business Insider SSA sat down with Mwakio Ngale, Virscom Founder and ShareCAB CEO for a small chat about his plans for the Kenyan market.

You are also the founder of Virscom Company, What is virscom and how did you come about?

How Virscom come to be is a very interesting story, actually  it took me just five minutes to come up  with Virscom as a name, I like reading the bible so I said to myself bible verses is one of the things I read every day and dot.com has been a framework through which i can all do the internet of things and so I said I am going to call my company versecom because I believe through God the internet of things is going to make me achieve what I want and that is how it all come out. so when I went to register versecom as a company it wasn’t available so I decided instead of the ‘e’ I would have just the ‘I’ and that is actually what it means it means, my bible verses and the internet of things.

How did you come up with Sharecab?

ShareCab is just one of the products of Virscom, I am a believer in people myself and I decided I wanted to be that guy who offer solutions and provides people with that pillar that they so much need. I always thought things like ShareCab are nice little projects that in themselves help a lot of people, you talk to drivers and understand what kind of problems they are going through and I felt like I am that doctor that could fix these problems using the internet of things.

The essence of ShareCab is two things, one is to provide drivers with a much-needed boost in income and two is to provide the riders with the much-needed discount to ride.

You are now the CEO of a taxi-hailing company, you drive vanguard, one of the best cars in the market and on top of it all you have a lovely family but that was not the case before you actually went through some hard life experiences?

Some 13years ago I was actually doing Mkokoteni (hand cart) business in Mombasa after clearing high school, I used to take goods from Kongowea market to Likoni secondary and I remember we used to do 2 – 3 trips every day,  I used to wake up at about 4am and the first trip was about 4:30am and by 7am we were done with the third trip. I also sold meat door to door, we would slaughter animals and then I would go door to door looking for orders because my mom had kicked me out and I had to look for a way to survive.

The money that I made from Mkokoteni and selling meat door to door is actually what took me to college where I did my computer packages because that was all I could afford, I did them so well and I become really good in excel, I hated Maths but I loved formulas  and it so happens one time I got one of those ladies tell me you know what you are so good at this why don’t you come and train my friend  she can’t leave the house because her husband doesn’t want her to go out, so I did that and went and trained her, she told another friend and before I knew it I had twenty guys  I was training and that is actually how I got money to go to India. So I swallowed my pride come back to Nairobi and told my mom that I have got a place where I can study, she talked me up and that is how I went to India.

The Kenyan Taxi-hailing service market is getting saturated by the day so what sets you apart from other players already in this space, care to break down how ShareCab makes money for the driver?

What sets us apart is so many things one is cost, cost in the sense that from a structured perspective of a driver making Sh100,000 ($1000)  a month  the driver would ideally pay us Sh2000 ($20) with other platforms they actually pay as high as 25 percent and 25 percent of Sh100, 000 is Sh25,000  and so they end up keeping only Sh75,000 ($750) but in our case we actually allow them to keep Sh98,000 and that is big in a Kenyan market in an African setting that is such a huge savings.

In our view we have also reduced the monopoly of applications because you can never go below Zero that is actually what we have done, so if all of us have to play on a level playing field we really want our drivers to make it and our customers to be happy, this is it, it is a level playing field.

If you ever want to Africanise or Kenyanise a product, the first thing that you do is to provide a supplier with much-needed boost in income, so we said lets Zero rate our commission and if you actually look at drivers earning we will actually save that driver Sh40,000 ($400) every month, that is money that you never had in your wallet and it might look a little but when you look at it twelve months that is a half a million so we then said let us first  give drivers that because by then giving them that 40k we enabled them have or build a little bit of loyalty in us.

ShareCab is founded on the art of sharing rides so how does it work?

As much as we are the first in Kenya and in Africa to actually have a ShareCab platform we know that the world is doing it we know that there is Uberpool we know there is holashare we know there are all those things  but in Kenya and in Africa we are the first and how platform is not really similar to what is currently provided in the market because what we have done is we have built algorithms that will enable our customers get super exiting discounts and at the same time make money for the driver.

If you choose to Share, the in-App features gives the first customer the privilege to select who to share the ride with after a quick view of the customer’s profile during the shared ride request. The selections take seconds and saves up to half a fare while leaving speed unimpaired.

Drivers, on the other hand, have to pay first a monthly flat rate of Sh2000 before enjoying your zero rate commission, how did you arrive at that?

The Sh2000 monthly charge is essentially just going to run our operations and not really make us cash and why we do that is we know there are so many other avenues we can make money from and not necessarily on the avenue of commissions.

When you look at that Sh2000 from an actuarial perspective we only end up making money on a volume base, if we have 2000 drivers then the volume base makes money for you so it all depends on how you wanna look at it.

Who is your target market?

My target market is that guy who spends Sh300 ($3) in a Matatu, my target market is that partner who wants to invest in other vehicles primarily because they have seen there is a fortune in the business.

My target market is also that individual who is environmentally conscious, because one of the reasons as to why I came up with ShareCab is to decongest Nairobi, as a matter of fact it came up to my mind and I told myself that if anything if I ever don’t make any money from this venture I want to be remembered as the guy who tried to decongest Nairobi.

If I can leave my vehicle at home and share a cab that means that I would have saved the environment may be by two or three trees and so if 100,000 Kenyans can do that every day I would have contributed from an IT perspective and internet of things in our emissions in the way we breathe, in the way we live and at the end of the day make Nairobi, Kenya and Africa, in general become a better place to live in.

Some people equate that with a little Matatu?

Well! If people call it a little Matatu does it make money for the driver? Does it reduce the cost to the customer? Is it more comfortable? Well it be the little Matatu you see that is it and I love that because at the end of the day I will not remove everyone from the Matatu, it is impossible but I am betting 100 per cent that a customer would love to have their own seat,  enjoy Wi-Fi access because our vehicles will Wi-Fi access, air condition, nice little music and you are just three of you and it drops you to your house something a Matatu cannot do.

You are entering the Kenyan taxi service market space when there is a lot of turmoil going on, what are some of the challenges of operating a taxi business in Kenya right now and how have you prepared for it?

The biggest challenge that we have is price wars, it is a big challenge because primarily it hurts everyone and it also doesn’t send the right message. With the price wars the challenge now is customer satisfaction because everyone now is stressed. As a driver you are paid Sh190 and as you have heard them saying the customer decides they will not to pay you and a fight breaks out and the business now looks like it is run by goons it is a very big challenge.

The other challenge that we have is to make sure at the end of the day we don’t have rogue drivers, we currently do not have a way you can manage all these drivers at the same time, so it becomes very difficult for us to also know good drivers and bad ones, if you have a driver for instance who owes one competitor Sh5000 another competitor Sh20,000 another one Sh6000 and then now they are on our platform it becomes very difficult to know, however  in that kind of scenario we have decided to make our product available only after payment, you use it for a month we will give you a notification and you don’t pay, we cut you off.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

5 years for me is long term considering that Uber is not even 10 years, so in two and half years I would love to be in several African countries.

I would also want and this is probably the dream if it ever comes to pass, I would want my product to be a UN product, to be a United Nations environment programme where it is identified as an internet of things that helps the environment, that is big for me.

In 5 years well time will tell, I am a dreamer of time I live for the moment.

Parting shot…

My parting shot is a quote that says Go big or go home the world we live today is a global village and what I can do in Kenya can affect millions of people around the world and what millions of other people out there are doing can affect us in Kenyans and so my parting shot really is as much as we build things whether they exist or not we always have to do them better no one today can claim to have built anything new no one, bulbs were built in the 1800 today we are still building bulbs we are just making them more efficient, cars started being  built more than 150 years ago but guess what today we have electric cars, just better cars, efficiency similarly we believe Virsom will have a lot of efficient products.

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