How Kenyan firm has turned traffic chaos into gold

Boda boda rider
One of the most frustrating things about our urban centres is their relentless traffic.

Imagine leaving your house to buy a product from Nairobi’s city centre, for instance, and what should be a simple mission taking three hours to accomplish.

But in this frustration, savvy entrepreneurs have found room to provide a solution by marrying technology with innovation.

e-Commerce has changed the shopping landscape, with consumers able to get almost anything brought to their doorstep. Behind this phenomenon is a vibrant network of transporters who’ve found a way around the traffic menace plaguing so many parts of this country.

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Andrew Miller is one of the successful players in this space. His company, Get Boda, provides logistics and delivery solutions predominantly to e-Commerce companies by offering them a transport service via boda bodas, vans and trucks, and setting up convenient product pick-up points for their customers.

Andrew formed his company in November 2017 and it currently makes up to 6,000 deliveries a month across Nairobi and its environs. He takes Hustle through his journey.

How exactly does Get Boda work?

We provide riders and drivers to companies that would like to get goods delivered to their customers, or store their products in our warehouses for customers to collect after purchase.

Take Jumia, for example, which is an online shopping platform. When its customers make an order, Get Boda is one of the delivery options that they can click on at the end of their purchase.

Our system alerts us about the delivery request, so we send a driver to pick the product and deliver it to the customer. If the customer would rather pick the item up, we store it in our warehouse until they can come for it.

Is Jumia one of your clients?

Yes, it is. It actually gave us our first big order in December 2017 when they needed riders to meet the Black Friday demand.

We did 3,200 deliveries in three weeks using crowdsourced boda bodas, taxis, vans and a 10-tonne truck. That’s when I realised I had a viable business on my hands.

I realised after that job that we needed to streamline many things, including perfecting our application, getting all the licences, insurance cover and putting our systems in place. This took up to April 2018. I then quit my job in May to focus on Get Boda full time.

How much money did you walk away from when you quit your job?

I was getting paid Sh140,000 a month, but I knew I could make much more doing my own thing, so walking away wasn’t difficult. However, I did panic after the first month when we made very little money.

I had spent about Sh300,000 as start-up capital, yet we only did 70 deliveries in May, bringing in just Sh30,000.

How did business pick up?

In June, we signed contracts, including with a company that needed us to deliver cheques and sensitive documents to their clients. On top of that, Uber Eats, which was just launching, ordered 45 riders from us and later signed a contract.

How did you market yourself to attract clients?

It was mainly using existing networks and referrals. Oddly enough, even our boda boda riders would send clients our way. They realised that riding with us gave them more options and continuous work as opposed to them riding individually. Our riders earn up to Sh1,500 a week.

We’re currently looking to partner with an asset finance company to finance our highest-earning boda bodas with motorbikes.

How do you source for your boda boda riders?

We use Saccos and then vet and train our riders because they’re truly our ambassadors. They are the face-to-face contact person at the other end of the delivery. How they talk to customers, how courteous they are, how prompt they are all comes back to us, which goes back to our clients.

Who are some of your other clients?

We recently got Kilimall on board. One of our other big jobs was to transport cartridges and two tonnes of paper to Kenyatta University, which they used to print exam papers.

Apart from the large companies, we’re signing on smaller businesses like butcheries, food kiosks, alcohol outlets and so on. We realise there is a huge gap for these types of outlets to get their products to clients at an affordable rate.

What are your charges?

We charge Sh20 per kilometre for boda bodas, Sh1,000 per zero to five kilometres for vans, and Sh4,500 for the 10-tonne trucks per trip anywhere within Nairobi.

Clients can access our services either by downloading our app or going to getboda.co.ke and requesting their desired vehicle.

What’s been your busiest season?

Apart from the Black Friday period in November and the December shopping season, July was crazy busy for us because that’s when most e-Commerce companies have their anniversary sales.

This past year, there was an online sale on Heineken. We delivered 1,500 cases in three weeks. We also had 6,000 products picked up from our pick-up stations and 2,000 products delivered to clients. We registered similar numbers in November and December.

Do you ever fail to meet demand?

Oh, yeah, we have and it was a painful lesson to learn. Our warehouses were overstocked with products waiting to go out, which meant customers would come pick their goods and stand in long queues.

Because we were overstocked, it was hard to find products and we had to declare some lost, which meant a loss on our part and frustration for our clients and their customers.

Have you fixed this problem?

Yes. I strongly believe that every time you fail hard, you learn.

First, we expanded our holding space and will be opening a new pick-up point in Upperhill to supplement the one we already have in CBD.

Secondly, during the high season when we reach capacity, we’ll have to turn clients away. I recently had to decline work because we were too full to accommodate any more products or deliveries.

How many deliveries can you make at full capacity?

Currently, we’re at approximately 1,000 to 2,000 deliveries a week. If we overshoot that, we start getting ourselves in trouble.

Our target for next year is to be at 25,000 deliveries a week, and within three years to take that figure to one million deliveries per month.

I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s happening in Spain. However, to accomplish this we want to go international, scaling to other markets like Nigeria.

Apart from building your delivery capacity, what’s your ultimate vision for Get Boda?

One of the major projects we’re working on is placing delivery vending machines in different locations around Nairobi.

How that works is a customer buys a product online and selects Get Boda as their preferred delivery service. They then choose a preferred vending machine location to pick their product.

We’ll collect the product from the distributor and load it into the vending machine. When the product is ready, the customer gets a collection message. They come to the machine, key in their details and their product comes out of the machine, the same way soft drinks and snacks are vended.

In the future, we want to provide multiple logistics services using tech, including warehousing, first-mile delivery, and clearing and forwarding.

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