Pioneer technologist plans continental expansion
Habtamu Tadesse is the founder of ZayRide, a taxi hailing platform within Ethiopia found in 2016 and on the verge of branching out of the nation on to Monrovia, Liberia. Habtamu reflects with The Reporter’s Samuel Getachew on a slew of issues, including the history of the company, working against the status quo and on the long-term vision and plan of it within Ethiopia. Excerpt:
The Reporter: Tell me about ZayRide?
Habtamu Tadesse: Thank you for this opportunity! In a nutshell, ZayRide was established in 2016 and is part of ZayTech IT Solutions SC, which focuses on transportation (a ride hailing platform) which enables customers get a comfortable, easy and convenient transportation service but on mobile payments and software and mobile application developments.
For instance, our ZayRide’ on-demand car service provides an app that allows our valued customers to request taxi and private-drivers through iPhone and Android devices. The app will utilize dispatch software to send the nearest driver to the client's location. We will offer turn by turn Google Map-based GPS system to ensure that drivers will take the most efficient and fastest way to get to rider's destination.
Beyond the customer service we offer, our intention of that of safety and easy-to-use and affordable. We do not just serve the local populations, but also the many tourists that come to Ethiopia and are in need of our services.
You claim, it has made the experience of using a taxi more convenient in Ethiopia. Please explain!
ZayTech is a Technology company with three departments, ZayRide (Taxi haling platform), ArifPay (mobile point of sales) and outsourcing (developing applications and software’s working with India, Dubai and United states of America based companies and generating more than USD 600,000 for our country.
One of the major problems in our country is transportation. It is expensive, not secured and comfortable plus not available at all times. Based on this, ZayRide created the most convenient way of transportation by providing a secured (driver and trip information is provided to customers), comfortable (providing vehicles meeting customer standards), affordable (built-in meter that counts per distance and time, our customers know how much they will pay before they arrive) and available (working with more than 1,500 drivers, customers can get a ride in maximum 5-7 minutes).
There are many similar companies that have opened shop in the last few years and they seem to have them same technology. What makes the service your company offers different than the rest?
Being the first company in such a business, ZayRide created a modern technology platform which allows customers to see how much their trips costs them before they arrive, since we own our application we add and update our system with better and unique features, we only revenue 10 percent from drivers which allows them to earn more money unlike other companies, we also work with blue and white painted taxi’s that meet our standard. In reflecting the needs and safety of our customers, we do due diligence and exhaustive care with those we choose to work with.
Many people are still used to using the old ways of using the white and blue taxis and using their negotiation skills on prices. There must be a push back for the old white and blue taxis when you first entered the business. That has been such the experience for Uber in North America when it first began. What has been your experience?
First, the local taxi owners and drivers did not understand the benefit of working with a technology company such as ZayRide at the beginning. The benefit was not visible for them. However, the acceptance came once they saw that they were able to triple their income by using technology on their daily work and felt a lot safer since all passengers are registered in our system and that we can easily trace them should any of their safety be compromised while doing their work. Beyond the ease of doing their work and seeing new income, the safety of all involved – our valued customers and drivers – remains our greatest concerns.
We do not exploit anyone but we just want to embrace technology more and find benefits to everyone involved. That benefits all of us, besides the company and the drivers, but the many diplomats and foreigners, in addition to our local customers, who rely on us to take them from one destination to the next, without any fear or added burden of having to fear for their safety.
What has been the highlights?
ZayRide being the first company to introduce taxi hailing application to Addis Ababa alone was the biggest highlight. Many thought it was impossible to operate uber like business in Ethiopia. It’s easy to note, that most of us seem to undermine the second biggest market in Africa, Ethiopia, despite its many challenges, the opportunities it offers us. We proved everyone wrong that anything is impossible as long as you customize your service and product to the need of the local problem – by launching our company successfully and making sure our impact as well as successes was not just a one-time accident but something that can be sustained.
There is something I have learned that solutions have to be localized and I believe that is what we are doing in Ethiopia.
What is the long-term vision?
We want to be the first Ethiopian brand to expand to other African countries in a continent where we are used to seeing western brands. We believe we know our content better than others. We are now operational within different cities in Ethiopia, including in Bahir Dar, Gonder, Hawassa and Adama. We will soon launch our sister company in Monrovia, Liberia. We are excited with that opportunity, as we are the opportunities that exists for us here in Ethiopia.
How did that come about?
While we are excited by the opportunity and what it offers, we did not actually pursue it, but we were approached by a number of actors from the West African nation. A number of people from there came to Addis Ababa to visit us and they were heartened we were not the usual company that simply wanted to make money, but that we cared about our customers, their safety and that we were a positive contributor to the Ethiopian society. And our visitors wanted to emulate our success and wanted us to partner with them. So that is how the connection started.
Remember, we have always dreamed of being an Ethiopian company but have our footing in many nations across the African continent. It’s an exciting time to do business in Africa – a continent that is in transition and is embracing new ways to transform itself and allows free entrepreneurships to flourish that helps to change its narrative.
While Liberia is to be our start, it will be one of many nations we want to be in across the African continent. That is the long-term vision of us. Wherever we work in or operate from, our main goal will remain the same. We want to be a brand anyone would be proud to be associated with. That is the ultimate goal of our company and I personally want the legacy of our efforts and my own effort to be just that.