The city of over 4 million people get even worse during the rain season.
With no national address system both residents and visitors struggle to locate various places even their friends homes and only grasp the Bus Route or the Matatu No. but which are easily forgotten the moment you enter the electrified, disco-lit rock concert-like Matatus with dangerous decibels-over 120 dBA if you have an app for that!
With both public transport and address system broken. Nairobi residents are left at the mercy of private taxi or own means-whether car or motorcycle but the major problem is that extra-peak hours the roads are even impassable. This is dangerous if you need to pick up your daughter from school or are waiting for a suit to be delivered from your tailor, laundromat or online store and there is no Uber for that!
This is what e-commerce platforms like Jumia and online food ordering service Hellofood and its competitor Yum aregoing through even if they have been oprational for a couple of years now. And the problem won’t just go away. Someone has to get dirty and do it.
On-demand delivery service
And that’s the reason we have met Alloys Meshack, the CEO and co-founder of Sendy, a motorcycle on-demand delivery service based in Nairobi.
Meshack says the firm is trying to open up the city for business by getting the city’s location data mapped to help direct its motorcyle riders, who fulfil orders on-demand for city residents via his Sendy mobile app.
“We’ve mapped over 4 million data points in Nairobi on our own. This data helps us to pinpoint them (riders) to the right directions so that they don’t get lost. But in case one gets lost, we are able to pinpoint that up,” said Meshack. “We are also in talks with OkHi to integrate with them to make delivery efficient. Our key focus is to get stuff from Point A to Point B.”
According to Meshack, the firm is also working on a USSD platform integrated with Google Maps and he data being collected to feed its motorcyle riders with exact location data whenever they want it. The USSD service will work best with the riders basic feature phones as most of them don’t have smartphones. If a rider gets lost Sendy will get on phone to always assit them. Common knowledge is also important.
“We are hyperlocal and we want our riders to stay around areas they know. This saves us time and resources as they won’t get lost in their own hoods,” he emphasizes.
Founded last year in Nairobi last year, Sendy is Kenya’s first on-demand-delivery service tactifuly working with motorcycle riders across the city in a win-win scenario. Using the Sendy app, users log in to command a pick up or a delivery service. Like Uber, Sendy earns just a fraction of the fees charged for deliveries or pick ups. Instead of waiting for passengers, riders are assured of more than 5 orders a day each. Meshack doesn’t want to mention how many riders are working with Sendy but he is keen to say they are many. The more the orders, the more the income for the riders. He cheerfully adds that one time the riders jokingly said they would buy Sendy from him.
Riders as partners
Sendy doesn’t own any motorcycles but it partners with riders to serve merchants and individuals. Sendy basically connects the riders to more jobs as well as helps restaurants, laundromats, retailers among others have their customer orders delivered. Hospitals are also some of the biggest Sendy clients.
The earlier version of Sendy wasn’t as streamlined but after Pivot East, an East African startup competition, Meshack sat down as a team to add mobile and Visa payments directly to the app, added ability to schedule a task or the power for firms to integrate their systems onto the Sendy API. This took sometime to be complete.
“We don’t do shopping or tasks for anyone. We do deliveries only. Some other guys like Taskwetu do tasks but our focus is on courier services in Kenya and then East Africa later,” Meshack told TechMoran. “We don’t own any assets. We crowdsource this riders and even courier firms use our services. We help our riders to meet the regulations and give them incentives like linking them to financial instutions so they buy more motorcycles. At the moment some riders even make more money than some of our staff.”
On regulations, Sendy says it ensures its riders have full insurance policies for their motorcycles. It also takes two weeks to vet the motorcycle riders, know their homes and health and criminal history if any. Once a rider enlists on the Sendy system, his location can be monitored to both protect him and the cargo or parcel. The geo-location protects Sendy, the riders as well as Sendy customers’ property.
Open marketplace to seamless service
Though there was an evident need for on-demand courier services in the country. Sendy had to test its service to see it was a product market fit. So during it’s Alpha version, it was a basic map with motorcycles listed. The trials generated over 5,000 calls to the riders in the short pilot phase.
And the experiment gave birth to what is Sendy today.
From the old version that would allow anyone to call any rider from the site, Sendy tweaked the app to require a user to set up pick-up and drop-off locations, see the cost of the delivery before placing an order and added the ability for users to pay for the service online via VISA or M-PESA. They also fitted the GPS locator and gave users power to track their packages in real time with a notification when the package is delivered. This made everything seamless.
The new version also allows a user to know the identity of the rider who is delivering their package for security and assurance. The 4 million real-time GPS data colled is for accurate location to help motorycle drivers spend less time trying to locate their destinations.
Not yet time to eat
Now with over 250 orders a day, all paid for, it looks like Meshack’s time to eat has finally come but he says its not time to celebrate yet. He points that there are still highly traditional merchants who are used to traditional courier services, and his partners, the motorcycle riders and customers are also human and unpredictable even though he says the vetting is lifesaving.
By December, Sendy expects to be fulfilling over 1500 orders a day then connect more cities to its service and add trucks and pick-ups than just motorcycles. Sendy has also applied for a courier license just in case the authorities turn against them with hefty fines for operating illegally.
“We want to be ready for everything,” he says. “Though we are a technology company, this is still a traditional market and we want to be prepared for everything.”
Meshack is not stopping yet. He has been in business for quiet sometime and knows that giving up is not a virtue. His mission is clear. In fact it was clear when he was just in his second year at the University of Nairobi at the College of Architecture and Engineering. While doing my first degree at the University of Nairobi i enrolled for a diploma at Institute of Software Technologies.
He sold his first business, a mobile VAS platform to a telco for a cool $22,000 (Ksh 2m) while in his second year. Instead of concentrating on his academics, he again launched another company On Demand Mobile, a payments and retail automation sector which he says is still alive and well serving over 100 customers.
Later, when he was doing payments integration onto the G4S courier system with his new company MTEL Systems Ltd, he saw the challenges the firm couldn’t solve. Then before he could forget, Modern Coast called him for a meeting to deploy an SMS notification service for customers to pick up their parcels. The irony was that most customers didn’t want to go and pick up their parcels but wanted them parcels delivered to their homes and offices. These corporate firms wanted customers to see that as a law written in stone.
Customer demands vs company policy
“After the meeting I saw bikes coming to collect stuff and I saw an opportunity, he told TechMoran adding that though corporate couriers have huge financial muslces, they also have many challenges unlike his small on-demand courier service with vetted riders.
“You can’t call the corporate firms and (command them to operate on your terms) and you just can’t trust the local motorcycle or cab guys on where they are and what time they will arrive if ever.”
That’s where Sendy comes in. Solving a problem brought about by the rigidity of the traditional courier firms that run on annual courier contracts and can be as flexible to serve a client on-request.
Good meeting with @MalaikaJudd <–logistics tech queen of Nairobi
— Mbwana (@Mbwana) January 20, 2015
Just met the @SendyMobile team: The Kenyan ‘Über’ for motorcycle courriers. Check them out!
— Bertil van Vugt (@brutuz) February 4, 2015
Sendy is like the SafeBoda but for deliveries!