Over the past couple of years a number of companies have been trying to embrace technology and transform Zimbabwe’s commuter transport system.
Toda, a new tech start-up has just joined this ever growing market. Our business reporter Fidelity Mhlanga (FM) spoke to Toda operations manager Nyasha Shereni (NS) to get insights into the company’s operations. Below are excerpts from the interview.
FM: How did the idea behind Toda come about?
NS: The Toda idea was simply driven by a passion to bring convenient, efficient and reliable transport solutions to everyone, everywhere.
When many other countries in Africa and overseas had already embraced the e-hailing technology, Zimbabwe seemed to have been lagging behind.
You only have to travel abroad to understand the necessity of this technology.
Toda provides an integration of transportation needs for passengers and drivers onto a mobile technology platform ensuring efficient and reliable urban transport.
The platform matches people requiring transport services and available drivers.
The development process started early in 2018 and we are happy to say, its work worth the time and effort.
FM: How does the application work?
NS: At a quick glance at the functionality of the Toda app is similar to Uber, however, the Toda app has been customised for the Zimbabwean market.
Having analysed the Zimbabwean market we realised it would be of paramount importance to incorporate manual dispatch as one of the main Toda features where riders can request rides offline and direct to our offices with just a phone call.
The beauty of the Toda application is its simplicity, with just a few taps on your phone, a driver is there to take you from point A-B.
Customers are automatically billed through Ecocash, and other payment methods are gradually being added to the system to provide real convenience and a seamless service fulfilment.
We’re committed to the safety of everyone using the Toda platform.
Toda uses technology to ensure the safety of our riders and drivers before, during and after every ride.
When you’re online, your vehicle’s route and location are tracked by GPS. Riders and drivers are required to verify personal information when setting up their accounts.
This private information is confidential and retained to confirm identity.
On the way to a pickup location or destination, the rider’s app displays the drivers name and photo, vehicle make and model, and license plate number.
Users are also able to share live trip details with friends and family and also use an in-built panic button in case of an emergency.
This platform offers an improved alternative for helping those who need to get around, whenever they want.
With this platform, drivers are empowered to work for themselves, either full time or part-time, in other words they decide how much they want to earn and when they want to make it.
FM: What opportunities do you see in this tough environment?
NS: There would not be a better time, Zimbabwe has just opened a new chapter, after going through a lot during the past few years and we believe this is the time to rebuild the nation brick by brick until the country is truly established.
One of the top sectors to focus on is technology in all spheres.
As a nation we have so many problems already and what people seek now is innovation, solutions to their problems, which is where we come in as we seek to make the day to day travelling easier, cheaper and convenient.
Our economic situation needs wallet watching for survival and people are always looking out for affordable alternatives, which we represent.
Our efforts are two-way as we are able to give riders a cheap travel solution, while at the same time opening employment opportunities to many across the country, including women and youths.
FM: Do you have your own fleet of vehicles? Or have you signed up any vehicles on Toda?
NS: Toda enrols independent drivers who register their own cars on the platform.
We have thousands of drivers registered in Harare and thousands more waiting to be activated in various cities and towns across Zimbabwe.
We do not just sign up any drivers, our drivers are carefully selected to meet our safety and quality standards, hence before sign-up all aspiring drivers go through an extensive background check and vehicle inspection.
FM: How has been business since you started operations?
NS: For every new business in our operating environment, coming up is not an easy feat, however through dedication, commitment and perseverance we are beginning to see a surge in the number of rides on our platform and we are certain that the future is bright not just for Toda, but for the nation at large.
FM: We notice that a number of Zimbabwean start-ups have been venturing into this space. What solutions make you stand out from the rest of the pack?
NS: We are offering convenience 24/7, improved security and the flexibility of getting around when you want to.
Quality is key and we are working on several workshops, including customer service, quality and safety.
The ultimate goal for the platform is to provide a memorable experience for everyone, hence the four product options, which are Toda Go, that is for smaller, economical cars for everyday travel at everyday prices, Toda Lux, which is for those who want to move around in style and luxury, Toda Grande, which caters for those who want to travel in groups or with lots of luggage and lastly Toda Truk (Truck).
FM: Are you charging your fares in RTGS or US$? If in RTGS how are you keeping afloat?
NS: Our fares are charged in RTGS and as you are aware the prevailing economic situation in our country has not spared most, therefore we constantly monitor the operating environment and when necessary adjust our rates accordingly in a way that makes economic sense to our driver partners, without putting a dent on our users’ pockets.
FM: How wide is your reach in terms of coverage?
NS: Toda is set to reach all major cities and towns across Zimbabwe, including some of the smaller towns, which were previously marginalised, to make sure we bring convenience across towns.
But however, the app requires internet connectivity therefore we are also constantly monitoring the efforts by the country’s major network operators including Potraz and the government to bring connectivity to all parts of Zimbabwe, and we stand ready to expand into all territories.
FM: Where do you see your company in the next five years?
NS: We are not just a fresh new face in e-hailing, but an embodiment of what modern day technology solutions should be and what it should achieve.
We are unifying the old-school and the new-age in a way that brings valuable technological solutions.
We are always ready to tackle challenging tasks head-on as this gives us an opportunity to work on the edge of our capabilities, and always strive to ensure that our valued customers are satisfied with the end-result of our work.
The next five years will see us become a major player in the tech and digital spaces, bringing smart solutions that impact communities in various ways.