FROM humble beginnings, Farai Hunde (FH), the founder and managing director of Bon Voyage Car Rental, has risen in the past two years to become one of the most recognised young entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. This week, Hunde spoke to our business reporter Fidelity Mhlanga (FM) about his journey into entrepreneurship and his vision for the business. Here is how their discussion went…
FM: Tell us about Bon Voyage Car Rental
FH: Bon Voyage Car Rental is a registered company in Zimbabwe, which serves both foreign and local clients. We are in the business of renting and hiring out vehicles. We are passionate about providing affordable and reliable car rental services. This forms the basis of Bon Voyage Car Rental’s competitive advantage. We offer services like self-drive rental, chauffeur-driven airport transfers and taxi services.
FM: When did you start the business? Tell us about your experiences so far.
FH: We started in December 2018. At the beginning, most clients were not comfortable dealing with us after looking at the age of the company’s directors. But there were some who believed in our vision. They helped us with referrals and we managed to get more clients through that.
FM: You are 28 years old now. What prompted you to venture into entrepreneurship at such a young age? What would you say to your peers?
FH: In my fourth year at university, I applied for a job and got it in a certain financial institution. I worked for three months until I decided to resign as terms of work were becoming tough. I then joined my brother’s company Cost Cutter Car Rental and worked for close to a year. I bought my first car and decided to start my own car rental company with my partner Kudakwashe Munyikwa. We started with that one car and that’s how Bon Voyage Car Rental was founded. To my peers, always have plans, focus, be determined and don’t give up. There is also a quote which says “the start is what stops most people”, you just have to get started and you will grow bigger. Also don’t blame anyone for your failure, take full responsibility and do not lose hope.
FM: You have said you have just entered the market. How have you managed to penetrate the market?
FH: Our strategy is simple, we always create a personal relationship with our clients because we care about them. Our vehicles are fit and reliable and the prices are affordable and we always care for our clients.
FM: What opportunities are you seeing on the Zimbabwean market?
FH: The Zimbabwean market has in the past not adopted the use of rental cars at a scale they should, both individuals and corporations. This is changing and we want to be there to worry about people’s need to get from point to point.
FM: Take us through the general uptake trends of car rental services in Zimbabwe.
FH: Demand for car rental services is seasonal. There are peak and off-peak periods. Usually peak periods are holidays like April, August and December. The rest are off-peak periods and we have marketing strategies we employ to reduce the gap.
FM: How has the ban on international travel after the outbreak of Covid-19 affected your operations?
FH: From the onset of the pandemic we lost a lot of business. Being in the start-up phase of our operations, it was quite a blow. The pandemic and all its consequences was something we never anticipated and it came down on us like a wave. But we employed some strategies which took us back on our knees and stand again.
FM: Apart from Covid-19,what other challenges are affecting your business?
FH: The reintroduction of the local currency in the form of the RTGS dollar has greatly affected our revenues. The company has faced difficulties in pricing since the value of the currency constantly changes. This in turn results in a high expense bill since repairs are normally paid for in United States dollars and our RTGS dollar prices cannot sustain this. Fuel prices are also affecting movements as most local people cannot afford our fares, thereby causing a decrease in demand for rental vehicles.
FM: What opportunitiesÂ are you seeingÂ during these tough times in the economy?
FH: Tough times are a breeding ground of ideas. These times have moulded us that even when things get good or bad, we are ready for it. Most service providers are not trustworthy due to tough economic conditions and the opportunity we are seeing is to correct what’s wrong thereby getting business by correcting that.
FM: Do you intend to expand operations outside the country? If so, when?
FH: Yes, we are planning to expand operations into countries like South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. The plan is to first have a branch in Zambia in 2023. Other branches will come after, but it should be within five years from now.
FM: What’s your five-year plan?
FH: Our plan is to grow a brand locally and beyond the Zimbabwean borders. We want to be able to largely contribute to the change that will better the lives of Africans by giving back to the community through creation of employment and other corporate social responsibilities.
FM: You have won several accolades. Tell us about it and what does this recognition mean to you and the business?
FH: Being a Gold Winner Entrepreneur of the Year 2020 at Megafest awards left me in a shock. Megafest is a respected organisation. I used to read their magazines, admiring those who were profiled in them. I didn’t know I was being recognised to that extent. After the awards, I started having more confidence and it even gave me a new mindset. Growing up, I faced many challenges like rejection by some family members. Very few believed in me, but I was comforted by these awards because considering what I went through growing up, no one would believe one of the days I would be having these recognitions.
- Â Farai Hunde is the managing director for Bon Voyage Car Rental. He is the Gold Winner Entrepreneur of the Year 2020 (Megafest Awards). He holds an Honours Degree in Retail Management and Consumer Science from Chinhoyi University of Technology.