The best new business plans start with a personal experience. Sendy, the new digital courier marketplace that operates in Nairobi, Kenya, is no exception. The founders of Sendy designed their delivery marketplace to become ‘the Uber for deliveries’. Club Africa spoke to one of the founders and the COO.
If you want to send a package to a person or business in Kenya, you do have options – but are these options good enough? Within the city, you can have a package delivered to your PO box using the national postal system – called Posta, but not everybody can afford a box (nor thinks it’s worthwhile to have one). There are also private courier service providers and informal boda boda (motorcycle taxi) couriers. Finally, there are small intercity passenger bus companies that also move packages between major hubs.
Pay more for doorstep-service
Previously, when Sendy co-founder and CEO Meshack Alloys worked with such an inter-city passenger bus company, he noticed that receivers would often call and offer to pay a bit more if the company would deliver it to their doorstep. “This would help them avoid a multi-hour trip into the center of town to collect the package. In short, people were willing to pay much more for a package to move from city to city if it included door-to-door service with residential pickups and drop-offs”, Meshack recalls.
It was the experience of Meshack’s mother that finally led to the establishment of Sendy. One day she went to the side of the road, found a boda boda and asked him to drive to the store and pick up two bags of cement that she had already paid for. The boda boda did go to the store and pick up the bags of cement, but never brought them back to her. In 2014, Meshack and his friends Don and Evanson started Sendy – a marketplace for trusted delivery Drivers. A platform that Meshack’s mom could have used for moving her cement in a more trustworthy way.
Request via Sendy app
Two years later, both customers as well as Drivers have embraced the idea of the ‘Uber for deliveries’. Customers can request a delivery via the desktop or mobile phone Sendy app. They enter the locations for pick-up and drop-off, choose the vehicle (motorcycle, van or truck) they prefer, and pay using mobile money (MPesa) or with a card or cash. After pick-up, they track and contact their Driver until the drop-off is complete.
Business customers enjoy business benefits that one would expect from an IT-centred service like this. They can manage all deliveries from their desk, schedule pickups 24/7, know immediately when parcels are delivered, track delivery times, locations, addresses, and enjoy monthly billing.
Hundreds of local boda boda Drivers have signed up to drive for – and wear the colors of – Sendy. COO Malaika Judd: “Like Uber, we charge a service fee to the Drivers for providing the tech platform, customer service, and enterprise reporting to customers. We also take 20 per cent commission for facilitating the sale. Sendy collects all payments from customers, and then pays out to Drivers every Saturday.”
What are the hurdles you had to take?
Malaika Judd: “We had our funding challenges, as it is difficult to raise venture capital in Kenya; but we’re luck to have partnered with a total of 21 different investors to date including Safaricom. We also had some team challenges; it was difficult to find the right expertise in the region. We managed to build an all-Kenyan team with HQ and technical development in Nairobi. Our office team is currently 35 people strong.”
What makes your business unique?
“Our historical data and unique address information. With our data we are able to track unmapped addresses, routes Drivers take on the road (vs. suggested by Google), and monthly patterns and delivery trends. Since everything is powered by technology and tracked in real-time, we have a wealth of knowledge in our data that allow us to implement predictive models with machine learning.”
What is next? Do you have plans for expansion?
“For now, we’re in Kenya. We're looking to expand our reach across the country to be able to offer truck deliveries anywhere in the country, and hyper-local motorcycle deliveries in the big Kenyan cities. After that we have our eyes on Uganda and Tanzania - connecting the ports to the big cities across East Africa.”
How will you finance further growth?
“We're fortunate to have very recently closed an investment round - but that doesn't mean we're not fundraising. We're always looking to work with the right investment partners - specifically those with expertise in logistics in Africa.”
Photo credits: Sendy