Bwala Africa Group, a Nairobi-based logistics marketplace has been launched in Kenya to allow its users to hire cars, trucks and delivery vans and source for repairs, service and maintenance, and link them up to trusted mechanics and genuine spare part dealers straight from the comfort of their homes and offices.
With a database of pick-ups, minibuses, trucks, tours and delivery vans, Bwala Africa Group aims to take the pain of fleet management from corporate firms, SMEs and individuals so that they can focus on their core business.
For truck owners, Bwala aims to be the go-to platform for more business especially on return trips when most of them are empty. The platform is also expected to help mechanics grow their client portfolio, become honest and reach more users.
“I’m a car enthusiast and at times my family is trying to get a good mechanic but we find them engaged. There are many other good mechanics too but the problem is accessing them. We will list those we vet and let the users rate them,” said Kennedy Nyabwala, the firm’s founder and CEO.
Bwala’s key focus areas include vehicle leasing, light and heavy duty cargo haulage, FMCG distribution and fleet management and vehicle repairs and maintenance. The firm will also deal with insurance covers and claims and also has a segment for genuine auto parts dealers. Bwala will work with verified garages to provide its users world-class vehicle repairs, service and maintenance.
Now available in Nairobi, Kenya, Bwala.co.ke has been under pilot for the last one year but will be expanding rapidly to major counties and urban centres in the country this year then launch across East Africa followed by its expansion into Asia.
“We wanted to prove our concept and get customer validation before we go public,” he said. “Our key focus will be in the African market, though we are also looking at the Asian market starting with India and Philippines because they have a lot of similarities with Africa; such as the growing middle class and the increasing rate of car ownership. These are the markets we want to play in.”
Bwala works simply; a vehicle owner takes a photo of his or her car, van or pick-up truck, signs up for an account then lists them for hire. Bwala verifies vehicle ownership through the National Transport and safety Authority (NTSA) portal then makes it available on its site for hire. A client then browses the site, searches for the type of vehicle they want then they proceed to pay. Bwala holds the money in its escrow payment system to make sure both are satisfied before funds are released.
Users pay a 20 percent to 30 percent commission to either lease or hire their cars, connect with verified mechanics or buy genuine spare parts. Bwala then takes care of vehicle servicing, insurance renewals, and lease contract renewal among others automatically.
Speaking during the launch, Darshan Chandaria, CEO of Chandaria Industries said,” It’s great to see another young Kenyan starting his entrepreneurial journey. Something I am a big supporter of and which is actually critical for the development of next-generation leaders in Kenya. A big part of our customers and customer satisfaction at Chandaria Industries depend on sufficient supply chain systems and fleet management. I spend a significant time strategically at Chandaria Industries thinking about how to get raw materials in faster and in the right quantities and how to get more of our products out to customers and to our retailers’ shelves as quickly as possible. With the launch of innovative platforms like Bwala you don’t have to worry about these.”
Bwala has listed 50 vehicles on its platform which were part of its pilot but it’s targeting the over 1m cars on Kenyan roads daily which need regular maintenance and servicing irrespective of their make and year of manufacture. The self-funded company of six aims to make revenue by simplifying car hire, service and maintenance and repairs. The firm is also working with a local insurance company to give its clients a customized and affordable cover.
Fleet management is a menace for companies with a fleet of over 20 cars, all hired from different individuals at different times for different reasons. Bwala expects to help firms curb cargo theft and loss, fuel siphoning by unscrupulous drivers and fleet managers and insurance firms through automation.
Bwala Africa Group is an interesting platform for firms like Chandaria Industries which owns and operates a fleet of over 150 trucks, canters, pickups and delivery vans every day. To manage its operational costs, Chandaria Industries takes logistics very seriously.
“One thing that keeps coming up is excess capacity. With our fleet, we have over 150 trucks going out every day,” said Darshan. “On return trips, these vehicles are supposed to carry back paper waste from different parts of the country but only 30 percent come back loaded. 70 percent of our fleet come back empty and I would think many other firms including SMEs have this same issue. Whether it’s from a B2B perspective or a consumer perspective, I think there is a big opportunity there. What we need is a fusion of great entrepreneurs, innovative solutions and the relevant technology to really address this issue and to ensure that the logistics ecosystem in this country run in the most efficient manner.”
To Darshan, platforms like Bwala will help SMEs focus their core business rather than tying their cash on fleets of vehicles thus reduced expenditures on assets, insurance, recruitment and training especially to drivers and offloading teams who now act as brand representatives and customer care assistants.
Lots of SME cash is tied up in assets and in recruitment, Bwala is launching to help solve that as well as a number of headaches faced by fleet owners and managers such as fuel siphoning, cargo theft, unscrupulous insurance firms trying to find ways to pay less among others.
“We are simplifying the process even for Saccos and Matatu owners. We are going to make it easier for anyone to hire and maintain a vehicle. The good thing with the platform is that we give users an unlimited supply of vehicles to allow them to spend their capital elsewhere,’’ concluded the former OLX User Insights Manager.