Firm’s platform eases SGR, bus, air ticket bookings

Sonia Kabra of BuuPass, a ticketing platform (left) with Wyclife Omondi. The two co-founded the BuuPass platform which does ticketing for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). PHOTO | POOL

Planning for a trip can be a tedious and costly affair. Growing up in rural Kenya, Wyclife Omondi had to visit physical bus and train stations to book travel tickets.

The stations being far from his home, he was often forced to spend precious time and money on bus fares just to secure the all-important pass to far-away destinations.

It was an unpleasant experience that inspired him to start BuuPass, an online ticketing platform that is today easing travel for millions of Kenyans every year.

BuuPass, founded in 2016, enables travellers to book their intercity bus, train, and flight tickets at the click of a button.

“We started the company to solve challenges in Africa’s intercity transportation. On one hand, most transport service providers do not have the infrastructure to go digital, relying on pen and paper to manage their operations."

“On the other hand, travellers waste time and money because they don’t have a platform to compare and book their tickets. BuuPass is an end-to-end solution that solves the needs of both,” the former World Bank transportation consultant tells the Enterprise.

The platform offers a fleet management solution, enabling bus operators to cut administrative costs.

To make the project a success, Mr Omondi partnered with his co-founder and director Sonia Kabra to build the platform.

The two met at Earlham College in the United States. Ms Kabra was studying Biochemistry, while Mr Omondi pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

"Both of us have great interest in building digital rails for intercity transport in Africa," the 28-year-old says.

They invested Sh119.9 million ($1 million) from a Hult Prize grant to set up the platform. Hult Prize, which is supported by former US President Bill Clinton, is a social entrepreneurship competition that brings together 25,000 + teams from around the world.

BuuPass has developed ticketing solutions for Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) train and several bus companies including Easy Coach and Modern Coast Express.

The company has recently facilitated 6.5 million bookings under the bus, flight, and train offerings. It expects the bookings to rise as more Kenyans embrace SGR.

According to the Kenya Railways Corporation, bookings on the SGR train more than doubled last year on increased movement between Nairobi and Mombasa after Covid-19 containment measures were eased.

In 2021, passenger ticket sales rose 146 percent to nearly two million compared with 811,552 bookings in 2020.

Likewise, China Road and Bridge Corporation, the line operator from Mombasa to Suswa near Naivasha, collected Sh2.20 billion from sales to travellers, a 145.58 percent jump over Sh896.03 million a year earlier.

From two bookings per day when it started, BuuPass now hits 9,800 daily bookings across different platforms.

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