Technology

Bad experience gives birth to digital car hire business

ZURU-0402C

Rawlings Otini, founder of Zuru App, which enables users to hire out their vehicles at a fee across Kenya. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

jameskariuki-img

Summary

  • The platform, that currently has 200 vehicles on offer and has attracted 2,000 downloads since last year April, offers a wide variety of cars from luxury limousines for wedding parties to hearses.
  • Mr Otini says they have an escrow account where all monies paid are held and only released to vehicle owners upon fulfilment of a transaction.

When Rawlings Otini used his feature phone to help his friends hire out their vehicles, little did he know this was the start of his journey as a techpreneur.

When he started, he did this for fun until he sent a friend Sh2,000 planning to hire a saloon car from Kisumu to travel to his rural home.

“On arrival in Kisumu, my friend failed to pick my three calls and eventually put off his mobile phone. He requested me to send the hiring fee to confirm the booking but he vanished into thin air. I realised I had been conned,” he recalls.

That ignited an interest in development of a foolproof self-drive car hire software application that facilitates the transactions on a commercial platform, and where vehicle owners get to know more about their customers while customers learn more about the vehicles they hire.

Mr Otini, a former journalist, says he raised Sh700,000 that he spent on the mobile and web software development that he named Zuru. Part of the money went into operationalising his new startup.

“Why should anyone pay parking fees for a vehicle that is left gathering dust the whole day. It can earn them a shilling for an hour or two with customers free to book the self-drive vehicles via Zuru App,” he says.

Motor vehicle owners download the App from Google Playstore.

“We are helping vehicle owners to do business without being members of a car-hire company or spending money to set up their individual offices. Vehicle owners set prices and customers choose the vehicles they want based on price and make. We earn a 10 percent commission every time a transaction goes through our platform,” he says.

The platform, that currently has 200 vehicles on offer and has attracted 2,000 downloads since last year April, offers a wide variety of cars from luxury limousines for wedding parties to hearses.

Mr Otini says they have an escrow account where all monies paid are held and only released to vehicle owners upon fulfilment of a transaction.

“No one loses their money as all vehicles hired out have been vetted for roadworthiness and owners fully advised on security arrangements available on the platform,” he says.

Mr Otini adds that data collected on the site reveals a ready market for car-hire services from expatriate workers visiting Kenya for short periods. They need vehicles to move around from project sites to meetings in hotels as well as to their temporary residences, he says.

This, he says, has opened a new line of business where expatriates request self-drive vehicles on arrival at the airport and surrender them when they leave the country.

“We have e-commerce platforms that set out delivery schedules within Nairobi and use our service to fulfil the orders. This saves them the need to invest in a vehicle as hiring will only take place when they need to collect their wares and deliver to select locations,” he says.

Tourists seeking a vehicle for an impromptu city tour, Mr Otini says, find self-drive vehicles convenient.

“It is a pool that gives a new line of cover for rescue when emergencies occur as we remain on call round the clock and can see the hired vehicle on the platform as it moves across Kenya. We also have a feedback mechanism for services received to inform vehicle roadworthiness,” he says.

The car-hire service is also a convenient solution to businesspeople visiting major towns for errands and have to move from office to office before boarding the evening matatu back to their homes.