When Washington Mageto started doing meal deliveries at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, he planned to make some extra cash to supplement his income.
However, within three years, his venture has blossomed into an e-commerce platform, angling for a share of the pie in a market dominated by foreign-owned firms.
Despite lacking the requisite infrastructure, what had started as an experimental undertaking had grown to do between 100 and 160 deliveries daily within the first year.
“At that time, I thought the best thing was to automate the platform to aggregate more business and get more market share,” states Mageto.
He adds, But then I quickly learned that food is very volatile, so I thought of a way to democratise the space by allowing diverse vendors to sell on the platform.”
The Computer Science scholar at Daystar University then developed an online marketplace where he onboarded merchants who would use it to market their wares and dispatch their orders using their own delivery riders.
“That was the game changer,” exclaims Mr Mageto.
“We were able to at least allow the traders some autonomy and reduce our priced commission. Some suppliers already owning motorbikes knew they could now double their earnings from within the platform.”
Today, the marketplace, dubbed PLAT-DEL, has digitised and automated the trade of multiple industry sectors, including cooking gas, electronics, cosmetics, fashion, and food.
It boasts over 1.5 to two tonnes of gas deliveries daily and 50 to 70 deliveries for the other product categories.
But what is he doing differently?
“There are people within the industry doing the same things that we are doing. But we understand that the model that our rivals operate on is one where they take products from vendors and stock them in their stores, and then when a consumer makes an order, they deliver from their warehouses, a process that takes some days,” explains the techie.
“We have chosen to take a different route. We have decided to geofence things so that we only show you vendors near you. That way, we have found a way to cut your delivery costs due to the reduction of the cost of transportation. It also makes deliveries as speedy as possible,” say Mageto.
To protect his company’s brand image and reputation, Mr Mageto says that vendors registering on the platform have to present several certifications as part of the vetting process.
For instance, all businesses must provide their registration certificates or business permits, while those operating in the pharmaceutical space must present their approval from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
“We source for the vendors ourselves. We do not allow people to register on our platform, so it’s an exclusive, top-tier selection process,” says the founder.
For the delivery riders, Mr Mageto says PLAT-DEL has partnered with a training and management organisation that imparts the skills needed to handle the complexities of the business space.
“We give them aspects of insurance and make sure that they are doing their remittances to the government as needs to be. We have to incentivise them to comply,” states Mr Mageto.
How the platform works
The founder explains that the expenses for all orders are pre-paid and that PLAT-DEL holds the money in an escrow account. Once the order is delivered to the consumer’s satisfaction, he or she confirms by sharing a one-time passcode (OTP) sent to his or her phone with the rider.
“Immediately the order has been signed on the rider’s application, the rider gets his or her money, the vendor gets theirs in their wallet, and we retain our commission within our wallet. If the order is incomplete, no one gets the money,” expounds Mr Mageto.
The techie, who has engaged six office employees, says he has injected a cumulative capital of Sh10 million in the venture, adding his eyes expanding his scope beyond the capital and its environs.