According to the Uganda Investor Authority, the Micro, Small, Medium, Enterprises (MSMEs) are the engine of growth for the economic development, innovation, wealth creation of Uganda. They create around 80% of the regions employment, with formal small and medium sized enterprises contributing up to 45% of the total employment and 33% of the national income (GDP) in emerging economics and establishing a new middle class fueling demand for goods and services.
This bursting potential is what inspired Daniel Mukisa to start Ridelink, a transport and logistics partner for Ugandan SMEs.
Finding inspiration from his mother’s agribusiness
All through his career journey, Daniel Mukisa always leaned towards solutions in the transport and logistics industry. In 2014, he started a company called Transporter which focused on logistics and delivery solutions. However, due to unavoidable circumstances, the venture was not successful. This forced Daniel to take a break from entrepreneurship for a year and went into employment.
Through it all, Daniel keenly observed how his mother, who was in agribusiness had to face so many logistics challenges when delivering her produce to the market. She buys maize from various farmers and takes this maize to Busia, along the Kenya – Uganda border to sell. However, anytime a truck guy does not show up or decides to hike delivery charges or even worse, the maize gets stolen in transit, it leads to heavy losses which obviously takes time to recover.
Through an experience as an intern for Uber, South Africa, Daniel’s eyes were opened to rethink solutions in the transport industry and his sole focus was so that in future, he could solve his mother’s logistics problem. However, when he finally decided to go back to entrepreneurship, he faced the challenge most entrepreneurs can relate to, lack of enough capital.
Small beginnings and the birth of Ridelink
This did not deter him, he chose to start small and leverage on the resources around him,
“From my previous experience in transport, I knew there was great potential in this industry. One of my friends, Marvin, had a car back then. I approached him and suggested that if he gives me his car, I can use it for special hire and we could share the profits.”
They both agreed to do a trial for 6 months and with the success that came from it, they extended their verbal contract. In the process, Daniel started thinking abut how they can scale the business and grow even further,
“I had conversations with customers in the car and some shared interest in a consistent schedule where I pick them up in the morning and drop them in the evening. I built good relationships with my customers and one of them linked me with the organisation where he worked,” Daniel said.
This opened up doors for Daniel to tap into corporate clients. Most companies relied on solutions like Uber which were efficient but at the same time unpredictable in peak hours where most people move. To solve this, Daniel reached out to some of his friends who had taxis and decided to charge a standard weekly rate to transport the staff in that organisation.
The success from that prompted Daniel to think about how they can support more organisations and what other needs these organisations may have. That’s when he realised that as much as some organisations want to move people, others simply want to move goods, and that led to the concept of Ridelink, a company that is reimagining how small businesses move goods and people.
Targetting the SME niche
Based on the larger problem they are trying to solve, Ridelink is focused on SMEs, to provide a B2B solution for them. There are two major questions all SME owners ask themselves:
- How can we get access to existing and new markets?
- How do we reduce our cost of operation?
“For us to help SMEs meet these needs, we help them figure out how to reduce their cost of operation but still expand. It is more expensive to open shop in every area but if SMEs can have products deliveres, it becomes much cheaper and they reach more clients. Our value proposition for them is safety, reliability and affordability,” Daniel said.
Ridelink’s growth and impact
Ridelink’s impact among SMEs in Uganda is notable. One of the clients they work with for instance provides herbal products and medicine. They had never thought of incorporating technology in their business or even doing deliveries.
Ridelink helped them set up a customer database and support them in making deliveries. The company only has one store but are serving clients all over Uganda. 70% of their business currently comes from deliveries while 30% is from referrals and other sources.
“That makes me happy because in Uganda, 80% of the economy is run by SMEs. If I can help them grow from a small business to a big corporation, I’ll have achieved my goal,” Daniel said.
For Daniel, starting a business as one person then currently providing full time employment to 21 people is something he takes pride in. He also remembers that he started Ridelink with only USD 500 and by end of 2018, they were making about USD 120,000 in revenue. That is a major achievement for him.
Why choose Ridelink?
In Uganda, most of the companies that provide delivery services are very unprofessional. Ridelink aims to bring back professionalism by doing simple things like having their riders smartly dressed, providing receipts and addressing customers with courtesy.
Since they do deliveries for businesses, this professional aspect reflects well on the business they are serving which is a win – win.
Leveraging on customer centric marketing
Daniel admits that at the beginning, getting people to embrace their solution was not the easiest task. People had their own way of handling transport and logistics and they had to be convinced that what Ridelink offers is different, safer and more reliable,
“Thanks to GrowthAfrica, we were introduced to customer centric selling. This entails going to customers, not with the intention of selling your service but to find out their logistical business challenges by asking direct questions and as they open up, it’s easier to approach them with a solution.”
This customer centric strategy sets them apart. . To complement this, Ridelink is active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin which is a great marketing tool for them.
Collaborating with GrowthAfrica
When a friend introduced Daniel to the GrowthAfrica Accelerator, Daniel embraced the idea as he is always looking for ways to access knowledge. His focus was also learning how to go about accessing funding.
“GrowthAfrica has helped me learn a lot about the business. What stood out was getting to know who exactly our customer is and defining our value proposition.” Daniel said.
Advice for fellow entrepreneurs
Daniel’s advice for fellow entrepreneurs is to embrace reading,
“If you plan to do business and you don’t read, it will be hard for you to grow the business.”
He also encourages entrepreneurs to pay attention to their cash flow.
What’s in the future?
Moving forward, logistics is something Ridelink would like to focus more on,
“We currently have a working business model but based on customer feedback, we realised there is a huge gap in logistics. When you think of transport of people, there are businesses that are doing excellent in that niche, but when it comes to logistics, there is a noticable gap in that service that we intend to fill.”
In the next 2 years, Ridelink hopes to expland nationally and in the long term, set up more branches regionally. Their current focus is onboarding more businesses nationally.