As Briana Morgaine said, “Most entrepreneurs don’t begin their journey by falling in love with the problem—they begin by falling in love with the solution. Whether this is a problem they have personally experienced, or something their friends, family, or those in their current industry wish they had access to, these small moments of “man, I wish that existed,” often serve as the spark the inspires a new business.”
We spoke to Ronald Hakiza, whose frustrating experience at a bus station in Uganda inspired him to create a solution that is currently revolutionising the transport industry in Uganda through the Ugabus app.
Imagine losing a close relative and having to urgently travel back home for the burial only to be conned at the bus station by a middleman who takes advantage of your desperation and sells you a fake bus ticket. You then have to spend more money to buy a real ticket because that is an urgent trip for you.
This is what Ronald Hakiza and many more Ugandan passengers had to go through every time they had to make a long distance trip.
When Ronald came back from the burial, the frustration of being conned led him to meet some of his friends to figure out how they can solve that issue that was affecting most Ugandan travelers.
Their original idea was how they can enable people buy genuine bus tickets without them coming to the bus stations. They reached out to a couple of friends who had travel plans and they helped them secure genuine tickets through phone calls. Eventually, the numbers became overwhelming and the next question then was, how do they serve more people without using phone calls?
That is when they did more research and looked into apps, websites and other relevant online platforms before settling on creating the Ugabus app, an online ticketing app for buses to enable travelers within East Africa buy bus tickets.
Interestingly, most people think the name Ugabus is a short form for Uganda Bus. However, Ronald clarified that Uga is an Igbo word that means ‘connecting’ So the word Ugabus actually means connecting bus.
Unique Selling Point
The main thing that attracts customers to Ugabus is convenience. They believe a customer should be able to get the right ticket, at the right time, with the most convenient bus, at the most convenient time that they would wish to travel, to the right destination, at the most affordable price.
They rely heavily on word of mouth marketing from satisfied customers who have been successfully served through the app. Ugabus also has a strong social media presence and a website that has helped the brand get to their target customers.
Proud Moments and Impact on the transport industry in Uganda
Ronald Hakiza is proud of every moment in the Ugabus journey from being able to provide the ultimate solution to public transportation to providing employment for a number of people and building a brand that is recognized through East Africa.
As late as 2016, the transport industry in Uganda was dominated by middlemen who would be so aggressive with passengers approaching the bus stations and conmen who sold fake tickets to unaware passengers. However, through Ugabus’ efforts, an association of bus touts was formed and professionalized under guidance with the Transport Licensing Board, Uganda to ensure that the middlemen are streamlined.
In bus stations like Namayiba terminal and Kisenyi terminal, the middlemen now have numbers, an organized association and leadership. This has made the passenger experience smoother, they are now treated with respect and the structure has also eliminated the notorious conmen who flooded the bus stations.
“We are bringing order back to a chaos in urban mobility,” Hakiza said.
Major Challenge Faced
Hakiza admits that customer acquisition is always an ongoing concern for him. Every morning, he wakes up hoping to find the trick that will bring in customers consistently. However, he also admits that it is a learning experience.
“We invest a lot in marketing, and I have also learnt a lot about consumer behavior and how we can better serve our customers. We also focus on our unique selling point which is ensuring convenience for passengers,” Hakiza said.
Hakiza is also addressing this challenge by using a pricing mechanism that ensures the customer does not incur cost so the customer can conveniently secure their tickets without feeling the pinch of an extra cost.
Why I joined the GrowthAfrica Accelerator
Hakiza admits that at the time of joining the GrowthAfrica Accelerator in 2017, he knew little about running a structured business. His search for new growth strategies for his business led him to Growth Africa.
Creating working structures for the business was the biggest challenge he had back then but the Accelerator programme broke it down to understandable concepts which Ronald took up and implemented for Ugabus.
“Initially you would find us doing things in a not so organized way which is no longer the case,” said Hakiza
The impact from the Accelerator programme led Hakiza to recommend more entrepreneurs to the programme.
Advice for entrepreneurs
“No one gets it right from the first time. It is a process of trial and error. Keep learning and implementing what you learn,” he said.
The Future of Ugabus
Scale, scale, scale is the word that Ugabus is focusing on during the next few years.
“We want to scale our impact. We are looking at an Ugabus that has fully put in place the transport ecosystem and made it possible for people to access bus related services and information digitally. We understand that is an uphill task but that is why we exist. Our mission is not just profit oriented but impact oriented,” concluded Hakiza.