This summer, people in Riga could enjoy the city with RIDE – electric bikes that looked like real e-mopeds. The team launched the service right after the Covid-19 restrictions were eased with a cool launch event and the title of the most downloaded app on the App Store in the country.
Launch date: Summer 2020
Fleet: Xiaomi HIMO T1
Web page: https://ridemobility.eu
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/lt/app/id1522014903
Founder and the CEO of the RIDE Edgars Jakobsons first considered launching a ride-sharing business in his hometown Riga after visiting Singapore in 2019. “This was the first time I tried e-scooters myself. It was a fun experience and I thought that people elsewhere might also like it. When I came back to Riga, the first e-scooter sharing service had already started to operate here. We followed soon after in collaboration with Bolt,” Edgars remembers. A year later, he decided to create his own independent company that would offer a new means of transportation – electric bikes.
RIDE launch event (Summer 2020)
The future is in electricity
RIDE is the daughter company of TrafoNet – an organization that provides its customers with industrial electrical equipment. TrafoNet has been previously involved in the development of the infrastructure for electric vehicles – for just over two years now, the company has set up electric vehicle charging stations. “I think that electrical transportation is our inescapable future. When we started to set up stations, we didn’t know when there was going to be a demand for them. Now all the biggest car manufacturers have an electrical car to offer. And people are ready to pay for them.” Edgars believes in the future of electricity. That’s where the choice of electric bikes comes from. And, of course, there are no similar vehicles in the ride- sharing market in Riga. That was the second stimulus.
The season started later than expected due to Covid-19 pandemics – electric bikes appeared on streets on July 15. However, the launch event attracted huge attention – RIDE bikes were offered to ride for free for the first day. It is possible to drive approximately 45 kilometres with one full charge so this was enough to even get to one of Latvia’s summer capitals – Jurmala – and enjoy nice weather by the sea.
Respectively app downloads exceeded the company’s expectations. “Half the people who downloaded the app have tried our service at least once. Yes, we can say that we are lucky, but there is an enormous amount of work behind luck. Moreover, you should always enter the market actively and aggressively. That’s what we did! Competitive advantage should be easily understood and perceived by the client. And the devil is always in the details,” says Edgars, sharing his experience.
RIDE app quickly became one of the most popular apps in the country.
Weather conditions and vandalism – the two main challenges
Latvia is not the best place on Earth to start am electric bike ride-sharing business, because everything depends on weather conditions. Theoretically, it is possible to ride a bike all year long but there would be a small number of people interested in that. If temperatures are low during the coldest months of the year, the ride won’t be enjoyable. However, RIDE is ready to provide its services for as long as there is a demand for them.
The second biggest challenge for the business is people’s attitude. “We want to live in Europe, but sometimes I have a feeling that we are still in the Soviet Union. Plastic as well as mechanical components are broken. Screens have been smashed. These components need to be ordered constantly which creates remarkable costs. It’s a pity that there are so many people who don’t value the work of others,” says Edgars.
Not an easy business
Since the ride-sharing business has become popular, Edgars expects new players to enter the market any time now: “I just wanted to say that it is not an easy business. It is tough and more like a hobby to me. If you think that there’s a huge profit margin here, you’re wrong. When we served a Bolt fleet last year, there were 25 people on the team! You have to pay proper salaries, because the job is not easy and often people have to work at night or during early morning hours. In addition, we pay all our taxes. You really have to like this business a lot to invest your time and money in it.”
One thing Edgars is sure about is that this won’t be RIDE’S last season. The company has plans to expand in the Baltic region, as well as in countries all around the Baltic Sea. RIDE will work to establish its spots locally that will support the ride-sharing business in different cities. However, Edgars stresses that the company has gained experience and technical competences that are easier to replicate then to gather for the first time.
RIDE has chosen the Atom Mobility software that is used in their apps and dashboard. “Three factors are important for us as a partner – costs and costs of developing new features, the availability of different solutions as well as the quality of communication. Unless all these aspects also have value for our partner, we won’t be interested in changing it or creating our solution,” says Edgars.
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“Upon our initial interaction with ATOM Mobility, we were immediately drawn to their interface and impressed by the quality of their customer service. Throughout the process, they exhibited great flexibility in their approach and were able to assist us with any difficulties we encountered.”
– Deroy De Bordes, founder of Wheelz
Launch date: October 2021
Web page: https://wheelzgh.com
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/lt/app/id1590136064
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=wheelzgh.app
Wheelz was founded by Deroy De Bordes – an entrepreneur with a diverse background in business, including experience in HR and property development. Originally from Ghana, West Africa, he realized the potential of expanding into emerging markets while residing in the UK. During a trip back to Ghana, he recognized a potential market opportunity for a car-sharing service company.
During that time, traditional taxi services and a laborious car rental process that required your physical presence were the main options for customers in the country. The founder saw the opportunity to fulfill an unmet demand through the creation of a car-sharing service – which led to the launch of Wheelz.
In preparation for the launch, they evaluated multiple software providers and eventually went with ATOM Mobility. According to Deroy, they chose ATOM Mobility because of its superior customer service and user-friendly interface. Its integration with Geotab's fleet management platform was also a significant factor.
Overcoming implementation hurdles
In the process of starting their business, Wheelz faced numerous challenges that required careful consideration and planning.
The company's journey began in the early 2020s when they traveled to Ghana to investigate the local market, identify any potential risks, and gain a thorough understanding of the relevant local laws and regulations.
As a company that heavily relies on connectivity, Wheelz had to address the associated risks of providing convenient and accessible services to its customers.
One significant challenge Wheelz faced was the unique characteristics of road infrastructure in Ghana compared to Europe. This situation necessitated the establishment of safe roadside parking zones, especially as many houses in the target market have gated compounds. To prevent any potential disagreements with other customers and ensure safety, Wheelz had to remind people not to park within these compounds.
Additionally, people may park on backstreets or narrow roads, potentially causing damage or injury to the vehicle. Therefore, Wheelz took extra caution in selecting parking zones and worked closely with their team to identify suitable locations within 10 to 15 minutes of each other. This effort aimed to ensure customers' easy access to their services.
Disrupting traditional services
Introducing a new product to the market posed a significant challenge for Wheelz, as it was unlike the traditional car hire services that customers were accustomed to.
“Our concept was new in a way that it depended solely on smartphones as the main way of accessing our service. The first thing we had to do was test the technology thoroughly to ensure its stability and security before it could be deployed in the field. Then, we needed to familiarize potential customers with the app's functionality.” – Deroy De Bordes
For marketing purposes, the company used a multi-phase approach. The first phase focused on creating brand awareness through billboards, radio, and television ads. The second phase involved marketing campaigns on various platforms, including YouTube, Google, Instagram, Facebook, and banner ads. This generated a significant amount of interest in the product.
Wheelz's pricing strategy was significantly more competitive than traditional taxi services. For instance, a one-hour journey in their most affordable vehicle costs 60 Ghanaian cedi, while a half-hour ride in a traditional taxi would cost around 50 to 60 Ghanaian cedi. This pricing strategy proved to be an attractive offer, as customers sought value for their money.
"Essentially, customers who choose Wheelz can get twice the travel time for their money," Deroy explains.
By introducing this new product and pricing strategy, Wheelz established itself as a disruptor in the market. Now, as the company continues to grow and expand its services, they remain committed to providing excellent customer service and safe, reliable transportation to its clients.
“Though we faced early obstacles, we persevered. Today, our innovative approach to car hire services has earned us a favorable standing in the market.” – Deroy De Bordes
Moving forward: plans for ongoing improvements and expansion
The success of Wheelz thus far has not led to complacency, and the company has no intention of resting on its laurels. In May 2023, they have plans to participate in a trade show in Ghana – this will allow the company to promote its brand and explore the possibility of expanding into new markets across Africa. They are also considering a franchise model to facilitate their expansion efforts.
Wheelz also plans to expand to other cities in Ghana, including Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi, and Cape Coast. Each of these cities will have a minimum of 10 cars assigned to them. But in the nearest future, the plan is to explore opportunities to increase the number of parking zones across the capital city, Accra.
“Using ATOM Mobility's platform, we were able to open up our taxi business to an entirely different target market – younger people. We've been able to offer a more simplified booking process to continue offering quality service to our customers, which is our guiding principle.” - Jamal, Founder and CEO of Vift
Experience in the taxi business: 6 years
Web page: https://viftmobility.com
App store: https://apps.apple.com/vn/app/vift/id1631027113
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=vift.app
As engineering students in the Swedish city of Örebro, just west of Stockholm, the Zindi brothers saw market demand and decided to launch their own taxi company. Starting six years ago, the business has grown to account for 8% of the local taxi market, attracting a higher-end clientele.
One year ago, founder and CEO Jamal Zindi was looking for opportunities to further grow his business. At the time, Vift operated as a classical taxi company – based on receiving phone calls and dispatching drivers. By using the ATOM Mobility platform, he was able to launch his own dedicated mobile app, which clients could use to directly order and pay for their taxis.
The effect of digitising his business was immediate – Jamal shares that they have received a considerable boost to business, as it opens the door to a new target audience. He shares that human behaviour regarding booking has changed. Many young people don't like picking up the phone to make a taxi booking, or people sitting in meetings aren't able to make a call. Having an app to offer makes all the difference.
Quality as a North Star
Jamal shares that throughout all of his journey as an entrepreneur, his guiding principle has always been to offer the best possible quality to clients.
“In the services sector, it's not about who offers it cheaper, it's who serves their clients better. We offer better cars, better drivers, better customer experience. If you do it better, people will be willing to pay a premium,” explains Jamal.
In the early days, Vift's differentiating factor was an improved experience. They, and their drivers, were from an academic background. They were younger than most taxi drivers in Örebro at the time, which Jamal considered an advantage. They were able to bring an improved customer experience to their clients, which was appreciated.
They aren't in a hurry to expand in size or geography. Jamal emphasises that they're looking to build a solid foundation and only then expand upon that.
“We don't want to start with too many cars. Our strategy is to build up the business in stages. Because if the foundation is strong, you will not fall. Once you have a system in place, it's easier to go to other cities.”
Vift has its own fleet of cars, and, using the ATOM Mobility platform, it can now onboard other drivers onto its platform. Though they're not in a hurry – they're establishing quality first and then will look beyond their borders.
Locally-owned as a key differentiator
The city of Örebro does not lack in its fair share of taxi sharing apps. They have Bolt, Uber, and others. But what Vift can offer and Uber can't, is hyper-local customer service – both for drivers and for end-customers.
“There are Bolt and Uber, they drive very cheaply. But the management and owners are not in Sweden. So if you have a question, you won't receive a response that fully understands your situation. People appreciate that we're from Sweden, that they can contact us, and that they can receive a response in their own language,” comments Jamal.
Using their competitive advantage, they believe that in just 2 years, they will be the biggest company in Örebro. And after that, they'll replicate their experience in other cities, still based on quality-over-quantity.
The secret to surviving in the taxi business – thinking 10 years ahead
One thing that sets Vift apart from traditional taxi services is their future-oriented mindset. Jamal shares that when making business decisions, he thinks about what will be relevant in 5-10 years' time. This way, he's able to stay ahead of the competition, and relevant to his customers.
One way this comes across is in the vehicles they choose.
“Right now, all of our cars are hybrid. But very soon we'll be switching to a fully electric vehicle fleet. It's the better choice – for business, for the environment. That is where mobility is heading, and that's where we have to be as well.”
When asked about his tips for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own taxi business, Jamal stays true to his values:
“Constant development. Professional standards. Work with the heart. Quality is what matters. Consider the future – if you only do things for today, then you'll fall down.”
Through working together, Vift has significantly increased its demand and revenue. Laying the strong foundation for digital services, Vift can now continue to build out the business and reach its goals of dominating the local market and expanding past its borders.
Learn more about ATOM Mobility ride-hailing and taxi platform here: https://ride.atommobility.com