During the pandemic, Kyiv - the capital city of Ukraine - has changed. The local government decided to increasingly focus on the green course by creating a huge amount of bicycle lanes. Even big streets were transformed into two-lane streets and cycling lanes were added. It is a real micro-mobility service paradise, isn't it? Service providers – both global brands and small local companies - responded quickly and took the opportunity to run their businesses there. One of them is Zelectra - a company created by locals, which has just finished a very successful first season.
Launch date: Spring 2021
Fleet: 300 scooters and 350 mopeds
Web page: https://zelectra.com.ua/en/
Team: 25+ team members
Cool fact: 2,500 rides were taken on 250 scooters in 1 day
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/ua/app/zelectra/id1545583319?l=ru
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ride.app
Sergey and Eugine - co-founders of Zelectra - have been friends since childhood. The idea of a micro-mobility business came about when one of their friends told them he had contacts with the manufacturer in China that could provide vehicles if they are interested in starting a business in Kyiv. “We have never worked with scooters before, but thought that we could try to offer a last-mile service. That's how it all started. However, in the beginning, we laughed about the idea and went in separate directions. But somehow this idea didn't let us go. Then we decided to do the calculations. That was the moment when we became really interested in developing a solution,” explains Eugine. This all happened at the beginning of 2019. At the end of the year, both friends understood that they would launch a micro-mobility business in 2020.
Zelectra is one of the most popular brand of scooter/moped sharing in Ukraine
Learning together with the local government
The decision was made to launch in Kyiv - the city familiar to both of them. They hoped to be the first, but unfortunately, the pandemic slightly changed their plans. Global micro-mobility service provider Bolt launched in 2020, while four other companies followed in 2021. One was Zelectra. “The reason we started later was due to technical challenges, as well as some challenges while ordering vehicles. Of course, we had heard that there might be hurdles, but we didn't realize what they really meant,” Eugine recalls. For example, banks were looking at their potential business and thought that they were crazy. They didn't want to take the newly-formed team seriously.
“It was the same story with the government. When they got familiar with Bolt, they had a very poor understanding of what a micro-mobility service is. The scooter as a vehicle was not subject to any regulation. It does not count as transport, and what is an actual micromobility solution? Does the rider need a license? Where is it possible to drive? Are helmets mandatory? Where can vehicles be left? It was a similar story with the electric mopeds with 3kw power that we also offered - they did not correspond to any norms. When we put those vehicles on the street for the first time, we were told that we were breaking the law. Our vehicles didn't have number plates. People were driving all over the place and leaving vehicles on sidewalks. We explained to the government that none of the means of transportation were defined by regulations and finally they accepted this. So now we are growing together,” says Eugine. “On the one hand, we have some additional duties imposed by the government. On the other, the government is helping us a lot. The development of a huge number of cycling lanes changed the attitude of locals not only towards riding bicycles, but also scooters. It was no longer considered to be something weird.”
Hired 26 people on the spot
Zelectra was the smallest company in the market with the fewest vehicles - 300 scooters and 350 mopeds. The company bought scooters from the manufacturer in China, whereas the mopeds were manufactured locally. They didn't build a software platform from scratch. They used the ATOM Mobility solution. Eugene explains that it was important for them to find a reliable partner and not to struggle with development as they were not sure that they could easily find a common language with developers.
“All that we heard and all that we have been told before - it doesn't work that way here in Kyiv. We talked a great deal with different European companies. And what we said is that we, in contrast to them, have to be available 24/7. Our vehicles are often stolen. They have been thrown into the River Dnepra. That's why the first month was tough - we gradually realized that it was one situation how we had imagined things would be, but the reality was completely different. We suddenly had to collect a team of 26 people. We had to buy cars and brand them for the team to be able to serve all vehicles. We paid all our taxes and during the season we succeeded in building a really good team where everyone felt needed,” says Sergey.
“Looking back at our first season, I would say that we are happy that we didn't embarrass ourselves,” adds Eugine. “Our app has 10,000 downloads. We succeeded in creating the rhythm of changing batteries and making vehicles available on streets that are fully operational. By the way, battery life is not as long as the manufacturers had said it would. Batteries had to be changed twice as often. However, during the best day of the season, 2,500 rides were taken on 250 scooters. And this is what we are really proud of, because it is not easy to always find our scooters, but people were apparently looking for them.”
Here to stay for the greener future
Zelectra doesn't reveal the exact number of vehicles they are preparing for the next season, but the amount is going to be significantly higher. In addition, they are planning to launch their service in three to four new cities in Ukraine. “We are here to stay. We do really care about our service, because we want Kyiv to become a green city. We hope that the fact that we are here has also helped the local government to rethink infrastructure, as well as its attitude towards the environment. If we get the chance, we would like to have an all-electric business of scooters, bikes, mopeds, electric cars. We will try to expand and use everything electric to help Kiev become a greener city,” says Eugene, revealing the company’s mission.
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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