‘We’ve Only Scratched the Surface’- Babajide Duroshola on SafeBoda’s 1st Anniversary

Ejike Kanife

The bike hailing space in Nigeria has been racked with numerous misfortunes, largely due to its focus on Lagos, the country’s commercial capital. From clashes with local transport unions to disagreements over pricing and ultimately, the Lagos bike ban, Lagos ended up a disaster for bike-hailing companies.

That disaster prompted an exodus to other states notably, Oyo with its massive capital, Ibadan. But the problems continued, from unbalanced pricing systems to rider dissatisfaction and unaccountability. It seemed bike-hailing wasn’t going to be sustainable until SafeBoda burst into the space. Now one year on, the company has steadied the space and has grown even beyond the expectations of its country chief, Babajide Duroshola.

In one year, the company has completed 750,000 rides, amassed 40,000 unique customers, recruited 2,500 drivers and currently employs 50 full-time staff. For context, Safeboda managed just 100,000 rides after its first three months. Thus, for one year, a simple projection would put the possible number of completed rides at 400,000. Safeboda nearly doubled that sum. Yet, it isn’t enough for the workaholic CEO.

“I’d have loved to do 1 million in our first year,” he told me. “Based on the effort put in and the capital we had, 750,000 is a good result. But on a personal expectation, I would have loved to do 1 million.”

And 1 million would have been fitting considering the huge market Ibadan turned out to be, the efforts the company put into training and compensating drivers especially for welfare, and of course the advantage it enjoys in the state.

"Ride-Hailing Apps Would Have Helped Lagos Curbed the Spread of COVID-19 Better"- Babajide Duroshola of Safe Boda
Babajide Duroshola

However, Babajide says the driving force behind the numbers is simply the market in Ibadan and how the team quickly found a fit in it. Thus, Safeboda’s main goal is to further deepen its reach in Ibadan.

It is, therefore, clear that Safeboda’s short-term goal largely focuses on developing a foothold in Ibadan. This is smart seeing as Ibadan has proven to be the most viable market for bike-hailing so far in Nigeria. The lessons from establishing that foothold would also make expansion easier whenever it decides to embark on that. But is Safeboda anywhere near achieving that foothold one year on?

“I think we have only scratched the surface in Oyo,” Babajide said. “We have done well no doubt but there is more to be done. There is so much more to do. In a city like Ibadan that is 3,000km2+ and 80,000 active okadas, there is still so much land to cover.”

Covering this vast expanse of land would require bikes and drivers. Lots of them. There are currently about 80,000 bike riders in Ibadan and Safeboda has 2,500 of them on its platform. This is about 3.1%. For a one-year-old startup, that isn’t bad at all. But it is also not enough.

Safeboda has onboarded more than 2,500 drivers on its platform

However, the Safeboda Nigeria Head is without reservations that his organisation has what it takes to onboard at least 20,000 drivers, reach a critical mass and go on to scale in the state.

The holy grail is to have 3 drivers per every 500m in Ibadan. We will need to onboard north of 20k drivers. That’s what gives you the critical mass at an average of 10 trips (per driver, per day). That’s 200k rides a day which is good but not great. Great is doing 1 million rides daily which is you have achieved scale.

Expansion, expansion, expansion. That remains the ultimate aim of any good business, especially the small-starters. One would expect such a fast-growing business like Safeboda to go that route eventually. While one year might be considered as still too young, stranger things have happened.

Team Safeboda

But the Safeboda Nigeria chief thinks expansion is still well off the radar as it were because for now, the focus is still very much Ibadan. The company intends to build on the services it has created so far and to monetize the access it has to the 2,500+ riders and 40k+ customers.

He, however, noted that Safeboda has already pivoted to other verticals like Send which is a delivery service available on the SafeBoda app. He also said they are looking to add more services like airtime, fuel delivery, etc soon.

From being the least likely at some point, Safeboda Nigeria is growing to become one of Safeboda’s biggest subsidiaries in Africa. With the huge market potential, the relentless enthusiasm of the team and hitting such major milestones, it has become one of the foremost players in the Nigerian space. It’s therefore only a matter of time before it becomes the biggest in Africa.

Congratulations #TeamSafeboda.

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