In Nigeria, ride-hailing companies have swiftly taken a significant role in improving how individuals get around and how businesses run their operations in major cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Ibadan. However, very little is said about how corporate firms and individuals solve the problem of logistics in underserved mid-sized cities.
This is what Ukeme Jonah’s Vite is seeking to help remedy. Vite, meaning ‘fast’ in French, is a Mauritius-based ride-hailing platform enabling on-demand rides available in mid-sized cities in Africa. The software solution is simplifying how people find and book local taxis and access delivery services.
According to Ukeme, the company is enabling individuals to move affordably while also delivering healthy lunches to companies.
“If you live in any of the 200 underserved cities in Africa, you would know that the problem of ride-sharing is not solved. Outside of the few megacities, you have to deal with overpriced local taxes and stressful public transport everywhere. We faced this problem in Mauritius which led us to launch Vite to make on-demand rides accessible and affordable in mid-sized cities.”Uke Augustine Jonah, Vite’s co-founder and CEO
The major ride-hailing platforms, according to Ukeme, are not particularly interested in these mid-sized cities, which he described as having a population of between 250,000 and a million people. And as a result, both for individuals and for large corporations, relocation has become difficult and unavailable. “Interestingly about 60% of Africans live in these cities”, he says.
The company has partnered with more than 400 restaurants in the suburbs of Mauritius and currently has a customer base of over 20,000 users. The startup also hopes to offer meals to corporate clients and customers by reinventing corporate food delivery.
Ukeme Augustine Jonah shares with Technext the inspiration behind the company, its expansion plans, the focus on mid-size cities and the vision to redefine corporate food delivery in this instalment of Founders spotlight.
Inspiration Behind Vite
With the rise of urbanisation and smartphone adoption across the continent, the demand for reliable and convenient transportation solutions has never been higher. From big players like Uber and Bolt to emerging startups, there is a wealth of opportunity and competition in this space. But for Ukeme, there is no competition in mid-size cities, as these big players find them unattractive.
The inspiration for Vite came when my co-founder and I organized a TED conference in Mauritius. During that conference, we were really frustrated by the state of local transportation. We spent 40% of the event corporate sponsorship on taxes that were not very reliable.Ukeme Jonah
“So we launched Vite to enable students, tourists, experts and locals to find affordable and real-time taxi options in Mauritius and other midsized cities on the continent where mobility is extremely limited, costly and underserved”, he adds. According to Jonah, after launch, the number one customer request from corporate clients was food delivery.
This he says, is leading them to reimagine corporate food delivery in Mauritius and the other market they are launching into.
The success recorded so far
There is no denying that companies offering ride-hailing or ride-sharing services in big cities are highly profitable. In fact, revenue in the ride-hailing and taxi market is anticipated to reach US$4.13 billion in 2023, according to Statista. Yet having to run a ride-hailing business in a city or region that is comparatively smaller and underdeveloped is a model that is relatively new and perhaps unique.
This has not made Ukeme and his team deterred from carrying on. If anything, the company has made progress and recorded huge wins.
“It’s been an extremely enjoyable ride. Currently, we’ve served over 20,000 customers and 50-plus corporate clients. Right now, we have some of the major names here in Mauritius that we provide daily trips to and so it happens that we provide trips to these corporate clients and then at the end of the month, they write to us a cheque.”
This is in addition to the individual rides that the company provide on a daily basis, Ukeme claim. In terms of food delivery, he says the “company is redefining food delivery”, which is a product that is relatively new on the block, and they are looking to launch into that aspect.
Major challenges in the Mauritius ride-hailing market
The Fintech Times reports that Mauritius has transformed into an upper-middle-income nation, with one of the greatest per capita gross domestic products (GDPs) in Africa (second only to Seychelles). Yet, challenges are among the characteristics of ecosystems worldwide, particularly the tech ecosystem in Africa, which is still in its infancy.
For Vite and Ukeme Jonah, the challenges faced so far are common with the ones faced in other countries on the continent.
The challenges that we face are challenges that other startups in other places are experiencing on the continent. So, we are constantly refining our product and ensuring that the platforms are robust for thousands of trips and deliveries that take place.Ukeme Augustine Jonah, Vite’s co-founder and CEO
“Also, being able to manage demand and supply”, he said. “It’s always an exciting challenge to ensure that there are no drivers on the platform to meet demand and vice versa.” On a personal note, Ukeme says running a tech company is not easy and one has to “be up and doing, trying to get investors, trying to get everything in place and in order.”
In getting over these challenges, he says; “I have very high expectations for myself and so, I raise the bar so high, I constantly want to get to the top and make sure that I’m able to achieve all my goals. Sometimes, I even sacrifice sleep.“
Work-life balance in Mauritius
For Ukeme, the fact that Mauritius is a relatively stable clime politically and economically makes it easy for him to go about balancing everything he does.
“I don’t usually have to worry about instability, in terms of, politics, Mauritius is the first country in Africa at the moment. It is also the most peaceful country in Africa at the moment”, he says. In terms of politics, Ukeme says “Electricity is stable 24/7 and if there’s ever going to be an outage, you receive a message on the radio. “There’s actually an app for tracking, electricity outages and everything, which is brilliant”, he adds.
On how he catches fun and mixes that with his work, he says he has his close family whom he is always in contact with. Also, his co-founder, who has been there with him since school. “I stay very close to the ocean, so I get to go to the beach every now and then to play.”
How does Mauritius compare to other markets in Africa
Ukeme asserts that despite its development, Mauritius outperforms other markets like Nigeria and Kenya in some areas. But, he was quick to point out that these other markets also have their own comparative advantages, particularly in the area of funding.
“What I really like about this market is the stability that is presented. The political and economic stability, and even overall support as well from the government. They are building something innovative. I think Mauritius ranks number one on ease of doing business and we’ve seen it to be very, very true.”Ukeme Jonah
He adds that public institutions work and are very effective there, which is what is needed for a startup looking to thrive in Africa.
Expansion and future plans
Vite is a Mauritius-based company, but it doesn’t intend to have its operations limited to the country. Currently, there are plans to extend its product offering and also expand to other mid-size cities in Africa, according to Ukeme, its CEO.
“So our mobility service is focused on the 100-plus underserved midsized cities in Africa where 70% of Africans reside. Transportation is stressful in these cities, hence, a problem needed to be solved immediately. We will be expanding to Angola, Mozambique and Namibia in the coming months. Our corporate food delivery platform is reimagining a critical problem for corporate employees in the US and Canada.”
He says in the coming months, the company will be raising a 3 million seed round in the next few months to power expansion and growth. About the corporate food delivery platform and product, he says, “It’s something that I’m extremely excited about, and we are starting from the US and Canada markets on this solution because we are literally the first in this space to reimagine this problem the way we are currently reimagining with a corporate food delivery platform.”
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