Shilu ANA: going strong with local ride-hailing service
Shilu ANA is an app-powered ride-hailing company in South Sudan. For the company’s CEO, Dut Majak, the decision to launch a ride-hailing startup was all about giving customers a service they’ve been waiting for long. Reliable transportation, available through a handy app in just a few taps. Dut tells,
"I decided to launch a ride-hailing business when I was in India for an ICT conference. I used Uber there a lot. So I realized, in South Sudan, a ride-hailing business involved with the local community is exactly something we need.
Coming back home, I started to do my research into the ride-hailing business industry. Then at the next ICT conference, I shared this whole idea with one of my colleagues. He suggested I could google Onde. That’s how it all started."
From a startup business idea to a ride-hailing business
Shilu ANA was born as a brand belonging to an ICT company, Junubia Host Co.Ltd. Accordingly, the six core team members of the brand are all IT-guys. Dut has first conducted really serious market research, and what he’s learned looked very nice. The local market provided a great opportunity — no other ride-hailing services of that level of convenience were there yet. And as Dut puts it, today, if you don’t grab an opportunity at the right time, others will take it for sure.
The company now has 35 employees, and if everything goes well, there will be 60+ in the first quarter of 2021.
Finding a suitable technical ride-hailing solution for his startup business idea was not challenging for Dut. Calling working together with Onde “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in business,” Shilu ANA’s CEO is happy about the level of versatility Onde’s white-label software for ride-hailing businesses provides.
Making a brand name for local ride-hailing service
While finding a suitable ride-hailing platform was easy, making a brand name needed a lot of work from this ambitious ride-hailing startup. Engaging with the local community was just the perfect way to do this. Dut shares his experience:
"First of all, we made sure our company’s name is easy to remember, so it’ll kind of automatically pop up in your mind when you need a ride. Then—and the most important!—we started supporting social activities that matter to the community. This was a quick way to stimulate word-of-mouth advertising. You see, when you do something valuable, that always pays double.
Next to that, we’ve launched VIP services. Now that everyone knew us anyway, people were happy to find out we’ve got that “extra” experience to offer."
Because Shilu ANA was the first of its kind ride-hailing service in South Sudan, and none of the core-team members has ever worked in the taxi business, they decided to play it by ear with the pricing and learn from the reality. That has not made things easier, but seriousness in business planning and constant cooperation have helped Shilu ANA to become the best taxi company in South Sudan.
Reaching tricky balance: happy customers & happy employees
Clients generally don’t care if you’re the first ride-hailing startup in the market. What they do care about is the quality of your services—and if they don’t like it, they simply go back to the black-market cabbies.
"Ride-hailing service is only pleasant to the customer if you have a well-trained staff with neat cars and a great attitude. What I’ve done right away is setting strict rules for the drivers. We’re not harsh, just straightforward: our drivers get a good financial bonus if they deliver well, and get laid off if they fail to match our expectations."
There is a well-thought-through procedure for hiring drivers at Shilu ANA. Each new driver gets two rounds of interviews. They also submit their statement of conduct and have to demonstrate they know the city and its hotspots. Drivers need to prove they drive carefully, and if they do, they proceed to receive training at the company’s headquarters.
Clear rules of engagement, pronounced expectations, and growth opportunities keep drivers motivated. And the customers are happy with the high-standard services they get when they order a Shilu ANA cab. Besides, there’s a bonus program for customers, too: five customers who’d made the most rides a week get a free ride.
Marketing & promotion: fulfilling customers expectations always pays back
In the experience of Shilu ANA, word-of-mouth marketing is the magic wand. When customers have enough reason to tell their friends and family about your service, you know you’re on the right path.
Marketing sometimes can be found in unexpected places, and the Shilu ANA case proves it. For example, each successful ride is a tiny marketing event, and being a part of a local event important for your customers is, too. Every client is valuable, and marketing is all about knowing how to reach out to this very person.
We’ve got some golden advice from Dut Majak to conclude.
- Don’t hate your competitors. Learn from them. Try to see what it is that they do wrong, get inspired by what they do well—and do it even better.
- Be specific with your goals in each period. Taxi business requires realistic planning, so you can always revisit and evaluate what works best.
- Make sure your team is involved in making decisions—you may be surprised by their ideas! Your employees are your closest business partners, really, so it’s rewarding to foster a collaborative spirit and get the best out of everyone.
Do you, too, have some advice other ride-hailing businesses might profit from? Be sure to drop us a line!