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GreenScooter: Move over Uber

Apr 22 2018 05:56
Lesetja Malope

Millions of unemployed youth have ideas they would love to implement, but only a fraction of them seem to have enough drive to risk it all when given the time and opportunity.

Fezile Dhlamini has not yet made a cent from his business idea but already has hundreds of people anticipating its launch.

Dhlamini plans to launch a service that is meant to compete with services such as Uber.

He tried to get a job from Uber and applied to the app-based taxi service 10 times in the past three years.

But now his company GreenScooter, he believes, will be a game-changer.

The Soweto-born Dhlamini never went to a township school, his life narrative does not read like a typical rags-to-riches tale of many township folk. As one sits across the table from him for the interview at his Auckland Park office, his business philosophy is also unconventional.

He went to six schools across three provinces, starting off in Sandton and matriculating in Potchefstroom Boys, in between attending other schools in Klerksdorp and Richards Bay.

A self-proclaimed hothead, Dhlamini admits he was far from well behaved in his basic education days but managed to be one of the top pupils in his matric year.

After matriculating, he enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts in law at Rhodes University and, as a freshman, he was very busy with non-academic activities.

“I was studying law but found myself deejaying, doing graphic design work, working at the campus radio and I was just within the entertainment space and my academics suffered,” he said, adding that although he was academically excluded, he still has doubts about the reasons he was shown the door at that institution.

After things did not work out he found himself staying with his mother and enrolled for a BCom – but that lasted only two weeks.

Six months later he found himself back in Johannesburg, hosting and producing two online radio shows at Rhythm 100 Radio for free and sleeping in the studio, despite the option to go either to Sandton or Soweto to family.

“I don’t think my family even knew I was sleeping in the studio. One thing I know is that nobody owes you anything in this world,” he said.

In 2012, despite his father encouraging him to enrol for an international relations degree, he registered for corporate communications and this time he graduated.

As a student he had multiple jobs, including for some of the bigger brands in telecommunications, and in 2015 he became very interested in Uber, applying for various roles within that company.

He was on holiday in Richards Bay when he got the idea for GreenScooter.

“Meter taxis can be costly and, while driving around in Richards Bay, I felt there must be a transport mode that will allow you to enjoy the scenic environment, be cost-effective and still be efficient,” he said.

After the brainwave, he immediately started doing research online and even roped in a friend as a partner but that partnership fell apart.

“So I buried the idea and got a day job in a corporate firm in February in 2016,” he said. But, after going through three jobs in two years, he decided to concentrate on his business idea.

He found partners who were interested but that also did not work out.

“Not every company needs a co-founder. You can go at it alone. You don’t want to find yourself building a sinking ship with someone,” he said.

Going solo, he had to empty his savings to travel to Sweden to meet manufacturers of the three-wheeler electric two-passenger scooters. He also managed to bag an exclusive retail and operating licence.

He pointed out that the difference between his former potential employer, Uber, which remains the biggest taxi service that doesn’t own any taxis, and his business is that his model centres on cutting-edge innovation and the operating expenses are far lower than those of the competition.

“A normal vehicle engine has more than 2 000 parts and our vehicle is made out of 270 parts, the entire vehicle, and the future of the business is to build [the scooters] locally eventually,” he said.

Dhlamini is not oblivious of the regulatory woes that have plagued his competitors but he reckons he has managed to carve out his own niche within which he will operate without the headache of his counterparts.

The scooters will be electrically charged, offer a traditional meter taxi service as well as a cargo service offering a delivery service for small businesses, carving its own niche market between a modern taxi service and conventional delivery services.

The scooter can travel up to 100km on a single charge, has a top speed of 60km/h and Dhlamini said in addition to the hundreds of potential users who have already registered on the website to utilise it when it is launched, the number of pre-orders is also growing, including from a handful of countries within the African continent.

As with most entrepreneurs, Dhlamini still has to slay the funding dragon and he needs R4 million but he does not seemed fazed ahead of his launch in September this year.

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