Delivery service picup might lead an industry revolution. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Cape Town - Using WeChat as an e-commerce platform makes sense for a small Cape Town-based tech start-up - even if users have a somewhat greater challenge.
"It just made sense for a small start-up to partner with someone like WeChat. Yes, there's a barrier to entry. There's a small pain in registering and following the OA [online application], but the benefits outweigh that," Grant Isaacs, co-founder of Picup Technologies told Fin24.
The company launched picup last week. The service is hosted on WeChat and offers on-demand small parcel deliveries in Cape Town.
Isaacs dismissed rival chat services that have a greater following in SA for the cashless service.
"It's a simple instant messaging platform - WhatsApp - the offering on WeChat is far more substantial: It's a social media platform as opposed to a messaging service."
WeChat has also helped the start-up in material ways: The Tencent-owned company supports picup with a marketing campaign, education of platform users and developing QR codes that make the barrier to use lower.
Also, there are several thousand applications on various app stores and by engaging in a deliberate partnership, picup may find traction with users.
"A lot is made about how difficult it is to follow the OA, but it is becoming a lot more simple. There might be a little bit of drop-off in the beginning, but it's a constant education process that we are undertaking together with WeChat," said Isaacs.
picup has an established core of drivers in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Registering for the service requires you to download WeChat and following the official picup account. Once that's done, you have to ensure that you have a credit card linked to your account as the platform is cashless, similar to the Uber ride-sharing application.
On a tour of the operation in Cape Town, Fin24 witnessed a mature courier-type of environment with an established collection of drivers.
But the company is determined to ensure that users of the service are safe. Drivers go through an extensive vetting process in order to limit the possibility of criminals having access to sensitive documents.
The model could see picup be a serious contender in the courier industry even though the company insists that it is not intent on upending the market.
"We don't want to disrupt; we want to be collaborative in our initiative. We've worked with people like Nucleus Logistics and Laser Logistics - trying to understand this space," said Isaacs.
He added that picup could augment services offered by courier companies who are not mobile enough to deliver an on-demand service.
"In fact, couriers can't fulfil the on-demand service that we are providing so we're going to be facilitating that on their behalf and work hand-in-hand with them."
Success in Cape Town could see picup quickly expand to other South African cities.
Watch Grant Isaacs explain the reasoning of using WeChat in this News24 Live video:
* Fin24 is part of 24.com, a subsidiary of Media24, which is in the Naspers stable. WeChat SA is a subsidiary of Naspers.
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