Crowd-sourcing has fast become a global process that is being used to accomplish everything from getting funds for travel to raising capital for launching small businesses, now it is being used to solve the challenges associated with logistics – Patrica Egessa.
In Kenya, Sendy, a courier marketplace, is using it to solve the challenges associated with delivering packages within the country. Through its app and web platform, the startup connects individuals and businesses to crowdsourced riders who provide round-the-clock courier services. “When we launched Sendy in September 2014, we had a vision of making package delivery as simple as sending a text message,” said Meshack Alloys, the company’s CEO.
The app allows users to see the riders available in real time and set pickup and drop-off locations. Users receive price quotes before placing their orders. The delivery cost is calculated based on distance, time of day, availability of riders and the dispatch fee. Payments for orders placed are made using M-Pesa or a pre-registered credit card. This ensures that each transaction is efficient and secure.
Through the app, users can track where riders are on the road and estimate their arrival time at pickup and drop-off locations. Once the package has been delivered, an automatic delivery confirmation SMS is sent to the user and a summary of their order is emailed to them.
To maintain its integrity and ensure the provision of efficient service to its clients, Sendy, invests in its riders. They are recruited through a three tiered referral system – from the network of current riders, clients and partnerships with small courier companies. The company then vets them, including criminal background checks, to make sure they are fully qualified to serve its customers. Riders are not required to have smartphones as the company uses SMS and USSD technology that works on basic phones. In addition, they have GPS trackers on the motorbikes.
Each month, Sendy holds trainings to refresh the riders’ knowledge of policies, improve their customer service and develop communication skills. Riders are also given the opportunity to discuss the challenges that they face and provide suggestions for product development. They are paid for every delivery they complete. Sendy also supports its riders by providing them with micro-financing and loan opportunities, and supplementary insurance coverage.
Sendy, and similar courier innovations around Africa, such as WumDrop in South Africa and Africa Courier Express (ACE) in Nigeria, are a welcome reprieve particularly for individuals and small businesses. These platforms provide a smart, convenient, affordable and local solution to an often expensive and challenging package delivery process.
Traditional courier services in many African countries don’t offer the same last-mile, on-demand, door-to-door delivery services. Clients can only send packages at scheduled times, and in some cases can only drop off and pick up from specific locations that may not necessarily be convenient for them. As such, they are not a viable delivery option for e-commerce and food businesses, for example.
These logistics startups also solve the problem of navigating gridlocked cities. By using riders in Nairobi, for instance, Sendy is able to bypass the city’s infamous traffic jams in order to deliver packages in a short amount of time. This is significantly beneficial in cases where users want to send packages urgently. It also boosts e-commerce as companies now have a cheap, reliable and easily accessible mode of delivering products to their customers. Small offline businesses that previously lacked a delivery option, such as laundromats and pharmacies, can now take advantage of Sendy’s courier service and leverage it to increase their client base.
Picup from South Africa offers users the ability to reduce delivery costs with a local crowd-sourced driver network. Every driver has a GPS-enabled smartphone which allows customers to watch their parcel’s journey in real-time. Users Choose a delivery vehicle to suit their budget and parcel size choosing between bikes, car and vans.
According to the BBC, Sendy has completed more than 20,000 deliveries since its launch. It also has around 60 active vetted riders. Like fellow sharing economy app, Uber, Sendy provides its riders with a flexible earning and traditional income supplementing opportunity. The startup only takes a fraction of the fees paid for deliveries. The rest is given directly to the riders who, by using the platform, are assured of getting orders daily.
“We believe in creating a network to power package delivery that will not be hindered by infrastructure, but instead capitalize on the network of people on the road today,” said Alloys. Each business has its own unique delivery requirements and so does every individual. Alloys and his team have tapped into this need, and created a courier service that seamlessly merges technology with motivated people to create a reliable bridge between its clients and their recipients.