Plentywaka is Nigeria’s first bus-hailing app that offers commuters comfort, safety, and convenience in their daily rides. In this interview with Johnny Enagwolor, a seasoned tech entrepreneur with verifiable success in achieving revenue and business growth across different start-ups, he takes us through the roadmap of the company’s journey so far. PlentyWaka is using technology to revolutionize the transport industry and here Johnny tells us how.
The market gaps that resulted in the birth of PlentyWaka are obvious – unfortunate personal experiences with public transportation, lack of safety, inconsistency, disorganization and poor quality of vehicles. We are filling this gap by providing premium buses for daily commutes. What we emphasize is comfort, convenience and safety. We’ve been around for over a year now and our mission remains vivid – to improve the public transportation system and improve the standard for daily commuters.
On our platform, you can order a bus from the comfort of your home and see the number of vehicles going through your route and the number of available seats. With the system we’ve created, people who would normally drive to work, use our services because of the comfort and safety we provide. About 25% – 30% of our users actually own personal cars.
Digital Transformation and the Impact for SMEs
Digital transformation simply means using digital technology to simplify difficult processes in business. Cumbersome activities and processes become seamless. Digitalization of the road transportation business has made the industry more attractive for investors. Previously, investors were scared of investing in the sector because it’s been difficult to track data on your riders, vehicles, revenue and even fueling. We’re having conversations currently with state governments in the country in order to bring sanity into the system.
We’ve created a platform where other entrepreneurs can generate revenue with their own vehicles on our app. These partnerships allow people to invest in transportation without having to purchase a fleet of vehicles first. They could begin with what they have or do some crowdfunding to start and when they put their vehicles up on our platform, they earn 85% of the revenue from them. They can track the metrics of their vehicles easily from their own backend.
The Challenges of Building Tech
- Building the technology itself is difficult. Getting the right partners who have the technical know-how also has its challenges. You need to speak with the right people and build the right team.
- Cost – Getting the money to start and scale the business until you can get funding can be tough. It also costs a lot to manage the technology and upgrade it regularly based on user feedback.
Not everyone can build the technology, so we’ve built a robust platform that can make the transportation sector more inclusive and seamless.
Paving Through the Pandemic
We didn’t foresee the pandemic at the time just like everyone else, and it really hit hard at first. A sign in our office says “Think outside the box” and that’s really what we did. We built a lot of traction on our platform for months and then when the pandemic came, we literally had to shut down. It hit us massively. We had to re-strategize and plan on the next steps to take to overcome the predicament. That was when we decided to start moving essential goods and services. The pandemic taught us not to put all our eggs in one basket. We had to diversify and delve more into logistics. We were moving essential workers and equipment around and also making deliveries for people.
We launched in Lagos state and during the pandemic, Lagos State shut down while other states were still operating at least skeletally. After the lockdown was lifted, the protests to end SARS began and lots of businesses had to shut down again. So, we have to think forward and prepare for the unexpected. Now we’ve learned our lessons and created cushions for unforeseen circumstances that can arise in the future.
Advice for Small Businesses
For every business, there comes a time where you’ll either have to overhaul or upgrade your service. This could either be to reach more people or improve the quality and diversity of your service offering. During the pandemic even many transport companies were not doing business like us.
For small businesses:
- Increase your service offerings
- Build technology that will help you reach more consumers
- Think outside the box – Ask what more you can do and how you can adapt to the current situations of the market
- Understand the regulations of your sector
- Collect and use data: What’s missing in transport in Nigeria is data. There’s no data on the revenue, number of vehicles, commutes or the number of passengers themselves.
We like to think of ourselves at PlentyWaka as an aggregator. We’re very keen on data aggregation. Data helps you plan and project. We’re aligning with the mass transit project across the states in Nigeria. The Federal Government is proposing that we have more high-capacity vehicles that can carry more people and reduce traffic on the roads. We’re also aligning these with our goals. As a company we’re looking at solving those problems. The future lies in creating a central point for tracking data on transportation all around Nigeria. This would be the turning point in Nigeria’s transport system.
Johnny Enagwolor is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Plentywaka. Prior to Plentywaka, Johnny held top management positions whilst developing the e-business units of banking giants like Stanbic IBTC and EcoBank, Nigeria. He also established businesses such as Ferycon Nigeria Limited, one of the leading logistics firms providing transport solutions in Lagos state and Pisculture Limited, a household name in the real estate sector. He is an experienced team leader with vast knowledge in developing and managing e-business products and services. He also acquired eight years of practical experience in the consulting and financial services industry, strategic planning and business analysis.