Thursday June 14 2018

App bringing mechanic services close

With the App, you have access to garages or

With the App, you have access to garages or mechanics and other service providers such as breakdown services. Photo by Rachael Mabala 

By Roland D. Nasasira

Most, if not all motorists, prefer using a specific mechanic who understands their car, to driving into a random garage when they experience a mechanical breakdown. One morning Angel Kirungi was driving out of her home at Kisaasi, when she knocked her wall. Beyond misery was that she had borrowed the car. Like any other responsible borrower, she wanted it fixed before returning it.
“I opened an App (Makanika Dot Com) and I was connected to a nearby affordable garage where I left the car for repair,” Kirungi recalls.
A brainchild of Michael Katagaya, Moses Meregurwa and Teddy Mugeni, the Makanika Dot Com App connects you to the nearest garage when your car breaks down.
In 2012, Katagaya owned a Toyota Wisdom saloon car. It often broke down and he would have to call a number of friends to connect him to a mechanic. “One time as I was driving to Bombo, the car broke down and I had no clue where to start. When I called my mechanic, he was busy,” Katagaya recalls. “As I went through all this, I thought of building a platform where someone who is stuck like I was could reach the nearest mechanic for help,” he adds.
Together with his friend Meregurwa, they embarked on building a website and wanted to prove if it worked before going full scale to develop an application. They registered a phone line and put up a Facebook page.
“We wanted to test if there was anyone who would just go to a Facebook page and find a person who could connect them to a garage. People started calling and it was then that I got to believe that it works. Because of mixing up phone numbers that were hard to track, we decided to build the Makanika Dot Com application,” Katagaya says, adding that 2016 was when the first basic version of the android application was launched. Since then, a number of improvements have been made by adding other features.

Features
The feature of garages enables a motorist to see the garage and their location but with no phone number. After you have sent the request to the application, it connects you to the nearest garage along major roads leading out of Kampala.
On Jinja Road, Katagaya says the application operates up to Mukono and along Masaka road, it goes up to Buddo and Nsangi. For Gulu Road, it runs up to Bombo and up to Entebbe in Wakiso District, among other major roads.
“A garage should be able to reach out to a customer within 15 minutes because we have atleast two garages in each of our areas of operation. If your car breaks down in an area where we do not reach, the garage nearest to the one registered with us should be able to connect to you for help,” he explains.

Buying car accessories
Katagaya says after adding the garages feature, he realised that a number of users needed to buy certain car accessories such as radios and steering wheel covers that were not sold in garages.
“We started to receive many requests and saw the need to put up a shop and add it to the application. Since then, someone is able to use the application to connect to a garage as well and order for an accessory they need,” says Teddy Mugeni, Katagaya’s partner.

Paying via mobile money
“With time, issues of payment came up yet there were no payment options. The application users paid the garages and the garages would in turn give us commission after negotiations. We then realised that people would be stuck. Garages would help them but they would not have cash on them to pay upfront. Some of them had money on their mobile money accounts. We built a wallet where someone is able to transfer money from their mobile money account to make a payment using out platform,” Mugeni adds.

Other features
Along the way, Katagaya says he built a fuel payment module where a motorist drives to a fuel station, scans a code and the money is deducted from their account. They are currently negotiating with banks so that people can be able to get money directly from their accounts to the application. The application also has a feature where you can buy third party insurance stickers.
As application user numbers grew, then came along those who were interested in getting their cars serviced, a feature Katagaya says was also included on the application. It is where you order for a car service where your car is picked on a given day, serviced and delivered to you after service. “There is an assurance that your car will be serviced by a good mechanic in areas we cover. We follow up with the garage in case the customer feels they have been cheated or when something in the customer’s car goes missing,” Katagaya explains.

Advantages of the application
Sometimes mechanics charge you more because they are used to you and know your workplace and believe you have money. The other issue is that mechanics do not know you and do not expect you to go back to them.
“We are telling partner mechanics and garages that if they charge customers fairly, they (customers) return. You also have the freedom to pay without cash but just mobile money,” Katagaya observes.

Challenges
At the start, Katagaya says the first challenge was in finding partners that believed in the idea then, and people who were willing to work. He got employees but they would run away because they expected to earn a lot of money.
“Getting garages to understand what we were doing was also hard. We solved it by carrying out test services and with time, they started recommending their colleagues to us. We receive requests every week that want to join our platform,” he says, adding that some people said they preferred their usual garages.
“We needed Shs3m to develop a website, recruitment of garages and carrying out surveys which cost us about Shs2m and a place to set up our offices. Altogether, we used Shs7m to start business,” Katagaya explains.

Future plans
The App is downloadable on Android phones and the plan is to reach all areas of Uganda, beyond Kampala and Wakiso where the App is currently used.
Katagaya and partners dream on covering atleast two East African countries, but with a long term dream of covering Africa in 10 years’ time.
We have 45 garages on the App but with about 200 new garage notices on alert for future engagements.

rnasasira@ug.nationmedia.com

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