University students’ tourism business bringing trips closer

Thursday March 28 2019
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Innovation. Left to right: Joanita Nakasango, Marsella Ariso, Edwin Kirabo and Mutamba Rubangira, receive an award for best business model from a StartHub entrepreneurship competition judge recently. Photo by Desire Mbabaali

Mutamba Rubangira (Information Technology), Edwin Kirabo (Computer Science), Ariso Marsella (Journalism and Communication) and Joanita Nakasango (Micro Finance and Communication) students from Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi, were the four students who presented the best business model out of the eight university student teams that pitched their models during the StartHub Pitch event earlier this month.
Rubangira, the chief executive officer and co-founder Rada Safaris - the brand name of their tour and travel business model - ‬shared that the group decided to take part in Starthub training because they wanted to develop their entrepreneurship skills.‬ Although they are students from different academic backgrounds, this did not stop them from venturing into business together.

Starting out
“We started as friends who went to the same university. As we shared business ideas, I came up with the idea of starting up a tours and travel company, which I shared with my friends and they liked it and decided to join me and push for it. We started Rada Safaris,” Rubangira shares.
The tours and travel company offers students trips, customised family and honeymoon safaris, hotel reservations and bookings, airport pickups and drop-offs, air ticketing and bookings, cars and drivers for hire and Safari planning.
“However, our main target customers are students, especially at university level. That is how unique our business is.
“We are students, we know what students want and how to give it to them,” he notes.
Progress so far
Rada Safaris, which started in 2018 had their maiden trip in March last year, which they called the ‘Kasese Ultimate Experience’ taking more than 130 students from different universities to visit Queen Elizabeth National park.

“We have organised the ‘Ultimate Kalangala Experience student’s trip’ and the trick is to organise a trip every semester. This semester, we are organising the ‘Ultimate Fort Portal experience,” Edwin Kirabo, the company’s public relations officer, says.
He adds that what makes their model different is that they customise safaris to what the customer wants. “You come to us, tell us where or what you want to do, you can pay in a lumpsum or in bits, and we will make your trip worth it. We also promote eco-tourism – tourism.”

The team has also had foreign tourists from Germany and Italy, including several airport pickups and drop-offs. “We decided to venture into tourism because we believe we can change and develop the tourism industry in Uganda and the great lakes region by attracting nationals to take interest in their own tourism industry. For a long time, tourism has been looked at as a thing for the foreigners. The rationale behind our focus on students is because besides wanting to promote local tourism, students also like to enjoy and have a great time while at university and tourism could be part of that,” Rubangira says.

The money
“The business is very profitable‬. For example, every time we organise a university student’s trip, we can make a net profit of over Shs500,000,” says Rubangira.
Kirabo further explains:“We mainly make money from making sure our safari groups are bigger. That is why we hook up numerous student groups on the same safaris, which makes bargains on food and accommodation more feasible. We also plan our safaris on low seasons when hotels and other service providers are offering big margin discounts. Depending on the trip, we charge between Shs100,000 to Shs150,000 per person, inclusive of transport, accommodation, meals, and other safari logistics (park entrance, tour guides, travel insurance).”

Winning the competition
Among the things that the group believes had them win the competitions was the strong and close team work they have.
“We also brand our business, so it stands out. We, for example, wore our t-shirts with our company logo, which made us look different from others. We also choose a good and right public relations manager who represented and pitched our company ideas and shared what we do to the judges and captured the audience’s attention. All these are good qualities to have in a business,” Rubangira believes.
At the end of the day, the group walked away with a prize worth Shs750,000 as a capital boost, and free consultancy by Starthub. They plan to use this money to design and host their website because it is a necessary platform for any business like theirs because many young people are on the internet.


Working as a team
“I believe the beauty of working as a team is that you get to have and share different views and new, different ideas. We are able to identify your weaknesses and work on them as a team but again, one’s weakness may be the other’s strength, helping us improve ourselves in comparison to being a sole proprietor,” says Rubangira.
He also knows that partnerships pose challenges in decision-making, but daily, they learn.
The other challenge is that their clientele is made up of people who, sometimes, have a low purchasing power since many of them have no source of income.

Why entrepreneurship

“Young people should venture into entrepreneurship because it exposes, and helps you to identify problems in your community and then find new business innovations and ideas to solve these problems as you earn. Today, with organisations, institutions, and individuals willing to give mentorship in entrepreneurship to young people, it is only fair that we use the opportunities,” Mutamba Rubangira, student entrepreneur.