People management is a vital skill

Latimer Wandera says before anyone chooses to start a business, research the market you are trying to enter. PHOTO/PROMISE TWINAMUKYE 

What you need to know:

  • Success hack: Latimer Wandera is the general manager at Spesho Taxi, a local online transport service provider that has been running for six years now.
  • He credits people management as the skill that has kept him afloat as a manager.

Tell us about your career journey.

I worked with a ceramics and bathroom ware retailer when I first graduated.  After several years in various roles, I went and did my MBA. After my MBA I worked in the Insurance and financial services space in various roles and then six years ago I was tipped to head the formation and origination of what is now Spesho Taxi today.

What makes the perfect manager in  a role that comes off as tasking?

A person with good people management skills, the ability to create partnerships and synergies, a good work ethic, clear plans and goals, a clear understanding of the business aspects of the industry you are in. Open mindedness to try different approaches geared towards the same goal.

As the general manager at Spesho Taxi, what is your most important role?

People management; managing the team, managing and engaging with stakeholders. The business is in very simple terms a platform that links vendors who offer particular services to individuals and organisations that need them. The framework that the technology is built on runs in a straightforward way. It is important, however, that everyone who interacts with this platform daily can get the most out of it, which also provides me and the ownership with insights on how to make the platform better, more efficient and more appealing to a larger number of people and organisations.

There is competition to deal with in the online cab industry, how do you make sure Spesho taxi gets on top of the radar?

The competition is there, however, we believe more in operating in our niche space, refining our services as we go along while offering more solutions to our growing client base. We operate in a fairly small market as the number of people who have access to the internet is low, so it is important to distinguish yourselves and constantly work on your value proposition to ensure that you keep the clientele you have while also growing it.

In such a dynamic business, how do you hold onto the clients you have on top of getting new ones?

Servicing our clients is something we take seriously in our company. We have a team available round the clock, every day of the week to address any service issues.  Having a local presence means that the turnaround time in case of challenges and decision-making is quicker. For new clients, we are regularly prospecting different organisations as well as following up on referrals from existing clients. But most importantly, we ensure no downtime on our system, so we invested heavily in this aspect of the business.

How do you determine your taxi rates?

Our rates are based on trip time and trip distance. Custom tariffs for our corporate customers are based on hours of operation and volume of business. Similarly and with the same model, our ad-hoc rates for individual clients are determined by demand and supply. As you know, an exchange of a product or service takes place when buyers and sellers agree on a price.

I understand there are authorities that govern the way to run this kind of business, what would you like to see them do differently to enhance things on your side?

Currently there are no authorities in place. However, the Ministry of Works and Transport and Kampala Capital City Authority have made strides in ensuring that operators in our space are governed and monitored. We have been part of the stakeholder engagements along with all the other operators and hope to continue to be part of the dialogue. What we would like to see them do differently is create an enabling environment that allows such businesses to grow. Discussions around the cost of internet and fuel, for example, can have real time effects on the uptake of our service offering. Regulation would also be meaningful if reorganisation of transporters in urban centres emphasised digital solutions.

In your time, what challengers do you face in this kind of business?

Lack of legislation, high fuel prices, congestion, high driving partner turnover, fraudulent clients and driving partners, a generally high operating cost environment with direct inputs such as the internet affecting the business margins. Transactional fees across different payment platforms is another challenge we face.

You have lasted six years in business yet 85 percent of startups do not see their first birthday. What advice would you give a startup in the existing economic times?

A business must have a detailed business plan backed by facts and figures. Research the market you are trying to enter, then research some more. Read up on the competition, the industry you choose to be a part of. What are the barriers to entry, what are the opportunities, what can be your unique competitive advantage? Have adequate resources to run you for at least three years. Synergies and aggregation are key; working with partners and businesses that compliment your business and vice versa can enhance growth.

Create and or become a part of existing ecosystems. You will learn a lot and avoid some of the growing pains. Have and continue to grow your networks. It is not an overnight process. Your business should in principle solve a problem for it to get more clients. Social media is a powerful tool. Engagement will change the trajectory of your business. Invest in new technology.

Why is it important to pay attention to clients’ complaints?

There is a lot of competition out there. You will not have clients if you have no structures to accommodate feedback. There is a small client base for the entire industry given the cost of internet in Uganda. There are less than one million Ugandans who use data 30 days in a month. The number of people who have smart phones is significantly less and the people who can afford the service or find it practical is also lower. We are at least 11 companies in the ride sharing space.

What does it take to start such an intricate business?

Partnerships, networks, like-minded people, resources, energetic workforce, experienced developers, and obviously capital. The investment is huge and financing partners are a must. Most ride hailing companies are funded and have considered the option of raising capital through public offering or listing on the stock exchange markets in order to fund operational shortfalls, business expansion and strategic investments.

Do you think running a business through software applications gives an edge and why?

Yes. You can monitor productivity,  track all the tasks, communicate with multiple people, work almost anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. You can operate outside of normal working hours. The business can be scaled quicker. There is quicker turnaround time.

But most importantly, it is interesting and globally recognised as a modern way of solving problems using technology aided by computer coding.