When business partners Gillian Kobusingye and Sharon Rutega lost their logistics business following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic early this yeåar, it did not at that moment occur to them that there would be a window for innovation.
The entrepreneurs were initially involved in microfinancing, focusing on women working in markets, in addition to shipping in merchandise from countries such as China.
They sought an alternative source of livelihood when their businesses went down as Covid-19 ravaged economies across the world.
“We are a team that does not just settle for nothing, so when Covid-19 hit, we were eager to find something to do. That drive inspired us to try out something new,” Ms Kobusingye said at a meeting at their office in Bugolobi, a Kampala suburb last Wednesday.
The result is Diva Taxi, a technology- based start-up aimed at improving the transport sector in the country.
Ms Rutega explained that Diva Taxi is a ride hailing service, offering transportation services and focuses on helping women achieve social economic empowerment.
The venture offers women an opportunity to supplement their income by using their vehicles to ferry passengers at a fee.
The idea triggered by the loss of their business following the outbreak of Covid-19, also has its roots in the duo’s desire for an economically empowered woman, a diva.
“Many people were affected by the pandemic. We also realised there was need for transportation of goods and people during the lockdown, so we came up with the idea, to be able to help that woman who had lost her job but had a car parked in her compound to be able to make some money,” Ms Rutega explained
“We were not making any money. We were at home depressed and thought of starting something to make some money and sustain our families,” Ms Kobusingye added.
Diva Taxi commenced operations in June, when the country was still under lockdown with the duo as the first two drivers.
“Before you launch a product, you have to test it. After realising the idea was workable, we connected the ladies that we had been working with in our logistics business and brought them on board,” Ms Kobusingye said.
In just four months, the start-up has grown to 82 drivers.
With about 1,000 downloads of their app, the business now has a deficit to satisfy the growing numbers of customers. They aspire to match the number by the end of the year.
“We have contacts where we pick up staff and drop them off, offer corporate transportations, pick up children from school, and all transport needs,” Ms Rutega added.
The transport service provider employs only female drivers.
To be part of the team, one needs a vehicle in good mechanical condition, a national ID, driving licence and a certificate of good conduct.
Ms Rutega revealed that on average, a driver makes 30 trips a week.
“You turn on your app when you are available to work, you can do it even with a formal job. You can work extra hours on the weekends, or on your way home even after your 8am to 5pm job,” Ms Rutega said.
How it works
At Diva Taxi, the driver takes 85 per cent of the proceeds from the trip.
Ms Kobusingye says they are still working on creating more awareness for the product, and are seeking to spread across the country. Technology reach has also been a challenge in expanding the innovation since it is software-oriented.
“We are still using the very basic technology that we can afford but we if given the right software systems, we will soar and we are looking to partner to grow the venture,” she said.
The Diva Taxi app comes with an emergency button, available to both the driver and the passenger.
“This is like a panic button and is linked to police and the office considering that it is an online service, we are able to locate where the driver is every time,”
The drivers also go through self-defence training.
The Diva Taxi founders also aspire to establish an all-female mechanic shop.
Ms Kobusingye, a graduate of Hotel Management and Digital Marketing, emphasises hard work and persistence for women to rise above the bar.
Asked about what inspires her, Ms Rutega, an Information Technology graduate from Makerere University, said: “We are passionate about working with women and thought if women are empowered socially and economically, the entire world benefits.”
About the app
Diva Taxi is a technology-based start-up aimed at improving the transport sector in the country.
Ms Sharon Rutega, one of the founders, explains that Diva Taxi is a ride-hailing service, offering transportation services and focuses on helping women achieve social and economic empowerment.