Isidore Kpotufe doesn’t talk much, but when he does, his words are full of ideas about how to solve one problem or another.
Calm and soft-spoken, Isidore, founder of transport star-up, Stabus, explains that his entire life has been built around making money from pitching ideas about how to solve problems.
“Public transportation is broken in Africa. We want to fix it,” these words are boldly written on the website of Stabus and they pretty much sum up the mission statement of the transportation startup founded by Isidore, who describes himself as a Ghanaian entrepreneur.
Three things define Ghana’s public transport system: Rickety vehicles, crowded – even dangerous – seating arrangements and a tedious process to get a car. It is very cheap, yes. But for many, the problems with the public transport system trump the cheaper fares.
“I have never liked public transportation. I think it is bad. If you have a problem you don’t complain about it, you solve it. That is when we began to look at public transportation as a problem and as an opportunity,” Isidore explained at his office in Accra.
“From selling ideas to selling products I have been an entrepreneur wherever I found myself,” he recalls, adding that his short stint at IMANI Africa, a reputable think tank in Ghana, as Communications Director, has been a major training ground.
“Over time, I thought that my entrepreneurial skills can be explored outside the corporate world and I thought that startups offered the best opportunity to do it. Because with startups, you can make mistakes – you are allowed to. And you can make crazy decisions because you are allowed to. And you can fail big or you succeed which I felt it is an appetising proposition for me as an entrepreneur,” he said to introduce his journey to founding Stabus.
The proposition of Isidore’s Stabus – a better and innovative public transport regime – is both daring and exciting. Daring because it invites every Ghanaian to ditch the cheaper, pervasive and deeply-rooted ‘trotro’ (the local name for the inter-city public transport services in Ghana) for what he describes as a more progressive system; exciting because it promises to provide the comfort and class of Uber at a cheaper rate.
Isidore and his team hope to fix the rowdy public transport system by incentivising commuters to park their vehicles and ride with Stabus, promising convenience and comfort.
“I identified three key problems with our public transport system: the process of boarding the bus was not the best. You either have to queue for it or fight for it; secondly, the bus that was carrying the people was terrible; the third is that if you didn’t want ‘trotro’ and you wanted to use taxis or Uber, it is very expensive,” he explains.
So how does Stabus work?
Stabus is app-based and works like most app-based ride-hailing services. The difference is that while most app-based systems would typically come to an unspecified location to pick you, Stabus will pick you at designated points.
“We are using open streets which is an alternative to Google maps. But we are building our own transit system,” says Isidore. The transit system, when completed will highlight every pickup point on a given route.
Head of Customer Service Experience at Stabus, Nicholas Boampong, said the service offerings in a typical Stabus ride is heavy on comfort and convenience but at a cost some 50% more than the cost of a typical ‘trotro’ ride. So if a ride from Adenta to the Central Business District in Accra (some 16km) costs GHâ‚µ4, Stabus will charge GHâ‚µ8. But here is the catch: Stabus buses are fully air-conditioned, spacious and professionally ran.
The startup is currently inviting partners to sign their buses onto the application. Stabus takes less takes a small percentage of the revenue as a commission for providing the IT/system support base. But not every bus can get signed up.
The requirements of buses that Stabus will approve to join the platform include:
- Model year 2000 or newer
- Minimum Bus capacity: 9-seater
- Good condition with no cosmetic damage
It sounds too good to be true, but Stabus has actually started partial operation. There are currently some five Stabus vehicles plying different routes in Accra. Isidore explains that he likes to move at a steady pace, ensuring that a lasting solution is found for the problems his revolutionary transport service will encounter.
After a successful two-month pilot, Isidore Kpotufe and his team at Stabus are poised to rid Ghana’s streets of all the rickety commercial vehicles and their attendant problems – one ‘trotro’ at a time.
It is easy to get onto Stabus: first, you download the app on Google Play Store; then you install. When you are ready to get your first Stabus experience, request a ride, and the app will point you to a pickup point (you may have to walk a few metres, the ride won’t come to you like Uber will). Be at the pickup point on time and have an experience that is set to disrupt the transport space.
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