A helping hand for taxi commuters
Skhona Khumalo created an App to improve the taxi experience for commuters
THE innovative 28-year old Skhona Khumalo has created an App that will help taxi users locate their nearest taxi rank, amongst other features. The Khwela App will officially be launched next month and has created a lot of positive conversations and interest among commuters.
WHAT INSPIRED THE APP
Skhona says the idea of the App was triggered by being part of the taxi system as a commuter. According to Skhona, first-hand experience is the best teacher.
“There needs to be a way to engage with taxi drivers and the experience itself. Taxis have taken many people from primary school to high school, from high school to varsity and to our first jobs. It is a very important part of many South Africans' lives who are striving for a better life,” he says.
“My motivation was wanting to see something different in the taxi system. I believe the fewer the queues in ranks, the more efficient the service can be.”
HOW THE APP WORKS
The first thing commuters need to know is that downloading the App is free.
“The App will show you where you are and the three nearest taxi ranks near you and the distances. Once you select the rank you would like to travel to, it will show you a recent image of the taxi rank and an itinerary, which includes the opening and closing times of the taxi rank and the manager on duty,” says Skhona.
“Commuters can also view the different destinations that are available at the rank, the main routes the taxis use and the taxi fares for the different destinations.” He adds that the Khelwa App also has a discussion forum where users can engage each other. For example, commuters can let others know about taxi strikes or if there are delays in certain areas or queues at the rank.
“Users can also raise issues of abuse or violence and anything else that affects them. We feed the necessary information to the National Taxi Alliance, who have the desire to get to the hearts of the commuters,” he says.
Because the commuter has knowledge of what is going on, they can run errands prior to going to the rank, make alternative means to get to their destination and generally plan their trips better.
“The App also gives periodical notifications of
MOVE FORWARD WITH EASE KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE
what is going on around the commuter, especially around main roads,” he says.
The taxi industry is currently marred with too many challenges, but Skhona says he believes we will be hearing good news in six months’ time, thanks to the App.
“At the moment, if you search for any information about taxis, there is nothing positive,” says Skhona.
PURSUING HIS DREAM
Like with the start of any business, Skhona had difficulties when he first started off.
“I was previously employed by a private bank and was used to a stable salary. It takes time to adjust to not having a full-time job. The path to realising your dreams can get lonely and comes with a lot of changes. You may even have nightmares or thoughts of failure,” says Skhona.
He started his business in 2015 and says it is hard not to receive a salary for three years. Some of the people who were helping Skhona in the early stages soon left after getting better jobs and this affected the business negatively.
“Sometimes your family does not understand your decision until they see your vision playing out. During this period, you can develop a resentful heart or graceful heart. People are people, they fear what they don’t know. Accept this and move forward with ease knowing what you want to achieve,” says Skhona.
One of the questions he got when he started the App was why regular taxi users, who know their taxi ranks, would want to use the App. Skhona says commuters, like car owners, do not just go to work and back; they travel to interviews, visit friends and families and attend social events, sometimes in areas they are not familiar with.
Another challenge Skhona faced was answering what else the App could do.
Skhona says that there is a lot that they want to incorporate in the App, but they will do so in due course.
“We’re not trying to add everything to the App immediately. Sometimes people do not use an App not because it’s not good, but it’s too much to adapt to. The plan is to keep Khwela simple,” he says.
Anyone who uses taxis is going to be a target for Khwela.
“We went to the Bree Taxi Rank in Joburg during the bus strike to show commuters how the App works and how it could benefit them. Over 15 000 people showed interest in the app and downloaded it. Khelwa also focuses on youth employment,” he says.
“We are also in talks with the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator to employ unemployed young people as ambassadors for the App at ranks,” he says.
PROFITS IN THE BUSINESS
Skhona shares how his business will make money when the App officially launches in July.
“Our business model focuses on product placements for third party vendors and running very specific advertisements for commuters. So for example you will not see a car advertisement on the App, because the App is very lifestyle-based. We just want to focus on the things the commuters want and impact their lives on a daily basis. By so doing we are making it easier on the commuter to access those things,” he says.
Skhona Khumalo's Khwela App, which will be launched in July, aims to simplify travelling by taxi