The Uber of same-day de­liv­ery

The plat­form is ac­ces­si­ble via an app or the web and now has about 4,000 reg­is­tered ac­counts, many of them cor­po­rate clients

Financial Mail - - ENTREPRENEUR - Ja­son Psil­los CEO, 1Fetch courier ser­vice Nick Hed­ley hed­[email protected]

If you live in Joburg, chances are you’ve seen a 1Fetch mo­tor­bike dart­ing through the traf­fic on as­sign­ment. This army of bikes, along­side the grow­ing fleets of food-de­liv­ery scoot­ers, is rid­ing on Uber’s coat­tails – and mak­ing a success of it.

“The idea of 1Fetch was born out of the re­cent ‘Uberi­sa­tion’ of ev­ery­thing — we iden­ti­fied an op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide peo­ple and busi­nesses with in­stant ac­cess to a quick and easy courier so­lu­tion,” says co-founder and CEO Ja­son Psil­los.

Launched in mid-2016, 1Fetch pro­vides an on-de­mand courier ser­vice us­ing a fleet of mostly com­pany-owned mo­tor­bikes.

Like Uber — the epit­ome of the bur­geon­ing plat­form, or shar­ing, economy — 1Fetch’s driv­ers are equipped with smart­phones, thus pro­vid­ing users with real-time up­dates of their de­liv­er­ies.

But while Uber is tak­ing on tra­di­tional cabs, Psil­los says his com­pany does not com­pete with ma­jor de­liv­ery ser­vices, since its niche is “ur­gent and ex­press same-day de­liv­er­ies” in cities.

Tra­di­tional couri­ers still tend to op­er­ate “milk run” mod­els, whereby they col­lect parcels along their daily routes, take them back to cen­tral sort­ing points, and then dis­trib­ute from there.

There is ev­i­dence that a mar­ket ex­ists for on-de­mand de­liv­ery ser­vices. The 1Fetch plat­form, ac­ces­si­ble via an app or the web, now has about 4,000 reg­is­tered ac­counts, many of which are cor­po­rate clients that have cho­sen to out­source at least some of their de­liv­ery needs.

In­ter­net ser­vice provider Afri­host, for ex­am­ple, uses 1Fetch to de­liver SIM cards and modems, while sev­eral law firms, fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pa­nies and small busi­nesses are also go­ing this route, ac­cord­ing to Psil­los.

And 1Fetch is not the only player in this seg­ment of the mar­ket. Cape Town-based ri­vals udrop and

Picup are also jostling for po­si­tion as con­sumers and busi­nesses warm to the idea.

Af­ter build­ing the busi­ness to a point of suf­fi­cient scale in Joburg, 1Fetch plans to launch ser­vices in Pre­to­ria, Dur­ban and Cape Town over the next two years.

“The core to the busi­ness is the tech­nol­ogy plat­form, which al­lows us to scale with a greater ease than usual,” Psil­los tells the FM at 1Fetch’s of­fices in Rivo­nia, Joburg.

The com­pany is also con­sid­er­ing a shift from its ini­tial bike­own­er­ship model to one that in­cludes out­sourc­ing, since the use of external driver ser­vices — like Uber does — should al­low it to scale up faster, he says.

“We are also po­ten­tially look­ing to align our­selves with the right strate­gic part­ner at some stage in the fu­ture.”

A char­tered ac­coun­tant, Psil­los says his pre­vi­ous stints in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try did lit­tle to sat­isfy his en­tre­pre­neur­ial am­bi­tions.

“I’ve al­ways had an eye on tech­nol­ogy and like to think of my­self as rel­a­tively tech savvy.”

But see­ing a busi­ness through the start-up phase is no easy task, and one that re­quires a healthy dose of “pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance”.

He says: “You need to be­lieve in your of­fer­ing and then you need the op­por­tu­nity to prove the value of your of­fer­ing … It’s of­ten a chicken-and-egg sit­u­a­tion, but once you have that one cred­i­ble client who sees the value in what you’re do­ing, the path be­comes clearer.

“It’s amaz­ing how things be­gin to gain trac­tion and how the busi­ness starts to feed on it­self af­ter a cer­tain amount of time.”

For­tu­nately for 1Fetch, the com­pany also had fun­ders that were op­ti­mistic about its prospects — an im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent given that start-ups of­ten take up to three years to find their feet.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have had the right set of ini­tial in­vestors and be­lieve that we’ve now moved past the start-up phase … We have en­cour­ag­ing pos­i­tive mo­men­tum and we’re en­ter­ing the next stage of our life­cy­cle, which en­tails scal­ing the busi­ness up and tak­ing it to the next level.”

Freddy Mavunda

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