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Exclusive: Sendr delivers SA’s next big courier startup

South African-based startup Sendr wants to deliver your packages in a flash. Its on-demand service means parcels can be delivered in an hour.

“We’re an Uber of parcels, documents and small items. We see ourselves as a personal concierge service,” says co-founder and CEO of Sendr, Neo Lekgabo (pictured above centre).

Sendr is based around a delivery app. The customer books a collection and the company handles the rest, including insurance for all items that are transported. Where this startup stands out from the rest is its utilisation of a one-time password (OTP) system. In order for any delivery to take place, the recipient needs to show the OTP to the driver. This not only eliminates potential security risks, such as delivering to the wrong person, but also adds a little bit of personal touch.

“Our economy requires that we innovate. The more people innovate the better in order for small businesses to grow and innovation to grow,” says Lekgabo.

Read more: From diapers to grilled cheese: WumDrop’s curious on-demand courier service takes on SA

Similar things have already been done by the likes of Wumdrop and Picup, but Lekgabo doesn’t “consider them to be direct competition”.

Sendr had been in the conception stages since January 2015, and went on to soft launch in October of the same year. Sendr has used emails to handle all of their logistical needs while the app has been in development. According to Lekgabo, the official app will be released to the public during the second week of March.

Lekgabo, co-founder and chief technology officer George Sibotshiwe and around five like-minded investors, all put their savings into the company. They believe in the idea of Sendr and its potential.

Sendr’s founders represent a new generation of Johannesburg-based, black tech entrepreneurs that are leading startup innovation in South Africa. The company has seen phenomenal growth since launching, from the likes of small law firms and advertising agencies needing to send documents.

“The response has been great, especially from small businesses that either cannot afford a full-time messenger service, or they have one messenger service, but the person is overworked,” adds Lekgabo. Partly because the company can deliver a parcel within the hour with one of its motorbikes.

Read more: Logistics: the backbone of South Africa’s ecommerce boom

Why use motorbikes? During Lekgabo’s travels as marketing manager for Multichoice, overseeing 43 countries, he saw just how they were used on the African continent.

“In East Africa the culture of motorbikes, of moving things with motorbikes, is quite prevalent, but that culture in the South is not prevalent. If you want to move around you use taxis or Uber or whatever. The same for our own cars.” Sendr is taking the motorbike culture of East Africa and meshing it with the technology lifestyle of South Africa.

In October, the company started off with an initial purchase of 10 150cc Suzuki motorbikes. Since then it has grown to a fleet size of 100-strong. According to Lekgabo, the growth won’t stop there.

“We talking now to some of the partners that supply us with motorbikes to scale up. We think we’ll be scaling up to 500 motorbikes by October/November this year,” says Lekgabo.

Lekgabo was unable to give the exact initial investment number, but says everyone has jointly put in around R1.5-million.

But given the company’s size and success so far, that appears to be a humble amount.

Read more: Uber as a startup: the ins and outs of slim launches

Even with a large fleet size, Sendr users Uber’s principles of a slim startup. Aside from the co-owners, the company has 12 full-time staff members to facilitate customers, logistics, drivers, and anything else that need arise.

Lekgabo doesn’t just want to deliver packages, but also innovate and provide jobs. “We use technology to cultivate employment,” he says. Lekgabo’s passion shines through when talking about the working opportunities that Sendr has created. According to him, the 100 bikes they own equates to 100 jobs that have been created.

The company wants to start inviting self-owned bike owners to join the company. “In line with our job creation objective, to now start openly inviting owner drivers to come with their own motorbikes, regardless of brand,” he says.

When joining, drivers either need to have their own motorbike with a full-service history, or Sendr needs the capacity to allocate one. All drivers also need to be able to read and write. If hired, drivers receive training on how to use a GPS, dealing with customers, and anything else they may require.

Apart from Sendr, Lekgabo wants the people of Africa to start seeing how they can empower younger generations.

“The generation of Madiba fought their battle and knew what needed to be answered. We think the question for our generation is ‘how do we bring economic development to our people and how do we empower them as young people?'”

Read more: 6 tips for kickstarting your first ecommerce site

One of the answers to this is ecommerce. He thinks there is a lot of potential for the sector in Africa.

“We think that eventually we are going to get to a point where ecommerce platform differentiators are how quick someone can get their order,” adds Lekgabo. With this in mind, he thinks Sendr has the potential to play a critical role with young entrepreneurs who want to be involved in ecommerce.

The company is currently in talks with investors from a range of African countries. By the middle of this year, the company looks to expand out of South Africa, but are currently tight-lipped about these future expansions.

Author Bio

Graham van der Made: Staff Reporter
Graham started out as an electronics manager at Take2 Home Entertainment and went on to spend a further ten years in the South African ecommerce industry. During this time, Graham founded and managed an online geek and hobby shop. He has always had a passion for writing and has... More
  • Sounds remarkably like Sendy…

  • Memeburn Fan

    Why the hell are so many South African startups going into this space?

  • I personally don’t care what it looks like or feels like as long as they have traction and the conviction to see it through. “Why so many people are going into this space”- well the industry is ripe for disruption and obviously all founders saw what the others don’t see. We need innovation from all angles in order for someone to get it right.

    • Memeburn Fan

      We’ll see. But the pie definitely isn’t big enough for Wumdrop, Picup, Rush, Sendr, Uber RUSH, Mr D, Aramex, and the countless others to all survive. It’s a crowded space to launch into.

  • Great concept and much needed for a car-crowded Johannesburg. We’ve had a few customers use Sendr to pickup their orders from us – and all goes smoothly every time.