Kopano “Change Agent” Sekhoari is the brains behind the famous Urban Taxis that is taking the country by the storm. He started with just one car, but he is now running a fleet of more than 18 cars. He transports people far and wide in Lesotho and in the region. In the process, “Urban Taxis” is quickly becoming a household name, a force to reckon with.
Plus he happens to have been schooled at the feet of some Economics gurus at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). “I studied Economics not as a profession,” he revealed. “I studied it as a way of life.”
It is a way of life.
When you meet Sekhoari, you can hardly believe he is the man who is literally turning the local taxi industry upside down with his innovative approaches to business. He is young, too young. He is soft-spoken. He is forever smiling. But, as they often say, “behind gentleness, is the strength of steel.”
Ya! Behind the youthfulness and the smiles, lurks the strength of steel.
Today, we are willing to share a secret or two behind the rapid rise of the brains behind Urban Taxis.
As usual, that which seemingly jumps (like a frog) into the public scene was often years in the making, often quietly and behind close doors. That saying pretty much summarizes the story of the young man, Kopano “Change Agent” Sekhoari.
He started by mastering the culture of saving. “I saved, I saved the money I used to earn as a scholarship from the National Manpower Development Secretariat.” And he saved with a purpose. He saved so that he could invest in a tiny spaza shop at his home in Pitseng Lesotho.
That was the point at which he aroused an entrepreneur in him. “I learned many secrets from running a spaza shop that I was prepared to implement in my next moves,” he said with a broad smile.
One of those secrets were that when you are in business, you should focus on making many small sales rather than a single big one. “I would make more money from selling “masimba” than other items.”
The experience reminded him the lesson he learned as an economics student at the NUL.
From Economics, he said he learned the theory of how big companies behaved. However, he was more fascinated by how the companies focus on making small continued impacts (turnover) over a big one once off.
“I was also fascinated by the art of advertising the companies used.” Armed to teeth with his education and experiences on a spaza shop, he was more than prepared to wage a new offensive.
“We are not retreating,” General MacArthur famously said. “We are only advancing in another direction.” After finishing school, he took what would seem like a foolish retreat.
He closed his shop, collected all the money he saved from the shop and repaired a dead car which his close relative used to own. “I used all the money to buy spare parts.” The car was given a new life. That was a new direction on a road to a revolution.
After all, he was not retreating; he was only advancing in another direction.
He then boldly entered the mighty transport industry which greeted him with its rough and tumbles. But he entered it with a steely resolve to turn it upside down.
First, he was subcontracted under an existing transport company with his car. After some time, he was ready to start his own fleet management company. But he did not jump into it. An educated scholar, he did his research, “I did my homework for a long time and entered well prepared.”
In a country where customer service is at zero, how he treated his customers would mark a difference between him and his competitors.
His first secret is time. “We don’t waste our customers time. That’s it.”
The second secret is money. Ask an average businessman about the basis of his prices and they will quote standards, whatever that means. As a student of Economics, he knows better. He knows that in a free market, prices must be governed by market forces, not standards. For instance, his prices are based on the purpose and nature of the trip.
For that reason, “many customers find our prices very affordable.”
The third secret is based on how he handles his customers with care. For instance, a sick customer will get a free ride to a doctor. That leaves customers with so much gratitude and loyalty.
But the biggest secret of them all is his ability to advertise. “One of the problems we have with business in Lesotho is that we don’t want to go to the people, we expect people to come to us. I go to the people,” he said.
Unafraid to share his wisdom, he made the last and, of course, the lasting statement, “advertising doesn’t end.”
Advertising. Doesn’t. End.