In conversation with Johnny Enagwolor, co-founder of PlentyWaka on scaling despite government regulation

by | Mar 9, 2020

While the Lagos state government ban on okada almost spelt the end for motorcycle-hailing startups in the city, it gave an unprecedented advantage to bus-hailing platforms as it presented a better option to trekking for some Lagosians.

To attest to this fact, PlentyWaka, a bus-hailing platform that launched in September last year, says it has recorded a 61% increase in app downloads, 34% increase in ride bookings, and 50% growth in the number of daily riders since the okada ban.

Just last week, however, the state government made another move by enforcing a new set of regulations on ride-hailing companies; bus-hailing companies were not exempt.

Here, Johnny Enagwolor, co-founder and managing director of PlentyWaka, tells us how the startup is thriving in spite of these regulations.

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What’s your take on the regulations on motorcycles and how does it affect the progress of the mobility sector?

In such a busy and heavily populated city like Lagos, it would be hard to escape regulation; it’s what keeps the greatest cities of the world moving. The progress of mobility does not lie on one particular mode of transport, but it is important that it remains safe, affordable, and convenient for the commuter.

Since the beginning of the okada ban in February, PlentyWaka’s numbers in terms of daily riders, app downloads, and ride bookings have improved. How do you feel about this?

I am very pleased. It’s great that PlentyWaka has been able to provide commuters with an immediate resolve by using our app. With the demand so high, we are always looking for individuals and businesses to partner with us by onboarding their vehicles on our platform. At the moment, we have done over 100,000 rides across 7 routes in Lagos and we have more than 35,000 app downloads.

How has PlentyWaka been able to achieve this in a short time?

Before the ban, we put plans in place to cater to the high demands in the last two to three months. However, the ban on okada and keke triggered things. In January, we launched PlentyWaka Vehicle Partnerships.

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Johnny Enagwolor (co-founder and managing director of PlentyWaka)

What it does is to allow individuals to onboard their vehicles, mostly Siennas and coaster buses on the PlentyWaka platform. We’ve been able to increase the number of vehicles onboarded on our platform and that’s a major factor that has helped us increase the number of rides we have daily.

Does the recent regulation for ride-hailing companies affect PlentyWaka?

Yes, it does. Our bus drivers are expected to have a driver badge issued by the Department of Public Transport and Commuter Services of the Lagos State Ministry of Transport and a Lagos State Drivers’ Institute (LASDRI) card. We already possess hackney permits by the Lagos State Motor Vehicle Administration Agency and have corresponding tags fitted too. We have all the required documentation needed to operate in the state and will continue to update them.

What about the proposed licencing fees ride-hailing services are to pay to the government?

The fees are peculiar to all e-hailing platforms; we have to pay between ₦5-10 million to get an operating licence and PlentyWaka is currently in compliance with it. We’re also in line with Lagos state mass transit program where we are properly endorsed by the government to carry out or business-to-business and business-to-consumer models.

Do you have any fears that the state government might make a U-turn on your endorsement and create an unfriendly regulation against bus-hailing services?

Unlike okadas and kekes, the government is in support of what we are doing because it is in line with the state’s mega city plan. This is evident in the number of buses they are currently launching in the state. With this, we are going to have collaborative partnerships with them in terms of using our platform in the future.

How do you think startups can enter the transport sector and meet the needs of the public despite the government’s unpredictable regulations?

My advice is to find your niche and study it. You need to understand your niche and study how government regulation affects your space. It is only when you go blindly into a space that you begin to see what you’re not supposed to see and your business gets disrupted halfway. But if you understand the regulation that plays around that space, then you’re safe from all government disruption as regard stopping the business in the future.

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