Shared transport service Zeelo gains 18K passengers in SA

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James Champion (left) and Andrew Robarts, GMs of Zeelo SA.
James Champion (left) and Andrew Robarts, GMs of Zeelo SA.

UK-based shared transport firm Zeelo has witnessed significant growth in the uptake of its online platform, one year since its local launch.

Established in the UK in 2016 and expanded to SA in 2018, the shared transport solutions platform integrates with more than 20 000 vehicles to provide commuting, event and private transport services throughout SA.

The company says its aim is to move people out of cars and into shared transport. By doing this, it is looking to alleviate a lot of the mobility problems faced by South Africans, including traffic congestion, parking hassles, extreme carbon emissions, drinking and driving, and providing seamless transport solutions for commuters.

In SA, Zeelo has partnered with a number of event companies and local vehicle operators to supply the vehicles used to transport Zeelo passengers safely to their destination, including Jaguar Land Rover, The Sharks, South African Cricket and Big Concerts.

Since its local launch, the company says it has transported over 18 000 local passengers and is looking to grow rapidly in the country by creating partnerships with major employers that want to offer sustainable alternatives to their employees to travel to work.

The first corporate commute offering got under way last month, with Zeelo providing shuttle services for employees working in Sandton.

“SA is the perfect market for us. Our aim is to provide safe, convenient and affordable shared transport options to those who are completely reliant on their car so they can make more out of their travelling time,” explains Zeelo co-founder and CEO Sam Ryan.

“The significant gap in public transport provision in SA translates to increasing congestion, pollution and car parking challenges, causing frustration for travellers and headaches for cities and companies. We see a huge opportunity to provide SA with the transport solutions it deserves.”

While the UK service offers both a mobile and Web-based platform, the local version currently offers a Web-based application, with plans to introduce a mobile app soon.

The local Zeelo team is based in Durban, but operates across the country.

Zeelo originally started in SA as ‘The Rugga Bus’, a service transporting Cell C Sharks fans to and from Jonsson Kings Park on match days. The Rugga Bus was managed by two Durban locals, Andrew Robarts and James Champion, before news of the idea spread to London, where Zeelo co-founders, Sam Ryan and Barney Williams, became interested in the idea.

The teams struck a deal and ‘The Rugga Bus’ was officially transformed into Zeelo SA. Zeelo now provides services to major sporting events, concerts and festivals across SA. The company has relationships with the South African Super Rugby franchises, South African Cricket, and several festivals.

James Champion, Zeelo SA GM, notes: “We’ve seen incredible growth in such a short amount of time and it shows that South Africans across the country need a service like ours. We’re now expanding our service across events and also for commuters who are looking for a viable alternative to travel to work and have car parking challenges at the offices.”

What differentiates Zeelo from other shared transport services on the market is that Zeelo focuses on data analytics and an AI-powered algorithm to identify under-serviced areas where there is a demand for shared transport, explains Champion.

Earlier this year, Zeelo raised £4.25 million in a founding round led by ETF Partners.

“The funding was raised by the parent company in the UK and will be used to further establish Zeelo and expand operations in Africa and other new regions.

“In SA, the funding will go towards the growth of the South African team, which will allow us to grow and strengthen the business in the Western Cape and Gauteng regions, and will position us for a phase of rapid growth in the country,” says Robarts.

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