A new web-based service called Zaparide wants to help reduce congestion on Gauteng’s roads by enabling people who have similar commutes and similar interests to find one another and share lifts.
Users can login to Zaparide using Facebook, or can create a standalone account and link it to Facebook thereafter. They can then post trips they make regularly or look for trips that other people have posted that suit their needs. It’s a bit like online dating, but instead of two people being matched because they both like long walks on the beach and existentialist zombie novels they’ll get matched based on shared routes.
Zaparide’s founders Ismail Dhorat and Moosa Manjra say and the service came about because the company funding it, The Hello Group, noticed that lots of its staff were struggling to get to work. “We found there were people living close together who were using the same routes but didn’t know about it,” Dhorat explains. “We wanted to connect these people.”
Dhorat says he and Manjra looked at similar models internationally, including taxi app services Uber that offers lift sharing in some cities, but realised that most of these models add to, rather than reduce, congestion. “Most of these services are putting cars on the road,” Dhorat says. “We don’t want to put new cars on the road, instead we want to tap into existing road users.”Because drivers and passengers connect Zaparide to their Facebook profiles these profiles serve as the first vetting stage. Potential lifters can see potential liftees’ profiles and vice versa. Dhorat says mobile phone number verification is coming soon and that Zaparide is also considering a third validation step that would require users to confirm their employer’s details.
“The idea was that we also wanted to connect people who were socially compatible,” Dhorat says. “Users can see the profile pictures, friends, and pages other users have liked on Facebook. This way they can check that the person is real but can also check their compatibility in terms of interests. This makes Zaparide much less hit and miss than using online classifieds for the same purpose.”
Currently the service is completely free to use and drivers negotiate any payments with passengers directly. Dhorat says this is because once you start facilitating payments various regulatory issues arise, from needing a payment mechanism to issues like whether or not drivers need taxi licences.
Zaparide doesn’t display ads or have other monetisation yet. “For now we’re focusing on matching people and getting the product to a stage where it’s really easy to use,” Dhorat explains. He says the company is also looking to hire developers so that it can release mobile apps for the service.
Since its launch in March Zaparide has attracted almost 350 user with a roughly 60/40 split between drivers and passengers. Dhorat says the service is focussing on Johannesburg and Pretoria for now, but that it’ll likely expand to other cities later in the year.