1 December 2022

Startup Spotlight: iTrack Africa

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about tracking? Is it a package of goods that you bought online and are eagerly waiting for? Do you frantically visit the shipper’s website to check the status of your delivery? Now imagine thousands, or even millions of kwachas’ worth of goods on the road and you have no idea where they are or when they’ll be getting to you.

A company like iTrack Africa would help you know where your goods are by using the latest hi-tech equipment to keep track of your fleet. The company is run by Zabir Waka. A man born in Malawi, lived in the UK for 28 years and moved to Zambia 7 years ago, Zabir considers himself Zambian in every sense. With 16 years of sales experience in the United Kingdom (UK), he decided to establish iTrack Africa with no IT background at all other than growing up in the UK and surrounded by tech all the time. Of course I couldn’t resist asking questions… who wouldn’t?! What, where, and how did this happen? Thankfully, Zabir was very open and honest about his business operations.

Zabir Waka, Founder of iTrack Africa, with his wife Farzana Waka
Zabir Waka, Founder of iTrack Africa, with his wife Farzana Waka

What is iTrack Africa? iTrack offers mapping and tracking services. The company was started 2 years ago from the ground and is steadily growing. It operates through the installation of the iTracking device that utilises Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine location, speed, direction, idle times and start/stop times. This information is then logged and transmitted to the iTracker server via General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) which is a mobile data service available on the Global System of Mobile communication (GSM). The resulting data is then presented on an extremely user friendly web-based application.

Where do you run iTrack from? Zabir runs his business in Makeni and online with the help of his wife. Fortunately, the business is not location restricted. The founder prides himself in being able to meet his customers’ needs wherever they may be. Interestingly, as long as you subscribe to the monthly iTrack services, you can have access to tracking information 24/7 even through your mobile phone. The service is web-based; therefore, can be accessed anywhere in the world. It is also mobile optimized for the customer’s ultimate convenience.

How do the tracking devices work? The devices use network SIM cards that are customized for data access only. In this case, Zabir uses Airtel Zambia’s 3.75G network and roaming. The devices are imported from the UK from Samsung’s sister-company which shall remain nameless apparently. The device is installed by dismantling the dashboard of a vehicle and hardwiring it to the ignition. This way, it can effectively track the start/stop times, idle times, speed and direction of travel of the vehicle. Some of the devices are mobile/portable units which can be suitable for motor cycle fleets.

Why iTrack? Recognised that there was a good margin to be made from offering tracking services in Zambia. Zabir wanted to fill an existing gap in the market which was to place the customer at the heart of the business. I eagerly nodded and asked him to extrapolate on his views of customer service in Zambia. “It’s non-existent!” he exclaimed. At this point we digressed into discussing numerous situations where we both encountered horrendous customer service from big and reputable companies.

What makes your company different? “Customer service is why my company is different. I have the upper hand at providing the best customer experience by being available to my subscribers any time of the day or night,” said Zabir.

How do you make your money? The monthly service fee which costs approximately $1/day per unit covers unlimited servicing visits should the customer require. The markup comes from monthly subscription fees rather than the sale of devices as it would be a one off thing. On the other hand, subscription is month-to-month.

What makes your company hi-tech? iTrack has access to the most up-to-date maps from Google. These are different from the usual ones that everybody can access through browsing. A premium is paid in order to retrieve the latest maps with up-to-date street names of Zambia.

What have you achieved to date? iTrack only started with one client and now has 25-30 clients with about 120 tracking units being actively used.

How do you market yourself? Mostly word of mouth recommendations because advertising in Zambia is expensive.

Who is your competition? I don’t pay much attention to the competition because I am confident in what I do. In fact, other players in the field have a long way to catch up with how I do things. However, if you must know, I will throw one or two names like Asif Electrical which uses Smartrack and Geotab which are some of the players in the industry.

Challenges? The biggest challenge came during the SIM registration exercise when more than half my customers’ SIM cards were deactivated. Unfortunately, I was not informed by Airtel Zambia that I’d need to handle this despite having a business manager at the telecom company. For a company operating on a 24/7 schedule, bureaucracies from the network provider are the biggest challenge. Unfortunately, Zambia has not yet developed a work culture that extends after official business hours.

What does the future for hold for iTrack Africa? Looking to have 500 tracking units on the move. Not looking at rapid growth because still want to maintain control. This will ensure accountability and superior customer service. Right now, it’s a one man band with the help of his spouse for administrative purposes but only looking to grow by engaging 1 secretary and 1 fitter/electrician in the future.

Where did you get your investment from? Personal savings and some help from my family in the UK who own a textile factory in the UK.

Last words? “Don’t work for technology, let technology work for you”

Image credit: iTrack Africa, Zabir Waka’s personal picture