Q&A with BuuPass Founders, Sonia Kabra and Wyclife Omondi
Renew Capital Angels invested in Buupass in February 2023.Read more.
BuuPass founders Sonia Kabra from India and Wyclife Omondi from Kenya, first met in college in the United States. The pair’s common interest to address the pain points of Africa’s public transportation inspired them to create BuuPass, a web platform that streamlines online bookings for intercity bus, train and plane travel. BuuPass now works with 29 active bus companies with a total fleet size of over 1200 vehicles and they are the exclusive ticket provider for Kenya Railways. Sonia and Wyclife share the BuuPass journey and their vision for reshaping the way Africans book travel in this rapid-fire Q&A:
Q. What inspired you to start BuuPass?
We met at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana in the United States. We shared similar interests in finding solutions to existing problems. We both shared experiences with inaccessible transportation from our home countries (India and Kenya) and had the idea to bring to market a solution that would make transportation more accessible and efficient. We participated in a series of student business competitions, and we won a 2016 $1MHult Prize that helped us to start BuuPass.
Q. What major challenges have you observed within Kenya’s transportation sector?
When we first started BuuPass, the digitization of Kenya's transportation sector was still in its early stages. Our initial solution focused on building a booking platform, but once we entered the market, we quickly realized that the main challenge was the lack of digitization among bus operators. Many of these companies were still using pen and paper for their ticketing processes, and they lacked a centralized data source to inform their business decisions. To address this gap, we developed a bus management system that allows our clients to digitize their processes. The system allows the bus operators to set up their routes, booking stations and real-time ticket booking, as well as access daily reports on their business transactions.
We also identified cargo management as another challenge for bus operators, and in response, we’ve expanded our services to include a cargo management solution. Our goal is to help digitize the transportation sector in East Africa and ultimately improve the customer experience for travelers.
Q. As a women-owned business, how important has it been to build a gender-smart business?
Creating a company that reflects our values and attracts diverse talent has always been a top priority for us. As a tech company, we faced challenges in attracting female talent, and that's why we sought investors who shared our values. We are delighted to partner with Renew Capital especially as we aim to become more gender-smart in our approach. Our goal is to create a more inclusive work environment while de-risking ourselves by developing the right policies and culture.
Q. What advice do you have for investors that are looking to invest in Africa-based social enterprises?
One of the gaps I often see with investors is the lack of understanding of local context. An investor who is based in Africa or one who understands the context of the market would easily see the scale and opportunity of the transportation problem. I believe that building this knowledge and making the effort to understand the context is extremely important for investors.
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.