36 Hello Taxi branded vehicles are lined up at Sheraton Addis on Thursday, July 16, 2020, for the company's tourist taxi service launch.

Hello Taxi and O'Clock General Motors have distributed the first round of tourist taxis, which are equipped with language translating devices, to 36 members of taxi associations in the city.  The taxis were delivered to only 15pc of the owners who made down payments to O'Clock General Motors and have been waiting for their delivery for over two years.

O'Clock General Motors, which had initially started the process of recruiting different blue taxi owners in the city nearly two years ago, delivered it through Hello Taxi, which will be working with the drivers in providing the tourist service. The drivers will be trained under the Ministry of Culture & Tourism on serving tourists.

The handing over ceremony was held at Sheraton Addis Hotel with the presence of the Minister of Culture & Tourism, Hirut Kassaw (PhD), and Buzena Al Kedir, state minister for Culture & Tourism, with representatives of the two companies.

The tourist taxis have been distributed to 36 members of five taxi associations through a raffle. The remaining members, 214, will be receiving the taxis within 65 days, according to Daniel Yohannes, founder and general manager of Hello Taxi, which signed an agreement with O'Clock General Motors nearly a month ago.

"The idea was incepted over seven years ago," he said, "but it was a lengthy process that showed promise as of late when the government started supporting tourism-related activities."

The plan is to replace the old blue taxis in the city with these new models, according to Daniel.

Three years ago, various blue taxi drivers were registered to buy the taxis from O'Clock General Motors by paying an initial 25,000 Br down payment. While sealing a deal, the company promised to deliver a car imported with a duty-free privilege.

A year later, O'Clock informed the buyers that it could not get the duty-free privilege and told them to organise themselves in associations. The company then started negotiating new terms which included an additional 181,000 Br down payment to receive a taxi worth 650,000 Br within half a year of the agreement signing. Most of the buyers paid the down payment upfront and have been waiting for the delivery of the cabs.

Last month, the company requested a further 40,000 Br to counterbalance the price spike that was created by inflation and foreign exchange variation over the two years. The cars, both manual and automatic, have seven seats and four-cylinder engines.

To make the down payment, some blue cab owners have sold their taxis. A father of three children, who had been generating his income from a blue cab, is one of them.

"My taxi was in good condition, so I sold it for a good value at the time," he said.

Until he receives the car at the promised time, he found a job as a driver for another person, and he is still an employee.

"I have been waiting over three years," he said. "Unfortunately, I didn't make the raffle for the 36 cars after waiting for so long, and we have made multiple attempts to reach out to them, but the responses include problems with either the bank or another excuse."

The cars, initially worth one million Birr, have gone down to 690,000 Br with the tax exemption and the lengthy process, which has been challenging for the company, according to Daniel.

The lack of foreign currency to import cars was the root cause of the delay, according to Shemsedin Abdurahman, CEO of  O'Clock General Motors.

"We've taken more time than we promised and expected, but we resolved all the issues," he said.

The main issue of foreign exchange has been resolved as the company has been granted a Franco-Valuta privilege, according to the CEO, a privilege to import goods using foreign exchange sourced from the company itself.

The business model is a diversified one, but going into a new business venture for those investing their money and time should be a well-thought-out process, according to Werotaw Bezabih, an expert in entrepreneurship.

"We need to understand the projects we are involved with to the last details," he said. "This includes setting specific deadlines and schedules and informing all stakeholders of the details."

Another essential prerequisite is having the right personnel heading up the projects, according to Werotaw.

"There are cases where some have the technical know-how but lack managerial skills," he said. "We need to invest in having the right qualified professionals lead the operations we are investing in."

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1055]

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