Gokada has endured a very challenging 2020, fighting its way to stability despite suffering major setbacks.

The first major blow was the bike hailing ban that crippled the bike hailing sector of Lagos, Gokada’s only market. The company made a hard pivot quickly to stay alive while shedding 80% of its workforce. That pivot became stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic which was the second crisis Gokada endured. Although pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures have negatively affected the Nigerian economy, they did increase the importance of the digital economy, forcing more businesses to switch to e-commerce and outsource deliveries to logistics companies including Gokada.

The third major blow for Gokada was the gruesome murder of its founder and CEO, Fahim Saleh. The 33-year-old entrepreneur was found dismembered in his New York apartment in a July incident that could have crippled the company. 

Saleh’s 21-year-old assistant, Tyrese Haspil was arrested and charged with his murder. Evidence including surveillance cameras captures Haspil buying a saw and cleaning supplies which were used to dismember Saleh and clean up the crime scene.

The murder devasted the company, Nikhil Goel, Gokada’s COO and President told TechCabal.

“He was a good human, Fahim was a very good human being and we just want justice to be served as soon as possible.”

Goel is currently leading the company until a new CEO is appointed.

“At this point, every single person in the company is connected to the company, to make sure that we are able to achieve what he started.”

Goel was friends with Saleh even before joining the company. “For me, he was like a brother [and] we have spent time on the work and off the work,” he told TechCabal. In 2019, the pair had drinks in Nairobi and Saleh had asked Goel to join Gokada to lead the company’s logistics operations.

Goel who has previously worked in the logistics industry visited Lagos in 2019 and worked at the company for a month. He became a full-time staff member by January 2020 as Vice President of Rides and later became Chief Operating Officer (COO) in May.

When he joined, Goel was supposed to develop the company’s logistics footprint gradually but that plan was accelerated after the Lagos passenger motorcycle ban was implemented on February 1.

“[The pandemic] just gave us the space to think about what to do next,” Goel told TechCabal. “One of the things the government allowed was essential services. At that time we just stopped doing other things and started doing essential deliveries for a couple of our partners, delivering medicines, food and groceries.”

In February, Gokada struck partnerships with different partners to fulfil deliveries, including Jumia Food and Lifestores, the pharmacy chain.

Although Gokada lost a few partners, Goel explained the number of partners have increased. There are close to a “thousand partners” placing deliveries on the platform and another group of customers making one-off delivery requests. “Starting from doing like 50-100 a week in February, we’re doing 1000 of deliveries every single day in Lagos,” he explained.

In May  late Saleh talked to TechCabal about his vision in the logistics industry. “I don’t think anybody has cracked the code on how to do it well yet,” he told me.

He shared that he plans to develop delivery central points across Lagos and batch items for onward delivery to different locations. “This is how you reduce prices by half,” Saleh explained, “and in the next couple of months, you should see our prices go down.”

Since his death four months ago, Gokada’s current leadership has tried to steady the ship and keep this dream alive.

“Fahim had those visions, he understood what can be done and what needs to be done for the company,” Goel told me.

“[For a long time,] people asked what would happen to Gokada after the ride-hailing ban happened, but we are still here. That shows the way he built up the company. We still try to maintain the things Fahim believed in to keep the company going.”

In the next few months, Gokada is planning to develop new products: Gokada Business and GShop.

As more companies request for multiple deliveries on two-wheelers, operators on either side will need more efficient ways to handle orders. A few players have requested for API access to logistics services so delivery requests can be automated and properly logged for enterprise customers.

Goel says Gokada Business will handle these needs.

“Gokada Business is going to be a more advanced version of what Gokada on the app currently offers [and will] be driven towards the businesses,” he said. “We have API integration so businesses can integrate their system into our system. We have multiple users that a business can give access to multiple users to do or manage deliveries within an organisation.”

GShop is another product Gokada is currently working on. It is the company’s food delivery platform and could rival OyaNow and Jumia Food. Like these other platforms, GShop will allow customers to place their orders directly while Gokada handles the logistics process.

“I think there are enough food vendors in Lagos to serve the whole of Lagos,” Goel said, “sothe question becomes, ‘how do we take their food to every single Lagosian.?’”

While these new platforms are being developed, Gokada is in no hurry to appoint new leadership.

“As things move on we will be able to be more clear,” Goel said. “We don’t want to make sharp decisions just for the sake of doing things, we want to make a proper decision on how we go about things.”

Abubakar Idris Author

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