Transport entrepreneur’s journey to success

Transport entrepreneur Themba Nyamende. Photo: Supplied

Getting into the transport industry is not as easy as buying a car. Just ask Themba Nyamende. He has faced many ups and downs and detours over the past decade, but is finally on the road to building his empire.

Nyamende thought he had hit the jackpot after launching a taxi service between South Africa and Malawi in 2008. But his plans were derailed about three years later after the Malawi government banned single-diff vehicles over long distances.

“That dealt us a heavy blow, mainly because I couldn’t afford to buy a bus,” Nyamende said.

Like any true entrepreneur, the former labour inspector and human resources boss used every opportunity to his advantage.

“I joined a Johannesburg-based interprovincial taxi association. I was given the role of secretary and admin officer. There I learnt a lot in the management of public transport,” the 47-year-old said.

“I was to become a chief negotiator and a mediator during conflicts between the taxi and bus industry involving Autopax and other bus operators.”

That experience sparked Nyamende’s interest in the bus industry and he started doing his homework.

In 2013 he applied for his cross-border licence to operate a bus service and was turned down. His second attempt was successful, but then came his next challenge. He still had to buy the buses to realise his vision.

It took about four years before he reached that goal. Finally last year he was able to secure a deal with a major industry player that helped him buy 17 buses.

He stresses that it was far from easy. Issues to contend with include financing, competition from dominant industry players and trying to fend off illegal operators who undercut legitimate businesses.

But, if you can make it in the taxi industry, you can make it anywhere.

“We are in the process of finalising full-time employment of 37 employees in various positions and are liaising with the Department of Labour and SARS in order to ensure all is on board,” Nyamande said. “We definitely intend growing and becoming a formidable force and relevant in the industry.”

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