[Startup Interview] Vimbai Malandu, Co-Founder, YuPlan Limited, Zimbabwe
YuPlan Limited is a Zimbabwe digital startup that allows customers to book a venue from anywhere in the world. The platform holds a selection of venues from office spaces, residential plots, gardens, school halls and sports fields among others. Vimbai Malandu, the Co-Founder explains.
Introduce your company
YuPlan Limited is an online marketplace that allows users to search, compare, book and pay for listed venues in their selected locations. These spaces range from traditional venues such as conference halls to unconventional spaces such as rooftops, museums, unutilised office spaces and private backyards to create a shared economy.
Who are the founders and what are their professional background?
YuPlan was founded by Chido Dzinotyiwei and Vimbai Malandu
Chido is a UCT BCom Economics Honours graduate. She is the co-founder of a youth based NGO called the Zimbabwe Economic Youth Foundation (ZEYF). Vimbai is a UCT BBusSci Finance graduate. She is an integral member of the Nekatambe trust whose mandate is to preserve the interests and heritage of the indigenous Nambya people of Zimbabwe. Both Chido and Vimbai have interests in entrepreneurship, economic and social development as well as technology.
How is YuPlan financed?
YuPlan has been financed through bootstrapping since its inception
What are – in your opinion – the dynamics of the industry you work in?
Our industry is exciting and dynamic. Clients are more inclined to choose experiences over mere goods and services that can be found in any setting. Venue owners and event suppliers are very accommodating and always work to provide the best specialised service to clients. This makes it a bit difficult to standardise processes but it allows us to leverage off stakeholder experience in order to innovate and offer fresh initiatives into the market
Why did you start your company? what opportunities did you see?
While planning a conference in Zimbabwe from South Africa, I had limited access to a variety of service providers, pictures & reviews and the continuous concern regarding whether the providers would deliver on the day of the event. With the need to make event planning easier, YuPlan was born.
What problem or problems does YuPlan solve?
We have built a web based platform that essentially solves problems on two ends- for the venue owner and the event planner. The product serves to address inadequate information and accessibility to venues and the tourism sector at large. It solves the pain of trying to book a venue while having imperfect information when making the choice. Venues that cater to different preferences, budgets and events are offered in order to make it easier for the customer to have one reliable space that offers venue-specific information.
Furthermore, we aim to assist unpopular venue owners to boost their visibility and profits. We also observed that with slow economic growth, high unemployment and a lot of unutilised space, individuals or organisations could hire out their extra space to generate additional income.
What gives YuPlan the competitive edge?
Our greatest USP, lies within the customer experience. We give the customer the liberty to search for exactly what they are looking for, and find the perfect venue that suits their requirements.
Who are your customers?
Our customers lie on the supply-side and the demand-side of our business. On the demand-side, we have profiled two customer groups. Individuals and organisations who would like to host an event as well as professional event planners.
What does YuPlan need in order to grow?
YuPlan needs greater investment in marketing and client relations. The product is functional and is well appreciated by the venue owners who are currently making us of the platform however we need to reach out to more potential customers on the demand-side in order to fully develop the platform to meet the needs of all its stakeholders
What is your growth strategy?
Our growth strategy is to learn as much as possible from the clients we aim to serve. We love the work that we do and prioritise the need to ensure that our services are appropriate and meet the needs of our users
In which countries and markets are you looking to establish your presence?
We are building YuPlan to service the region and later the rest of the continent
What are your plans for the coming 12 months?
Covid-19 has disrupted our initial plans however we have been exposed to opportunities we would not have otherwise known had it not been for the lockdown regulations and the shift in attitude to digital solutions. For now we are planning on a quarterly basis in order to keep our objectives in line with the realities on the ground. By the end of quarter three, we are aiming to have a 40% increase in venues listed on the platform.
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