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How a Lockdown Led to an Opportunity for a Big Thinker

By Desire Iradukunda

Some say that in the midst of disruption, there are business opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

This was the case for Darius Mbonigaba, a driver who in response to government mandated Covid-19 lockdowns became a CEO.

Darius' journey

In 2020, Darius observed a problem that most everyone in the world has experienced. He saw that many people were not able to go about their typical days because of Covid-19. Rather than just observe and complain about this reality, Darius decided to act. He started BIRAS, a delivery company that is providing shopping and delivery services to individuals throughout the Rwandan capital city of Kigali.

In 2015, Darius began to work as a motorbike driver for the on-demand ride hailing company SafeMotors. Last year, he had the opportunity to network with different people including the foreigners living in Rwanda. They shared with him different difficulties they were suffering due to the pandemic. He started to think about how he can help those foreigners in order to get their basic needs like shopping in the market and delivery services.

At the beginning of 2020, CanGo formely (SafeMotors) closed its doors. It was at this point that Darius saw an opportunity to support the foreigners who had previously shared their concerns with him. He identified a market opportunity and started a company to help foreigners get their basic needs using WhatsApp. Hence the delivery company BIRASHOBOKA Delivery was born.

On March 15, 2020, the government announced a total lockdown in Rwanda due to the increasing number of Covid-19 positive tests. When the government introduced the lockdown, Darius was alone dealing with the company's operations. It was too much work for one person, so Darius teamed up with his friend and former CanGo colleagues Rubayiza Emmanuel. They changed BIRASHOBOKA’s name to BIRAS and they started a delivery company that is helping foreigners and Rwandans in order to shop in different stores and malls, as well as supermarkets, and get their items delivered to their doors. Darius becomes CEO and Emmanuel COO.

“During the lockdown, we had many clients because people were not able to move, therefore, they were obliged to use a reliable company that can help them to get essentials and other basic needs like food, drink and medication to their homes,” he said. “That is when BIRAS came up with the solutions to those problems people were facing. Our clients place their order via our WhatsApp number, then we link them to our riders who help them get all items they need.”

Motivations and impact

Darius was motivated by the foreigners who come to visit or live in Rwanda. Those foreigners are facing language barriers. In addition, they don’t know where they can get what they need.

“Since I was in high school, I have been thinking about the foreigners living in Rwanda,” Darius said. “They face language barriers, among other challenges, so I started to think about how I can create something that can help them to get what they need without facing language barriers.”

The company has clearly been a success. Biras has all positive 5-star Google reviews. Here is what one customer said: “I'm really impressed with the services you guys provide. Fast and reliable, you moto guys are so professional.”

Other metrics demonstrating success are that now BIRAS is servicing 50 orders per day. It has 15 drivers including 5 who are working full time and another 11 who are part-time. In addition BIRAS has different business accounts. Since 2020, BIRAS has successfully delivered 10,000 orders.

Advice for aspiring innovators and my takeaways

Darius offered lots of useful advice about how students can be innovative.

“In order to be innovative, you have to find the solution facing people. You have also to think critically and come up with a solution that is new, workable and sustainable,” Darius said.

He also stresses the importance of leveraging technology. In addition to a social media presence to market its services, Biras uses WhatsApp in their daily communication with customers. There are many benefits in running a successful business – not all of which are financial.

“Not only do you earn money, but you also gain a good reputation and respect,” he said.

I plan to action the advice from Darius by identifying problems in my community and coming up with solutions that will help its members. In particular, I have dream of becoming a business owner offering healthcare services.

In a conclusion, even though Covid-19 brought many challenges, it was also a great opportunity for quick thinkers who could take business decisions that provided solutions to problems. In the process of seizing such business opportunities, they are helping community members to handle global challenges like a lockdown.

In conclusion, Darius shared this motivational phrase: “I learned that we have to see ‘problems’ as opportunities, not as ‘problems’.”

For more information about Biras, you can visit their website www. biras. rw and connect with the company on social media: Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram.

Desire Iradukunda is a student at Global Education Movement (GEM) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare management with a concentration in global perspectives. Desire is passionate about healthcare, media and communication. Connect on LinkedIn or reach out via WhatsApp at 0785525716.

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