Someone to turn to in case of an accident
A TRAFFIC accident is one of the most inconveniencing incidents in life, and in circumstances like this we all need rescue.
BY his own account, it might seem like Tawanda Sungai’s entry into the roadside recovery business was by chance.
But a genial personality and distinctive traits of empath suggest a natural connection between the Harare-based entrepreneur and his enterprise.
Road Angels, established more than a decade ago, needed to do something distinctively different for it to make an impact in the industry. Today, because of Sungai’s youth exuberance and innovative skills, Road Angles is now Zimbabwe’s most reliable recovery company, with branches across the country’s major towns.
It helps that the company’s 64 employees, spread across the country, have bought into the vision of the founding Managing Director.
“Look, we are very young and energetic,” Sungai tells DRIVEtorque. “We allow people to be independent, as long as they deliver. We want people to enjoy being here, because our work can be so stressful at times. We are a super-positive team. It goes with our corporate colours: the colour of energy.”
Two decades ago, 44-year-old Sungai would have imagined himself today sitting in some luxurious air-conditioned office of a big financial firm, certainly not in some small building surrounded by a car scrape-yard.
Born in Bulawayo and raised in Gweru, Sungai graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Zimbabwe in 1999.
Sungai quips he could well have been a headmaster by now, because in the seven months he spent without a job upon graduation, he had turned to temporary teaching to make ends meet.
He remembers the particular day, 16 August 1999, when Zimbabwe’s premier beverage manufacturer, Delta, offered him a lifechanging opportunity on its sought-after “graduate trainee programme”, where young graduates worked and got paid while on placement.
A turning point in Sungai’s life was getting a job with Nissan Clover Leaf Motors, where he rose in a short period of time to become Marketing Manager.
Sungai’s departure from Nissan in 2005 coincided with a very difficult period in Zimbabwe’s history, with the country’s economy taking a deep plunge. He had to spend his time peddling in the streets to support his young family.
Ever the bookworm, Sungai spent this time studying for a Masters in Leadership and Change, a UZ-based programme offered by the University of Leeds.
It was also around the same time that the concept of Road Angles was born.
Foresight and sacrifice saw the hugely ambitious young man sell personal assets to buy his first tow truck to give his fledgling business a kick-start.
Today, Road Angels stands at 24 tow trucks at branches in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Beit Bridge and Chiredzi.
Starting a new business is never an easy task.
Road Angels faced all the trials and tribulations of a new venture, but persisted to a point of hiring some of the finest personnel the country has to offer, and grew.
Innovation was behind this rise. For a business that entails getting hands dirty, literally so, some kind of aggression is required to get ahead of competition.
Even what appears like small things, like acquiring uniform contact numbers from telephone service providers, were addressed.
“This is what saved us,” says Sungai. “You need easy numbers for this kind of business. We discovered that a lot of people do not know breakdown numbers.”
No one ever expects to be in an accident, but there is always a chance that it could happen.
A lot of drivers therefore find themselves wanting in the eventuality of this mishap. Road Angels’ target is to provide cover for all at low cost.
“Roadside assistance is very expensive,” Sungai says. “Our plan is to make it affordable for everyone. Any guy under a car must be able to afford. So we a drawing up a plan for a membership scheme where you pay a dollar per month. But it’s based on volume. We are looking at a volume of at least 1 500.”
Services offered include jump-start, opening vehicles in cases of key loss, amongst other roadside problems.
In life, we all need someone to look up to, and Sungai has successful people in executive management and entrepreneurship who holds him to a higher standard.
He singles out men like his former boss Stanford Sibanda – the Clover Leaf CEO – and funeral services guru Phil Mataranyika, as some of his role models.
You also need to be an optimist to start from scratch, and transform it into a market leader in a small but very competitive industry. Sungai is one such visionary. He declares a bright future, saying: “the country is definitely on the right path.”
Tungai has come a very long way, which makes his advice to up-starters more relevant.
“In business there is no short-cuts to longevity,” he says. “You need perseverance and belief in yourself. You need a positive mind. The mind is very powerful. With the right mind, every situation can be overturned.”
Away from work, Sungai enjoys a bit of fun on the road, which fits well with his choice of car.
“I’m a fan of the G-wagon, the G-63,” says Sungai. “I’m an outdoor guy, so at times I like to venture into the bush.”