Mpumalanga entrepreneur uses his NSFAS meal allowance to create an e-hailing app

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Owen Lekala gave up his meals and other necessities to fund his dreams
Owen Lekala gave up his meals and other necessities to fund his dreams

It took him about seven months of stretching his meal allowance to fulfil his dream.

He wanted to create an ehailing app that solved all the problems experienced by apps that are already on the market. 

It wasn’t a walk in a park, he admits, but now he is his own boss and has employees, at just 21 years old.

Owen Lekala from Ogies in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga tells Drum he's always wanted to develop that one thing that will make life easier for many people through technology.

At the same time, he also wanted something that will make him financially stable in the long run.

“So, I started doing research on careers before enrolling for Information Technology at the Tshwane University of Technology,” he tells Drum.

“From a young age I’ve always wanted to be an IT technician but when I went to high school, I got to learn about software development through the subject Computer Applied Technology and we were doing software.”

He enjoyed the subject so much that he started doing research on what else the career path can offer.

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“I discovered that it had a lot of opportunities after my research, and that I am able to make a little bit of money through developing websites, creating software and that I can start a company with that knowledge.”

His research led to the creation of his e-hailing app, Hike where users request rides. What's the difference between his app and the ones already available? He says he looked at affordability for both the drivers and passengers.

“I saw the gaps in our country and that included the fact that there is no e-hailing mobile app that is affordable for both drivers and passengers and that offers the best safety features like the current available e-hailing services.

“So, from that moment I just thought that let me take time to learn how to develop an app because at varsity they just teach us the basics so I did my own research and put more work on how to code an actual app and I started building Hike,” Owen tells Drum.

Owen Lekala
Hike app icon

As a beneficiary of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, Owen receives R1500 as his meal allowance. He decided to take a portion from his allowance to fulfil his dream.

“I took R1000 from that money into my savings account and invested some of it at some point which took me seven months. I subscribed to short courses and used YouTube as a go-to app for more information.”

And just like that he got capital for his new venture, and tells us about how he came up with the name.

“When you want to catch a lift where I come from we say ‘wa Hiker’ so it came to my mind that how about I find a name that is similar to taking a lift and one that is relatable to people, so I called it Hike because people have been using the word hike when taking a lift.”

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Owen says what makes his app standout from the rest of the competition, is the fact that it doesn’t cost a lot. “Its very affordable and offers the best safety features.”

He says the app is currently active around Gauteng and will branch out to other provinces after reaching the targeted number of drivers in the province.

“I am excited about the point that I have reached, I had moments where I thought of giving up because it was so time consuming but my sister encouraged me and helped me keep my head high, now Hike has got many downloads from both android and IOS devices, we have our office in Midrand and a team, making it a big deal.”

Owen Lekala
Owen Lekala

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