Movetech brings new efficiencies to furniture removals

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Tiang Moabelo, founder of LoadALot.
Tiang Moabelo, founder of LoadALot.

LoadALot uses an ecosystem model, digitech and artificial intelligence to streamline the furniture removal process.

After becoming aware of fellow University of Cape Town students’ struggles to move their goods, Tiang Moabelo launched LoadALot in February 2016 – and since then his company has grown to offer a package of moving solutions, which even include non-students, in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Moabelo started the company with absolutely nothing but sheer determination and a hunger to be a successful entrepreneur.

“I found a willing partner by hailing down random bakkies on Main Road, Rondebosch. We negotiated a price, after which I added 30% commission when fixing prices with students, who either responded to my adverts on Facebook or word-of-mouth referrals,” Moabelo says.

But then one day early on in the venture, the driver failed to arrive for a 9am appointment. “He did not inform me of what was happening, but switched off his phone, leaving me stranded with no explanation.”

So Moabelo started renting bakkies to move some of the furniture himself. As the business grew, he employed students part-time to help with the admin, and built up a database of trucks and drivers he would hire to transport clients’ belongings. The drivers had to bring their own teams to help them with the moves.

“We used something similar to the Uber model, but without the app and real-time tracking,” Moabelo says.

But the model left him with little control over the quality of the service offered and vulnerable when things were broken or damaged. He also did not want to invest in a business similar to the Uber model, as he realised from experience that it would be too easy for Uber to expand into this space.

“During my third year at university in 2014, I had started a tuck-shop delivery service which charged 20% for anything above R10. I was thinking of expanding the service to fast-food deliveries, but the idea was thwarted when McDonald’s got their own scooters.”

Market edge

With the LoadALot project, Moabelo started working on an ecosystem of key partners to make moving more seamless. He established a partnership with Spartan Truck Hire, which gave him access to a fleet of over a 1 000 well-maintained trucks, ranging from one tonne to 32 tonnes. The trucks are fitted with technology that monitor’s the driver’s behaviour and digitises fleet management for route optimisation and to ensure the safety and security of customers’ assets.

Moabelo hopes to eventually launch real-time tracking so that customers can check on the progress of their deliveries.

Partnerships with storage, packing and cleaning companies have enabled LoadALot to add more value to their moving services.

However, the real game changers in 2019 when Moabelo partnered with Africa Business Integration (ABI) to develop Africa’s first artificial intelligence model to use photos to autonomously classify furniture items that have to be moved.

The web-based app streamlines the service application process by allowing users to merely upload photos of the items that need to be moved, instead of having to list them on a form.

The photos also ease item identification for movers and packers.

In addition, the technology brings transparency to the system by highlighting periodic price fluctuations to allow users to make cost-effective decisions. It also allows clients to get quotes in real-time.

Plans for the future

The company has gone from only focusing on students to now having a strong following especially among young professionals. “Our technology makes us appealing to millennials and Generation Z, as these groups hate filling out forms and they don’t like to wait,” Moabelo says.

Not being an essential service, the company has been hard hit by the level 5 restrictions on movement during the Covid-19 lockdown. Moabelo, however, used this time to do market research, test prototypes and diversify into food deliveries to boost cash flow.

“We are in the process of adding technology to allow user-experience ratings.”

Moabelo would love for LoadALot to expand into the rest of South Africa and other African countries over the next few years, but this will depend heavily on access to funding.

“So far, the company has been primarily bootstrapped, with two partners buying into the company over time. I tried to raise crowdfunding to buy a bakkie at one stage, but it was a complete failure. We are now preparing for our seed-funding series,” he says.

Another major challenge is to collect enough data to help the company make informed expansion decisions.

“The biggest challenge with expansions into Africa is the lack of data, which means that you have to collect the data yourself or you will be moving blindly into a market you do not know.”
Tiang Moabelo, founder of LoadALot

His vision for LoadALot is not to become the biggest moving company in Africa, but the biggest technology-based moving company to come out of the continent, which is a whole new industry for the continent. To do this, Moabelo wants to partner with more businesses, with the ultimate goal of using technology to foster economic growth and create more jobs.

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This article originally appeared in the 4 March edition of finweek. You can buy and download the magazine here.

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