Walid Al Hilaly, Founder, Zoom Ride from St.Catharines, Niagara, ON spoke to Onside about how he dreamt of becoming a ride sharing company.
How did you think of such a business?
In 2012, I was studying Computer Science at Brock University and worked part-time as a pizza delivery person. On weekends, numerous students from Brock University and Thorold would ask for short rides. As other taxi services were expensive, I began driving students from Brock University to Downtown St. Catharines on weekends. Initially I dropped 10 people a week to their desired destinations while 100 on weekends. Most of my business grew by word of mouth of Brock University students. Soon within six months the word of ZOOM ZOOM (now ZOOM) spread to the locals of St. Catharines.
Which was your first car and how did the customers get in touch with you in 2012?
In 2012, I used to drive a 1995 Honda Accord. I used a Blackberry phone and I would give my BBM pin to people whoever wanted a ride. Customers would message me on the BBM service. My BBM contacts grew from 10 to 1,000 in six months of starting ZOOM in 2012.
So how does a customer orders ZOOM today?
Anyone can call the dispatcher at +1 833 863 ZOOM- (9666) and a ZOOM Ride will be with you in 10-15 minutes. Very soon we are launching our mobile application ZOOM Ride to make the ride sharing process easier and safer. In addition, a toll free number will also be in place for people who do not have the app.
How big is your team?
We are currently working with 100 drivers and 5 people in the advisory board with tremendous help from Spark Niagara. In addition to this, we also have a legal team that is persevering everyday to make the company stronger. I am very thankful to my family, drivers and dispatchers who have helped ZOOM Ride to stay afloat.
What has been your niche since 2012?
The fact that we have stayed reliable and affordable since our inception, we have managed to gain our customers trust overtime and I believe this is still our niche today.
What were the challenges at the beginning?
At the beginning, the business was difficult to manage as I was simultaneously wearing two hats, one of the driver and the other of the dispatcher. Beside me, I used to have two more drivers. I was juggling between studies and business at the same time. I had to make an important decision of whether to continue with my studies or concentrate on my business. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life when I chose business over studies. At that time besides my family no one believed in the business, as every sane person looks for safer options to work with consistent salaries. Now after 7 years, we have grown from 2 drivers to 40 drivers, there is no looking back.
What are the challenges today?
After 7 years of struggling, we have been provided with the Transportation Network Company (TNC) license in 2019. There are bigger players in the region however, currently our biggest challenge is to optimize our operations. We are growing at 20% per annum, in terms of passengers. Everyday, we learn something new be it terms of legal, government policies, operations management, marketing or human resources.
Any special message to our readers?
No other company covers the Niagara Region the way ZOOM Ride does. As a tourist, you would not want to miss out on the hidden gems within the region. As a student, you do not want to pay 40% extra on other ride sharing taxis companies. ZOOM Ride gets you closer to your destination safely and on time.
For more information on Walid Al Hilaly & ZOOM RIDE Niagara kindly email : [email protected]
This story is written and edited by Yugbodh, for The Onside Media, Canada, If you have stories to share kindly email: – [email protected]