The Former Busboy Who Raised USD 200 K In 30 Seconds Is Changing The Face Of Transport In Morocco
The Kingdom of Morocco is quite the destination for both work and tourism – you could think of it as a healthy mix of business and pleasure.
By moving from the diplomatic surroundings in the country’s capital, Rabat, to the frenetic scene in its commercial hub, Casablanca, and perhaps more ornate sites in the mould of the exquisite Majorelle Garden and the famous Bahia Palace, one is able to wholly appreciate the homogenous blend of calm and razzmatazz.
Well, if you ever visit the North African nation – whether for purposes of business or tourism – chances are that you will need to get yourself from Location-X to Location-Y at some point.
And to do that, you’ll probably need to use a bus service powered by Lagare.ma; a technology platform that makes it easy to search, compare, and book bus tickets from any location in Morocco.
Of course, it’s clear what you’re thinking; How is any of that a biggie? Why bring it up? Well, if you hold your horses for a bit and keep up with the narrative, I bet the idea will sink in pretty soon.
Does the name Issam Darui ring a bell? If it doesn’t, here’s something spectacular to remember it by.
Sometime in April 2018, this 25-year-old Moroccan entrepreneur arrived at Mauritius and this was no vacation. His itinerary placed him at a certain location on a certain day where he was to meet with a number of big shots who had no qualms flexing their financial muscles in support of the right cause.
On the said day, the young lad arrived at the venue for the meeting and found his way into a quiet inner chamber where a stern-looking, no-nonsense panel-of-investors were already seated.
The investors were listening to pitches from enterprises that have innovation and tech at their core and for as long as the Moroccan had been in the room, he could deduce from their countenance and body language that they had been anything but impressed so far.
Soon it was his turn to take the stage and as expected, the jitters came. But he held his nerve, strutted to the podium, and within the next 30 seconds, he had delivered what could be considered the pitch of his life. Yes, it took him all of thirty seconds to win over the panel’s approval and take home USD 217 K of investor money. Astonishing!
And that’s the Issam Darui way. Aged 24, he’s the brain behind the earlier-mentioned Lagare.ma; a company he founded when he was only 19. But it started long before that. His story goes back to much earlier times to his early teens when he was just a busboy (better known as ‘Conductor’ or ‘Grissoun’ in some circles).
Darui was born into a family of a long line of drivers and public transport workers, and while growing up, his childhood desire was to be handed the keys to one of those coaches – so he could drive people around like his elder brother who drove professionally.
At 13, while most kids his age would be happy to sit at home and while away time as they await the day’s meal, he would spend most of his holidays inside public vehicles working as a busboy.
It was not about the money for him – it was more about the thrill, adventure, and passion. And throughout his teen years, he found himself either consciously or unconsciously seeking out ways to improve the commuter experience. Those thoughts were driven by his experience as a busboy.
Darui was to discover the intersection between the transport sector and ICT in his late teens and he worked feverishly towards leveraging technology for the improvement of Morocco’s bus transport segment.
It didn’t take long before he came upon the ideal solution which ultimately birthed Lagare.ma. And since coming into existence in 2014, the platform has only grown in leaps and bounds.
Much of the success Lagare.ma has so far enjoyed is hinged on its simplicity. Darui’s platform serves up quite an easy means through which inter-city bus tickets to various destinations can be found, compared, and booked via a website or app.
Lagare.ma makes it possible for commuters to find schedules, as well as pick-up and drop-off locations. Long queues of passengers are a common feature of many bus stations in Morocco, but with the platform facilitating the process, those queues are getting a lot shorter.
It eliminates any need to go to a bus station, as bus tickets can be booked from just about anywhere and the commuter need only show up at designated pick-up/drop-off points at the scheduled time.
Since launching operations, it’s been a fairytale run for the company. Lagare.ma claims to currently facilitate over 10,000 departures to more than 150 destinations across Morocco daily. Darui’s startup has gone international too as it also runs trips to seven countries in Europe.
Lagare.ma has struck partnerships with over 60 transportation companies whose vehicles run in all directions to all those destinations. With a staff of five employees, the platform’s services are available in 10 languages and up to 25 currencies are accepted in its payment options.
Within the first year of its launch, Lagare.ma was named Best Business Startup at the Startup Oriental competition in 2014 and that was the omen for things to come. The floodgates have since been ripped off its hinges and there have been many more awards and media features.
Issam Darui made the list of twelve young and promising African entrepreneurs who were recognized in the 2016 edition of the Anzisha Prize. He earned a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30, while also clinching the “Young Outstanding African Entrepreneur of the Year” crown at the African Awards Network event of 2017. And that’s just to mention a few.
The Moroccan entrepreneur, who also holds a degree in Economics, is now looking to explore countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Cameroon, and other places where the technology could help improve transportation. And with the financial backing he secured last year on the heels of thirty magical seconds, he seems to be on a strong footing.