Congestion and pollution have plagued African cities in a way that is harmful both to economics and the climate. An integrated and efficient transport system is required if the continent is to advance. In Nairobi, a survey showed that the average time spent searching for a parking spot was 32 minutes.
The streets of Dakar, Senegal are no exception. Parking is not only hard to find but the residents of the cosmopolitan city resort to parking on sidewalks which are risky. After moving to Senegal from the US, CEO Gabriela Marin had a lightbulb moment after her son almost got hit by a car parked on the sidewalk. The aerospace engineer decided to venture into the business of creating additional parking lots to alleviate sidewalks through licensed empty lots in Dakar.
“Running a physical parking lot was hard then we expected,” says Gabi. “We also quickly realized that there was no parking operator software geared for emerging markets like Senegal.”
The team started by creating an operation/tracking tool and with that, they were able to almost double their profits because they were able to understand how much traffic they were having in one parking lot. Today, Parcsmart is building software that not only helps drivers find and reserve a parking space using their smartphones before they reach their destination but also enables parking operators to manage their lots better.
Parcsmart software users are multi-faceted and it is not only for-profit operators who use the product. Private parking operators use the software to manage lots at their hotels and private communities. Street parkers in the informal markets use it to notify users of parking spaces available on their sidewalks and drivers also use the app to reserve parking before they arrive or once they are at their location.
Parcsmart has encountered a few challenges deploying its product and figuring out the context in which they operate. One key realization was that their users would not be comfortable going on the internet and navigating to a website and sometimes the user may not even be able to read.
“We got the user interface right after some trial and error and we created a feature where we can take photos of the tag of a vehicle and the algorithm will decrypt the tag through computer vision and record it automatically,” says CTO Lamine Ba. “We also reduced the number of buttons that you have to click through in order to record a vehicle.”
The vision is to democratize parking and have people using Parcsmart globally in cities that need it the most. Understanding the market and including multiple players in their value chain is serving Parcsmart well and it is obvious that their impact will be phenomenal.
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