The digital taxi business has become more attractive with new and agile players entering the market, revolutionizing the transportation industry in the country. One of the key players which was recently established is Dada Ride, a women friendly application that was launched mid 2020 as Covid-19 pandemic became more alarming, necessitating social distancing among other protocols and guidelines. Biashara Leo’s PK Wanjiru had a one on one interview with 28 year old Levina Ochola, the firm’s CEO. Excerpts:
BL: Give us a brief history of your career journey?
Ochola: I am a public relations and marketing graduate from Daystar University. As we all know, attaining a degree doesn’t always guarantee you a job in the labour market. My journey started in 2014 as a retail agent and customer service executive. What this basically means is that the role you play should directly translate to sales as well as the overall satisfaction of the clients you are serving. I enjoyed every bit of it but later on an opportunity in the logistics field presented itself. Although a new field to me, I was willing to pick it up and learn every aspect of it. As a popular adage goes, life is a road with so many signs. I was sure that the new venture would lead me somewhere. Fast-forward and I can say that I was made for logistics because it is from there that I went ahead to be the current CEO of Dada Ride. It is a ride hailing company offering transportation services to corporates and people living within Nairobi. The product is made to offer excellent transport services and a better experience to the special groups, women and children who are our main target. We also have a product for corporates which lessens the burden of their employees’ daily commute to work.
BL: Highlight your role as the CEO of Dadaride
Ochola: My role as the CEO of Dada Ride is to ensure that the company offers better transportation experience to its client. It’s also my duty to explore other great and untapped markets to diversify and extend our services. It is my responsibility to create a sustainable company that will be able to generate more job opportunities, better wages for our stakeholders (the drivers) and to empower more women to get into the ride hailing gig as it is a male dominated industry. I also explore great partnership opportunities that we can tap into as that is the sure way to go ahead. At the same time, it’s also my job to position the company into the market as well as create a fair market share.
BL: How do you ensure that your staff members work in harmony?
Ochola: I believe in teamwork, open communication, employee motivation, information sharing just to mention a few. Employees thrive where they are celebrated and at Dada Ride, we are all one big family, I strongly believe in open door policy and less bureaucracy. We foster a culture where we can synergize, merge our diverse skills, personalities and work greatly together without shoving each other. Deadlines have to be strictly met, but all this is communicated beforehand to avoid any conflict.
BL: Which beneficial leadership lessons can you pick from this journey?
Ochola: I have learnt to be resilient, tenacious and always keep the faith. Above all, I take every step as a lesson and above all trust the process. Networking and getting honest feedback from our networks is very important to us because it’s what pushes us through our various projects and the activities that we do. I have also learnt how to communicate effectively to my team by being present whenever they need me in addition to being very tactical and purposeful.
BL: In your view, why should more women in Kenya be supported to attain leadership positions in both the business and corporate world?
Ochola: Women are a very important aspect of leadership; they are reliable pillars who give their best in everything they do. If you educate a woman you educate a nation. Women are givers of life, nurturers, good at multi-tasking, great communicators as well as brilliant mentors.
Supporting women in the business and in the corporate world should be a top priority because people shouldn’t be judged by their gender but by their ability and potential to deliver. Kenya is a growing economy with a robust trade and economic development track record. Some of the industries that women are at the helm are recording exemplary performance. With more support from the government and their male counterparts, the success will even be greater.
BL: In your view, are there challenges that are unique to women in business and leadership positions?
Ochola: To start with, women lack proper mentorship and support from their colleagues. They are also discriminated or undermined by their male counterparts at the workplace. Other challenges include : lack of proper access to funding opportunities to scale up their business, balancing between crazy or inflexible work shifts, family, school just to mention a few, unfavourable business environment since there are certain industries that are still heavily dominated by men, being risk averse and finally, short-changing and selling themselves short.
BL: How can the challenges above be addressed?
Ochola: For the case of mentorship and peer to peer connection, there are an increasing number of women empowerment programmes and organizations that they can sign up to and get the support needed. For example, Akili Dada, AMWIK, Akirachix and YEPI. Truly without mentors, our careers or leadership will definitely stagnate at some point.
For funding opportunities, women can identify sources that target women-led fundraising initiatives. There are special grants, funds, tender opportunities for women and special groups.
Women should always remain confidence and a step ahead, by working on themselves personally and professionally. This will boost their confidence to take up the roles that were once considered to be for men. STEM has seen a rise of women in leadership positions and creating business opportunities in those markets as well.
For work-life balance, this is a key component for every individual. As women, we can never get it completely right, but we can try to set for ourselves intentional and achievable goals to that end.
BL: What advice would you give to women who are aspiring to attain leadership positions both in the business and corporate world?
Ochola: Learning never ends. Let’s be willing to start from the bottom rising up. The most important thing is to start and avoid procrastination. There will never be a right time, the time is now.
Consistency is critical in achieving all the goals we aspire for and as Eliud Kipchoge puts it “No human is limited”. Identify what you are good and passionate about and work on it, that business idea you have fuel it, refine it, that dream of breaking the glass ceiling someday define it and find a mentor. If you can share your dream, you never know who is listening or watching. But above all, always work on your personal and professional development, soft skills and business etiquette. They go hand in hand and that is what will set you apart from the rest.
BL: Kindly share with us some of your achievements so far?
Ochola: I have taken part in various leadership development programmes. I am a Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI RLC EA) fellow, Mogwli Imarisha Programme member and lastly, Jijali Learning Alumna.
BL: What is your parting shot?
Ochola: Women should take up more corporate and business leadership positions, the world is ready for us. To all the ladies out there, let us not be afraid to venture into the male dominated industries. Let us take space in the ride hailing field too and let’s create a better and gainful employment for us, Dada Ride is ready to have you on our platform. Feel free to reach out to us.
Levina Ochola at a glance
She begins each day with a prayer and listening to podcasts. Then she gets to go to the office and reviews the previous day’s performance. Thereafter, she holds a meeting with her team.
Ochola then responds to the pending mails at the same time prepares for meetings with her clients.
However, according to her, each day is different depending with the task ahead.
Her Favourite book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey. By the same token, her favourite quote is: “I’m thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon my strength” Alexandra Elle.
• Dream car: Ford Ranger Wildtrak or Range Rover HSE
• Favourite food: Chinese Stir fried rice and chicken in cashew nut.
• Hobbies: planning and executing events, reading, listening to music and travelling.