It all started with two partners offering a vehicle for Uber services. Later, they realised they didn't want to depend on platforms and created their own company, called Avenidas, established in 2016.
This company proposes to offer dynamic and sustainable mobility solutions, operating in various sectors with four brands (Ride, Tour, Send, and Grow), providing passenger transport, deliveries, tourism, and brand activation services.
Now with three partners, Manuel Salema Reis, Bento Viegas Louro, and Bernardo Ribeiro da Cunha, the company aims to achieve a turnover of ten million euros, as mentioned by Manuel Salema Reis in an interview with JE.
Avenidas operates in four different areas: mobility (Ride), tourism (Tour), distribution, and logistics (Send). How do they operate in each of these sectors?
Our first sector was mobility. We started in 2016 with a car and in the private hire transport sector. We experienced relatively rapid growth until 2019 when we realised we didn't want to depend on platforms. This led us to seek our products and services to allocate resources such as passenger vehicles and drivers. That's how, in addition to private transportation services (Ride), especially private school transportation services, we also created our tourism sector (Tour). We adapted some of our drivers with linguistic and cultural skills to act as both drivers and guides, offering personalised routes, especially to Sintra and airport transfers. So, we ended up with two business areas that somehow use the same resources.
The tours cover the entire country with Lisbon as the starting point. For example, we have many tourists who spend a week in Lisbon but purchase a tour to Porto, leaving early in the morning, visiting Porto in five to six hours, and then returning. It's an intense tour, but it happens a lot because Porto is a beautiful city, and people often want to explore everything. However, we also conduct tours in Sintra, which is our bestseller.
With the pandemic, these services declined significantly. Being adaptable and capable of responding to challenges, we realised we needed to do something with our resources. We shifted from transporting people to transporting goods. We started transporting food to restaurants and fresh produce, eventually expanding to deliveries. As the transition to the post-pandemic era occurred, people started moving again. Therefore, we didn't want to allocate our passenger vehicles to these new services. That's when we began investing in a fleet of motorcycles and also in a fleet of light and commercial vehicles to meet the demand we had garnered in these business areas. This gave rise to a new category called Avenidas Send, with two subcategories: one focused on meal deliveries for restaurants, partnering directly with restaurants or catering brands, and the other partnering with major entities that aggregate e-commerce deliveries. This is the Send category.
The Growth Operations service (Grow) is the newest brand. How was it created?
Grow was an opportunity that arose from an American startup, Worldcoin, entering Portugal last year. They have a concept designed to respond to the recent growth in artificial intelligence, creating a way to ensure people can be identified as a human without having to provide personal data. They authenticate individuals as humans through a biometric scan. Avenidas is involved in expanding the user base for this company, and this expansion needs to be done in person. We handle everything related to recruitment, training, scheduling, and opening new locations. This is how Avenidas Grow was born. Currently, we have this project, an activation brand project with about 40 sales promoters in 10 locations across Portugal. Their role is to recruit users for the application, and we want this to be the first of many opportunities.
This sector experienced significant growth, and we ended up standing out as a partner to Worldcoin, more than just an operational partner. We ended up assisting them in exploring the best way to conduct this business, serving as consultants, with some of the procedures and measures experimented with and launched by us before being expanded by the partner.
How do you reach customers?
We have to divide it into two channels: one is B2B, where we have larger partnerships, such as in tourism, where we partner with Airbnb, Trip Advisor, and Get Your Guide. Customers use these platforms to book the experiences available. Then we have a more B2C side, where customers come directly to us, especially for Ride services. They can open an account with us and schedule passenger transport services, a niche where we see growth due to decreasing quality on platforms like Uber and Bolt. We notice an increasing number of people seeking our services directly, whether it's for taking their children to school or other passenger transport needs. Being a higher-quality service, the price is also higher.
In which cities are you present?
We are in Lisbon and Porto. Our services operate in these two cities.
In Porto, we are still in an early stage of expansion, and it is one of our main objectives for 2024 to grow our operation in all four aspects. Currently, the largest operation in Porto is our partnership with Worldcoin, but we are just starting with the others, and in 2024, we aim to expand further. We also plan to expand to other larger cities, such as Braga, Coimbra, Leiria, and Aveiro.
Do you see the Ride area as an opportunity to deliver a premium and differentiated service?
There's a first point: our fleet is of higher quality. Especially since we started electrifying the fleet, electric cars are generally more robust, from a higher range and more expensive compared to others seen on electronic platforms. Another key point is our human resources, our drivers, who go through a training and monitoring process that is certainly superior to the general cases of other fleet partners with Uber and Bolt. As a customer, I can see the difference when I call cars on the platform in terms of quality. We work on presentation, defensive driving, and customer communication, which is very important.
Is it a service that reaches many people?
In the case of Ride, it has been a service that we have developed through word of mouth. Perhaps we haven't had the opportunity at the right moment to develop it commercially and invest in it. One of our objectives with the ongoing rebranding, where we are giving each of the four brands a face, is to decide that this is the right time to try to reach more people with each brand, especially in the B2C segment.
You expect to end the year 2023 with a turnover between five million and six million. In which areas do you anticipate growth?
Yes, but it's important to highlight a few things. One of them started only last year, so if we look at the numbers in percentage terms, we'll see that it's one of the areas that has grown the most. Then, when we look at the Ride, it's a business area whose expansion requires much more intensive capital because to expand this business area, we have to acquire vehicles. This is perhaps where we are also investing more regularly year after year because it is our core business. It's more guaranteed for us to find clients because we allocate these vehicles to Uber and Bolt, and we don't have to worry as much about the commercial aspect as in other areas. This year, we invested about one and a half million in vehicles for our fleet; it's all-electric now, 70% electric, covering all our areas.
For the next year, we want to maintain the same level of investment, around one and a half to two million euros in the fleet. Besides increasing our share of the electric fleet, we also want to start operating in the replacement of our older, combustion fleet with electric vehicles. We haven't emphasised this progress more because there have still been some operational limitations for a company like ours that provides services nationwide, especially in tourism.
What is the forecast for 2024?
We want to continue investing in what is Avenida Ride and Tour, which go hand in hand in a way. We will have a similar investment, so in these fields, we aim for similar growth. We also have good prospects for a leap in Send, whether in food delivery or e-commerce and Grow, with the partnership we have with Worldcoin. We will also open new locations, which also means increasing turnover.
As a whole, we aim to reach a turnover of ten million. It may be an ambitious goal for the next year, but it's the benchmark we had, and at least we want to continue having it, aware that it means a growth of 45% to 50% to get close to it. However, we believe that if we look at each of the brands individually and with the investment we want to make, it is possible.