With the increasing number of vehicles on the congested streets of Dhaka, getting from one point to another has become quite the struggle. In this scenario, mobile ridesharing apps have gained massive popularity over the last three years, especially amongst students and the working class. These apps include the ever popular Uber and Pathao, as well as Obhai, Lily, Shohoz and so on. These apps not only provide quick and efficient transportation (cars, micro-buses, motorbikes, CNGs etc.), but are also quite affordable. A few of these services also cater to women exclusively, so that they can feel safer and more comfortable during their journeys.
In March 2015, Pathao was launched in Dhaka, focusing on the requirements of the locals that require a quick ride from one point to the other. According to users, the Pathao app is comparatively more user friendly, and offers a range of promo codes, which cut downs on travelling fares. Users have the added benefit of deciding between motorbikes and cars, depending on their convenience, however, there is no separate option of picking between male and female riders. After each journey, the users are able to rate their journey with a rating system that determines the quality of the drivers and riders in the service, but it does not allow any additional comments that might add further insight to how the riders are working. Being a local business, Pathao also allows users to pay via bKash, along with other local digital payment methods.
In 2016, Uber launched in Dhaka with the intention of providing city dwellers with more options for convenient travelling. This app not only provides the usual assortment of motorbikes and cars, but also has vehicles that are suitable for a maximum of 6 passengers to travel comfortably. Similar to Pathao, this international franchise provides promo codes which cut down on the fare, but does not have options for local payment methods like bKash, and nor do they have a local customer service centre. However, in case of reviewing the trips, users have the added benefit of making additional comments, which other users can view before confirming their rides. Many users claim that the Uber app is not as user friendly as that of Pathao's, and requires a little bit of tinkering. In America, Uber also provides a food delivery service, Uber Eats, which is not available in Bangladesh yet. Pathao easily gets the upper hand here, with their food delivery and courier services. Both apps have the added feature of “location sharing” that enables the user to share their real-time location with a trusted contact of their choosing. All in all, these two services are saving people more time, money and energy, along with making commuting in the city more convenient and secure.
In 2018, Obhai launched it business, and unlike their Pathao and Uber counterparts, had a separate venture aimed squarely at the security and comfort of women during their commutes with their side project called Obon. The overcrowded local buses in the busy streets of Dhaka can become quite rowdy and too hectic for female passengers. Not only that, but some women do not feel at ease sharing a ride with a male rider. Obon, a motorbike service, was created to address these issues with their female riders. Other than that, Obhai also allows its users to book rides even when they cannot access the app by contacting their call centre. The company provides CNGs and 10-seater air conditioned micro buses, along with cars and motorbikes. If Obon is not to your liking, no need to fret as there are other options for women as well, such as Lily, which ensures that their female riders are well trained and undergo proper training to handle their vehicles safely. Lily is only focused on female commuters rather than target both genders. This business is more concentrated in areas like Gulshan, Banani and Motijheel official areas, and provide working women with convenient transportation during the rush hour, operating between 7AM-8PM. The women-only bike sharing service is the first in Bangladesh to ensure the safety and comfort of women by eliminating the unease that some face while travelling with men. Lily is still a growing business but the fare is just as reasonable as that of Obhai and Obon.
Prioritising the situation of women, Shuttle has taken the extra step of providing transportation for female only students. It was launched back in July, 2018, initially targeting private university students. Shuttle is yet to launch a mobile app, but the service allows female students to book a seat in an all-women vehicle through their hotlines (open between 6AM and 9PM daily) or registration booths (located in university campuses), with each bus operating between 6:30AM-7:30PM. The service has verified and trained drivers and trip managers, who overlook every ride, making sure the bus reaches its destination on time safely. University students claim that this service is more dependable due to the presence of the trip managers, as they are constantly aware of the route and keep the passengers updated. Parents are also more comfortable letting their daughters travel through Shuttle due to these precautionary measures being taken. The fare of each ride is also affordable for university students.
Shohoz, which has been around since 2014, came to public attention in 2018, when they introduced a new feature in their app that would allow users to call and directly communicate with motorbikes and car drivers in the city. The website was initially used to purchase bus tickets online, and later expanded its services to providing ridesharing, and ticketing service, not just for buses, but also launches, various events and even movies, along with a food delivery service. The app-based firm emphasises customer loyalty, and tries providing additional services such as, clean application interface and an active customer care service. Also, to keep the riders incentivised, the company provides them with added benefits, maintains a cordial relationship with each rider, and pays their dues on time. This ensures the riders' loyalty and dedication to the job, providing a pleasant journey for their customers. Similar to other ridesharing apps, Shohoz also provides its customers with promo codes and coupons, but not as extensively.
There's no denying that ridesharing apps have become more and more attractive and convenient as more and more users get onto their various services. The services are no longer confined to Dhaka, but have expanded towards other districts. For instance, Uber has an intercity option which reaches out till Savar and Gazipur, and Pathao covers Sylhet, and all three services (Uber, Pathao, Obhai) cover Chittagong. The on-demand services look to save time and money for busy city dwellers by battling the heavy traffic. Each app caters to different categories of people, and even attack social issues such as, unemployment and women empowerment. It can easily be said that these local and international companies are making our daily lives safer and more efficient.