Tootle has taken Kathmandu by storm with their instant service of providing customers safe and cheap rides to their destination and riders with customers who are nearby whenever they want. Using both online top ups and cash payments, this ride sharing service has been booming with around 6000 registered riders and 1500 rides per day.
Read what the co-founder and CEO of Tootle, Sixit Bhatta have to say about their entrepreneurial experience so far.
- Can you share about your journey with Tootle?
The concept comes from sharing economy. During the initial phase, we wanted to have location based service like being able to track public vehicles of Sajha to offer value to our customers. However, the plan failed. So, instead of tracking Sajha, our thought pivot into building a ride sharing platform. In the process of making this app, we eventually evolved into it as well. It was an iterative process where we fought along. We felt that having motorbikes would be more suitable business model and that is how we evolved are still evolving. We started working on it in 2016. We took 9-12 months to prototype our tech. We were officially into operation from January 2017. But we did a bit of beta test in September-October 2016. It has just been over 1 year and 5 months.
- What were the challenges you faced during your journey of setting up Tootle?
There were multiple challenges that every start-up has to face and we had our own share. The first challenge was getting funding for the business followed by market creation for the service we were offering. Taking a ride on a motorbike was not an existing behavior of our target customers. So we had to carve out a new market for our service by bring in behavioral change in the way people travel.
Regarding the operations, our practices are very different from the West. Example when Uber started the basic infrastructure was in place which included payment gateways, social security and legal system. But in our case, we had to create everything right from payment mechanism to handling the security concerns.
Scaling up is a separate challenge altogether. Example, anyone can make a better burger than McDonalds, but creating a large scale franchise like McDonalds takes a skill.
- How much staff did tootle begin with and what is the strength right now?
We began with four core people and now we have 30 full time staff. We also have more than 6,000 freelancers registered with Tootle who give rides to earn income. In the test run, we ourselves gave rides to customers and it just grew organically from there.
- How does Tootle make money?
We have a payment system inbuilt in our technology. So, you can either pay by cash to the biker or by topping up your tootle account. The top up can be done using e-sewa, Khalti wallet, IME or with the biker. If you top up, your balance will automatically be deducted against the ride service you avail. The bikers are registered with Tootle and they top up their account from which we deduct our income. Currently, we split 80:20 which means the bikers gets 80 percent of the ride payments however that will change very soon.
- What kind of social change do you see your service provides to the society?
It provides a source of income to all the bikers who are registered with Tootle. It shares the economy and resources. With every vehicles shared, the aid vehicles that are out on the street provides jobs, enable people to move freely and also reduces climate problem because the emissions are less. So, it’s on the lines of sustainable entrepreneurship.
- Do you consider yourself as a social entrepreneur?
I consider myself as an entrepreneur but not a social entrepreneur. I believe entrepreneurs have the responsibility to solve the social and ecological problems. Our goal is to create sustainable entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship should be a part of it. With every ride shared, there are fewer riders on the road. So, I am an entrepreneur who is into a social and sustainable solution.
- In context of financial sustainability what stage is Tootle right now?
We haven’t achieved sustainability yet. We are in the initial stage of developing a platform that will not only meet the current mobility needs of the people but also cater to future needs. This requires a lot of investment in the initial phase. We are setting up the foundation and we have a long way to go.
- Do you measure the impact of your service?
Yes, we do. We measure the impact of our services in terms of number of jobs created and income generated. We have very strong Key Performance Indicators as we not only measure the financial part of the business but also socio-economic impact of our service.
- What are your immediate future plans for your company?
We are planning to introduce our services to cities like Pokhara and Chitwan and further developing the technology of our product.
- Is there any other information that you would like to share with our readers?
Tootle is about providing the freedom of mobility to people. We feel there are lot of restrictions on this freedom for certain sections of people in our society including people with disability, people who do not own any vehicles and women. Our app makes it easier for people with visual impairment to move around and ensure security for women by giving them the option to select women riders only. We are still in the process to increase the number of women bikers as 50 percent of our rides are taken by women only.
If you live in Kathmandu and haven’t tootled it yet you can download the app here
Interviewed by Jasmin Karmacharya