MNA Lifestyle Desk: Omar Ali is a Bangladeshi-born entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Piickme, a mobile application based transportation service provider in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was born on August 25, 1983 at Compnaygonj of Noakhali district in Bangladesh. He studied at Rutger University in USA. Previously, he was an IT Consultant at an international firm and the owner of NRB Consultancy Inc. A conversation with Omar Ali (Raj), Founder & CEO of Piickme.
Do you think ride sharing is a sustainable solution for transportation sector?
Sure. It maximizes the utilization of a non-commercial vehicle usually getting used by single user or a family as and when in need basis. Ride sharing is bringing these under-utilized vehicles in a tech-platform and making available for on-demand service by any persons who have certain apps and intent to enjoy the service. Hence, ride sharing is minimizing the big gaps between demand and supply of the transportation sector.
What was your motivation to enter into the area of Ride Sharing in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh is my home. I was born in Bangladesh. I always have a dream that I want to do something for my fellow countrymen. This is a small opportunity for me with Piickme to chase my dream by solving transportation and unemployment problems. Ride-sharing is at the middle point of the cost of bus ride and CNG-taxi ride, creating a room for the ride-sharing services to thrive. On top of that, worsening traffic condition in Dhaka due to being one of world’s most densely populated cities where traffic congestion eats up 3.2 million working hours per day requires a good transport facility. Here I saw a big scope of contribution as an entrepreneur to resolve these problems.
How secured is ride sharing service?
It is more secured, more convenient since the driver pick the rider from his pick-up location. National emergency helpline 999 are already in process to monitor the trips in order to ensure the security while all app owners are registering both drivers and riders after getting necessary documents. Once we get the license, we will get the access to the National ID database to verify before registering them.
We often hear several complain about ride sharing in Bangladesh. What do you think of those complaints and how to resolve those?
I see these as scope of developments. App based ride sharing industry is very new in Bangladesh and every day we are adding values to our services from the hands-on learning. The challenge still has to do with stability. We have service-level challenges as well as product level & operational level, such as frauds. Currently, we are paying a lot of attention to enhancing service as well as product to promote that to international standards. Having said that, we have already working on these issues you mentioned and we are making good progress as well.
Are you getting enough support from Government?
I am extremely grateful to the present government because they have given us a chance to start this ride sharing business in Bangladesh. It is reducing traffic problems, generating a lot of employment and contributing in national economic growth. Government has already published a gazette for Bangladesh ride sharing industry on February 28, 2018. Now the license allocation process needs to be speeded up for this industry to operate in an organized and responsible manner. We are facing a lot of problems for not having a license yet. Also, the Clause#9 under the paragraph “KA” is an obligation for growing the new entrepreneurs and keeping a balanced competition in the ride-share market. We also want its amendment as per the paragraph “JA”.
What is mentioned in the clause#9 under paragraph “KA”?
It is mentioned that one motor vehicle owner can register and operate under only one ride sharing service. Moreover, the policy mentions, the motor vehicles should have at least one-year post-registration (under BRTA) operational experience. So, this type of vehicle is limited in numbers but at present there is around 17 ride sharing companies operating and growing day by day. So this will be a threat for small players in the future.
Do you consider this market commercially feasible for ride sharing entrepreneurs?
Yes, by this time ride share market has an estimated market value of BDT 22bn which is 23% of the transport industry revenue. It is assumed that the market may grow 15-20 per cent each year. At present, we have no income, everything is investment. We may count profit after we reach the break-even point.
Do you think the technological know-how in Bangladesh is complementary to the prospect of Ride Sharing?
Bangladesh is experiencing rapid digitalization. Out of around 145 million mobile phone users more than 81% uses internet. Most of them have smart phone especially in the metropolitan areas. Also use of ride sharing app is very easy for any one. So, it is aligned with the technological growth.
Where do we stand in term of standard in ride sharing services in Bangladesh against those at developed countries?
We are still at starter level but the progress is remarkable. As a developing nation our infrastructure is still under development from many aspects but we are doing great. We already have a government policy for ride sharing and strong interest from both drivers and users. We have found a sustainable solution to resolve country’s transportation problem through ride sharing. Except for few drawbacks, the market and service is more or less same as in any other places of the world.
What differences can the users expect from Piickme than other ride sharing service providers?
Our mission is to solve the problems surrounding transportation and unemployment which will boost the economy and strengthen Bangladesh’s move towards becoming a middle income country and towards inclusive and sustainable development. Ride sharing is actually partnering with Government’s Vision 2021 and the concept of Digital Bangladesh. We, at Piikme, regularly update our services based on the demand to ensure satisfaction by providing excellent customer service, trained riders, data security, OTP code, best price, convenience and user friendly app both for riders and users. We are soon starting Reward Miles Point program for user. We aim to provide ride service within 1 minute.
What is your suggestion for improvement of ride sharing industry?
More attention from Government as well as other stakeholders is required. Also, support from banks, financial institutions and individual investors will help the ventures sustain.
Kaushik Ahmed is the Associate Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Kishore Bangla