Talha Bin Hamid speaks to Muneeb Maayr, CEO, Bykea, about the motorbike-based ride sharing and delivery app which managed to attract over a million users in less than two years.
TALHA BIN HAMID: How was the idea behind Bykea conceived?
MUNEEB MAAYR: The idea behind Bykea is to provide an online offering that is both relevant and accessible to the general public. Unlike Uber, which solves mobility problems for the upper income segments, Bykea caters to the lower SECs. Our emphasis is on turning two of our riders’ major assets – a smartphone and a motorcycle – into a source of income and encouraging them to use their spare seats; the idea is that if you have a spare seat on your motorcycle, you should be able to use it to give a ride to someone; at the very least, this will offset your fuel costs.
TBH: How has Bykea grown since it began operations in 2016?
MM: In less than two years, we have a user base of over a million people. We have about 10,000 to 12,000 riders and at any given time about 3,500 Bykea riders are active (everyone does not work all the time, or even every day). Our geographic footprint has also grown; our services were initially available only in Karachi, but we now have a presence in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
TBH: Why does Bykea not allow credit card transactions?
MM: We are cash based currently, as that is a choice dictated by our target demographic. There are only about 1.3 million credit card users throughout Pakistan and they do not form our core market. We are planning to introduce debit card support, which should be functional by the end of this year.
TBH: How do you ensure that your drivers have the right profile to deliver the required service levels?
MM: In the early days, every driver was given training at our centre. However, now the sheer volume of our drivers has made this impossible. Drivers now register with us by downloading the app and filling in the data. This information and a photo of their CNIC and driver's license are run through and corroborated by CPLC or NADRA’s database. We plan to add fingerprinting to this data. Furthermore, unlike other such services, we use the driver’s cellphone IMEI as primary identification and once they register with a specific IMEI, they cannot change it without our approval and we can track them with the help of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. We have a sufficient number of data points on every driver to know almost everything about them. Our biggest challenge is the fact that our partners are not our employees and given the volume of rides, all we can do currently is to investigate any transaction that generates a complaint and if the partner is at fault, we remove him from the platform. Having said this, we do not want hard-earning partners to become victims of frivolous complaints.
TH: What percentage of Bykea’s customers are women?
MM: Women do not constitute more than one or two percent of our total customer base, but given our society, even this is significant. This is due to the fact that a Bykea ride is far cheaper and faster than a rickshaw ride. However, we need to build even more trust in the service level and reliability. We also aim to have a significant number of women drivers as partners and we are currently training several. However, any large scale change in the overall culture will take time.
We came up with job ads because there is no creditable platform for ‘blue-collar jobs’ (such as call centre reps and riders) in Pakistan, and Bykea aims to fill that gap since our target demographic is already geared to take advantage of this service. Our market is different from the ones other career websites cater to, and the same vision governs our classified ads service.
TBH: How did the idea of using motorcycles for deliveries come about?
MM: I was a co-Founder of Daraz.pk and the CEO for about four years and the idea sprang from my time there. I was perplexed by the fact that it took two days for goods to be delivered, even when they were ordered within the same city. The objective of a delivery service is to give easy and fast access to customers and we were not able to achieve this with the Daraz business model, firstly, because e-commerce companies do not have an extensive fleet and network like Bykea. Secondly, they do not hold any inventory and thirdly they do not inform the vendor where the order is coming from. Instead, they dispatch the orders in batches. This means that they wait for a sufficient number of orders to come in before routing them through their sorting centres, which results in delays in delivery. With Bykea, our goal is to allow retailers to directly ship the product to their customers within 30 minutes of the order having been placed; customers are able to return the goods within an hour or a day to the retailer.
TBH: In addition to ride sharing and deliveries, Bykea provides several other services including couriers, bill payments, wanted ads, classified ads and ticketing. What was the rationale behind launching these services, and what are the challenges associated with them?
MM: They vary. We came up with job ads because there is no creditable platform for ‘blue-collar jobs’ (such as call centre reps and riders) in Pakistan, and Bykea aims to fill that gap since our target demographic is already geared to take advantage of this service. Our market is different from the ones other career websites cater to, and the same vision governs our classified ads service. With regard to our ticket service, we are using the same backend system that is used by ticket re-sellers throughout Pakistan. However, we are not picking up a lot of volume. For air ticketing there is a lot of competition in terms of delivery and a large volume of travellers come from corporate sector who make arrangements for them. For train travel, the reality is that people simply don’t use trains that often so the uptake is limited.
TBH: Which services account for the highest revenues for Bykea?
MM: Ride sharing and deliveries account for about 80% of our revenues.
TBH: Are all these services available in the cities that Bykea is operational in?
MM: Yes; the only notable exception is our food delivery service, which has been launched only in Karachi recently.
TBH: How does this service compare to apps such as Food Panda?
MM: Services like Food Panda offer food from restaurants – in essence they are delivery enablers. Ours is a food subscription service. Our USP is that we offer Pakistani food at affordable rates and like all our other services we cater to the middle and lower middle class. We source our food from a leading caterer and have a feedback mechanism regarding the quality; any complaints that we receive are taken up with them. We are looking eventually to add further food outlets that are suitable to our target demographic.
In terms of expansion, we are watching how Uber and Careem are doing in this respect in order to learn from their successes and failures. We will only succeed in those areas if we are able to provide a cost effective solution with an offering that is relevant to them.
TBH: How does Bykea ensure safe and sound delivery and are there any restrictions with regard to the kind of goods that can be carried by a rider?
MM: We have placed a weight limit of 10 kilos on such goods, and their value cannot exceed Rs 35,000. Furthermore, a Bykea partner has the option to accept or reject any delivery. Our services are tracked and this is a deterrent against potentially illegal practices. We also provide cash insurance coverage on all our services.
TBH: What are your plans with regards to increasing your geographic footprint?
MM: In terms of expansion, we are watching how Uber and Careem are doing in this respect in order to learn from their successes and failures. We will only succeed in those areas if we are able to provide a cost effective solution with an offering that is relevant to them. We will of course have to scale up our technological platform and our operational capability to go nationwide.