A resident of Mohammadpur, Shazia Afreen has to travel all the way to Gulshan for work every day. She is the branch manager of AB Bank's Gulshan branch.
Ride sharing services like Uber and Pathao used to cost her at least Tk500 every day, if she availed the cars.
But these days, she gets the same service – a comfortable, air-conditioned ride – from 'Shuttle' at only Tk130.
"Why would I pay Tk500 for the same comfortable journey I can get at Tk130?" she said about her experience.
Shuttle is a start-up based in Dhaka which provides an app-based ride-sharing service.
Among a swarm of ride sharing services in the country, it started in 2018 with a USP (unique selling proposition) which is 'Shuttle for women'.
Besides ensuring comfortable rides, the company has earned a reputation for having properly sanitised and hygienic transportation during the pandemic.
Reyasat Chowdhury, the CEO of Shuttle, said, "The public transport facilities in Bangladesh are not very women-friendly. And many female passengers are not comfortable with bike rides while car rides are way too expensive for them."
That is why Shuttle decided to provide services with microbus, 12-seater minivan and minibus, as they would be convenient and affordable and the users would feel comfortable having fellow women-travellers, he explained.
Taking ridesharing idea into new high
Shuttle started in 2018 with providing ride-sharing services for North-South University students and it gradually extended its services to female students of Brac, AIUB, East-West and other universities.
The service can be taken on a daily basis as well as on a monthly package basis.
For everyday use, a user can book a seat for Tk130 for any route in Dhaka while the monthly package costs Tk5,000.
And the payment is entirely cashless. The fare can be paid through mobile banking services like bKash, Rocket, Upay and also through bank accounts.
"Shuttle ensured safety as well as kept the price within the users' reach. And it also reduces carbon footprint as at least 10-12 people travel together without using separate fuel-run vehicles", Reyasat said.
But currently the 'Shuttle for women' service is paused. Reyasat told us, "Although most of our users are female university-students, they are not taking the service as the educational institutions are closed. But we will resume the service as soon as the universities are open."
How it started
Back in 2018, Reyasat used to work as a product specialist at Robi. The company organised a competition for its employees, where the participants had to submit start-up business models.
He submitted his proposal and it was selected as the winning model.
Robi gave the initial investment to start the business. Jawwad Jahangir and Shah Sufian Mahmud Chowdhury are the other co-founders of Shuttle
The entrepreneur said, "I think this was an amazing initiative from Robi. I would have never been able to have my own company so early in my life let alone partnering with Robi. Now I am not an employee anymore, instead Robi is one of our investors and shareholders."
Currently Shuttle is operating with more than 35 employees.
Shuttle for Business
In late 2019, the start-up began its 'Shuttle for Business' service for corporate users.
This service is not necessarily confined to female riders and it is now available in Dhaka and Chattogram.
In October 2019, Shuttle approached one of the leading multinational banks of the country and collaborated with them.
Ever since it has been providing transportation service to its employees.
One of the bank's senior officers said, "We have 500 mid-range employees in our 18 branches in the capital. During the pandemic in 2020, Shuttle provided transportation for all of them."
According to the bank's senior manager, the company is getting popular for their service.
He said, "We chose Shuttle because they ensured hygiene and safety, and we were satisfied with the drivers' professionalism."
When the pandemic hit in December 2019, it proved to be a jackpot decision for the company.
Now more than 13 organisations take regular service from Shuttle, as the company CEO informed us.
During the pandemic, many organisations approached the company as they wanted to ensure their employees' safety.
Reyasat said that the price is decided based on the number of seats and the routes.
He further explained, "You would choose Shuttle because it provides good-quality, safe, and credible service at an affordable price. Before taking any ride you know the driver's name, his driving license number, and we ensure that he is well-behaved."
The company now offers rent-a-car service as well.
Sourcing the vehicles
"We source the vehicles from local rent-a-car companies and anyone we know who is willing to rent their car. We have contracts with the rent-a-car companies on a monthly basis," said Reyasat.
Md Firoz Rahman Khan Liton, one of the company's drivers said, "In 2020, one company alone needed 58 minivans on a daily basis for its employees. Zone or route-wise, there is a certain spot fixed for the passengers where they gather, we receive them there and take them to the office. And then in the evening we drop them off at their homes."
Shuttle has contracts with many rent-a-car companies and currently more than 100 cars are providing services to users every day.