[dropcap]S[/dropcap]afe Transportation for Women in Bangladesh! I know for many of you residing in Bangladesh, this might sound like an impossible dream to achieve. Travelling in Dhaka on public transportation has always been a dreadful experience for most of the women in Bangladesh. According to a survey done by BRAC, a staggering 94 percent of Bangladeshi women have been sexually harassed in public transport at least once in their lives.
So, where do women commuters go to get a safe transportation experience?
A new start-up named Shuttle is trying to answer this question. Currently operating in Dhaka with plans to expand to other major cities soon, the women centric pick and drop service has stepped on to solve one of the major issues Bangladesh is currently facing. Shuttle has pioneered a new concept of transportation especially designed for women. We talked with the three musketeers of Shuttle, Jawwad Jahangir, Reyasat Chowdhury and Shah Sufian Mahmud Chowdhury on their new endeavor and their plans to ensure safe transportation for the female commuters in Bangladesh.
The story behind Shuttle
It all started when Jawwad, an existing entrepreneur, shared his thoughts on solving the ongoing safety dilemma of Bangladesh’s women commuters with a fellow university junior. That happened to be Reyasat, a fresh grad seeing to start his own venture in the transportation scene. Initially, they wanted to do something with local buses. Observing the total chaos in this sector, Jawwad and Reyasat soon realized the dire need of a reconstructed commuting system for the safety of our women commuters. They knew they had to develop systems and technologies from the ground up to support their vision. The tech endeavor took them to their third and final co-founder- Sufian.
After a thorough research, the entrepreneurs found out that women in Bangladesh do not feel comfortable in buses as it is overcrowded and unsafe at the same time. Hence, the birth of Shuttle – a pick and drop service for women was inevitable. The service started its journey with only two micro-buses on 15th July, 2018. The primary focus was to test the idea for the university going students.
The Problem That Shuttle Is Solving
In the past few years, there have been hundreds of widely reported cases of sexual assault against women in local transportation. So, lack of trust is a constant issue right now in this ecosystem. For Shuttle the main goal is to solve this trust issue through providing a safe and sound transportation for women.
“We always wanted to create a service where our women would not have to worry about transportation. We believe – a pick & drop transportation service only for women places the right bet here. They will meet homogeneous people while travelling and can make friends, it’s cost effective and our managers are trained and friendly in behavior to ensure a comfortable journey for the riders.” said Jawwad Jahangir, COO, Shuttle.
Shuttle will eventually have a huge impact on reducing traffic congestion in Dhaka city.
“Look, we absolutely love the idea of ride-sharing, it already has a huge impact on our lives. But there is a catch! The basic aim of ‘Ride-sharing’ service was to reduce vehicle from the streets but here in Bangladesh it has become a business. People are now even buying vehicles to run them for popular ride-sharing services. We appreciate a new scope of earning but it’s not helping the traffic condition the way it’s supposed to. And through Shuttle, we are trying to address this issue as well,” added Reyasat Chowdhury, CEO, Shuttle.
The Journey so far
After receiving tremendous response from the initial users, Shuttle is now rapidly expanding their business, currently operating in 6 routes in Dhaka.
“Currently Shuttle completes around 1000 rides each day and hopefully, we will cover the whole Dhaka city very soon” said Reyasat.
Safety and Convenience
Ensuring safety and convenience for women are the two most important missing pieces in our transportation industry. Such disorder in the ecosystem is responsible for the existence of a company like Shuttle in the first place.
In Jawwad’s words:
“Safety, comfort, convenience and cost efficiency are the four issues that we had to acknowledge to serve the proper need for our target group. With Shuttle providing the service in air-conditioned micro buses and letting 10-11 women commute together, we made our trips as cost efficient and comfortable as possible. A rider will always have the proper assistance from our trip managers and all the required facilities (clean vehicle, air conditioning, music system, etc.) to make their journey smooth and safe.”
“Not to mention, all the drivers and trip managers are selected with maximum sincerity. After the primary selection, every new recruit has to go through a training period before their appointment so that we can maintain the quality of our service and ensure utmost customer satisfaction,” said Shah Sufian Mahmud Chowdhury, CTO, Shuttle.
Whenever a company or a business solves a severe problem, the service/product itself does the marketing for the brand. That is exactly what happened in case of Shuttle as well. Instead of promoting their brand, Shuttle focused on providing quality service and ensuring customer safety from day one. So, what worked for them?
Word of mouth! The best marketing you can ever imagine.
“Now you see, safety in transportation has always been a major issue for the women of Bangladesh. So, we just tried to ensure women do not have to worry about commuting independently and that worked for us like magic. Our customers did the marketing for us and spread the word among their friends.” said Jawwad Jahangir.
Team Shuttle always tries to focus on customer feedback and improve their service accordingly. Whenever a customer faces a problem or have a suggestion, they can always reach out to Shuttle authority.
“We have a Facebook community (group) of 6000 regular women commuters. And we, the co-founders are the admins of that group. We respond to each and every concern ourselves and try to solve any problem immediately.” added Reyasat.
The beta version of the Shuttle app is already available on Play Store. Currently, customers can only book their rides through the app. However, Team Shuttle is working on adding more and more features. Very soon, customers will be able to track their vehicles, get detailed information about the trip manager and share their location with closed ones. There will also be additional facilities such as emergency calling and report/complain box.
To learn more: Visit Shuttlebd.com
We appreciate the commitment from Shuttle to provide a safe, comfortable and affordable transportation to the women of Bangladesh and wish them all the best so that they can become successful in achieving their goal and ensure no woman in Bangladesh has to worry about safety in transportation anymore.