LAHORE: In a rapidly-progressing transportation sector, the deeply embedded culture of cheap rickshaw rides is getting lost along the way.
This is being predominantly felt in Lahore where commuters now have plenty of transport options including the Metro bus service, air-conditioned fleet of buses along with some players in the taxi services, competing with each other over prices to capture the market.
IdeaCentricity founder Adnan Zafar Khawaja is now feeling the pinch. He launched Rixi Pakistan’s first mobile application that connects passengers to rickshaw drivers in 2014, but business has not grown as per expectations. The pilot project was launched in Lahore and even managed to enter the Karachi market, but lower rates of competitors have hurt his business model.
“The recent influx of taxi services has disturbed Rixi’s clientele. They are competing even with the rickshaw market by introducing lower rates,” Khawaja told The Express Tribune.
Currently, Rixi has more than 3,000 rickshaws in two cities, but has not been able to achieve its first-year target of 8,000 yet.
The service is an ‘SMS-based’ application and does not require a smartphone to operate. It connects passengers to rickshaw drivers, after the drivers bid the cost of the trip.
Way to counter competition
Since it has become extremely difficult for Rixi to sustain itself and flourish in the presence of global taxi giants who are spending million on marketing campaigns, Khawaja came up with a few ideas to remain competitive.
“We only charge 8% of the transactions per month, the rest goes to the rickshaw owner,” said Khawaja. “Moreover, we also started using rickshaw backs for advertisements, but in a more creative manner.”
In 2014, Khawaja launched Rixi Adz, an advertising company, to raise additional income.
“This start-up is trying to go against the tide in order to protect the income and livelihood of rickshaw drivers. Though we are growing at a slower pace, the drivers have an extra source of income, which has the potential to go up to Rs45,000 per month,” said Khawaja.
“The company had some funding issues earlier, but we started working on different local and international brand campaigns. As a result, we managed to raise funds from a California-based cyber security and information technology company,” he added.
Though Khawaja did not disclose the amount raised, he said that the company now has “other plans” to alter and add value to the service.
“We are now expanding and will cover three sides of a rickshaw for advertising purpose.” The company is also introducing an energy-efficient cooling system with a covered passenger cabin along with revising the rates to keep the service going.
“While we were managing to generate revenue stream via advertising, we realised that it is a price comparative market,” he said.
“Other companies spend fortunes on their marketing campaign which obviously makes things tougher for us, but we have some plans in the pipeline to keep going in this cut-throat market,” said a determined Khawaja.
Courtesy : Express Tribune