Get On the Tootle Train

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Get On the Tootle Train

The world of disruptive innovation took a new turn with the rise of resource-sharing economies, led by Uber in 2011. Today, the disruptive business model has been copied by and adapted across industries in the world: so much so that new business jargon like ‘uberisation’ or ‘uberification’ have now become commonplace terms. Innovative business models such as Uber’s seldom translate well in the Nepali market and seldom at a rapid pace. The rise of Tootle, however, is an exception to that general rule. In a very short span of time, Tootle—you could call it Nepal’s version of Uber—has become a company that Kathmandu’s denizens are increasingly familiar with and whose services they have begun to prefer over other public modes of transportation.  

 

Tootle’s history

Tootle was launched by Sixit Bhatta in January 2017. “The idea didn’t come to me as an epiphany; it dawned more as a gradual process,” says Bhatta. Bhatta and his team had been testing some new tech products when he came up with the idea of integrating location-based services into one of those products. What the team eventually came up with was a Sanjha Bus-tracking app to help passengers locate Sajha Buses’ whereabouts and avoid having to wait for the buses or missing them altogether. But owing to some unresolvable impediments, the Sajha Bus-tracking app couldn’t get past its incipient stages. When the Sajha Bus-tracking app failed, Bhatta and his team pivoted and came up with the Tootle idea—a ride-sharing company built around an app that would use the location-based services the team had already developed.

With Tootle, Bhatta is essentially aiming to promote the use of two-wheelers as a viable means of public transportation for Nepalis. Public vehicles such as buses, micro-buses and tempos in Kathmandu Valley are usually crammed, and for many passengers, the rides can be extremely taxing; and taxis are just plain expensive. Bhatta had observed the increasing number of bikes in the city and also noticed that around eight out of every 10 bikes had only one rider—the pillion seat was usually vacant, unutilised. Furthermore, he understood that a motorbike was the best vehicle for navigating Kathmandu’s narrow gallis and gridlocked thoroughfares. Armed with these insights, Bhatta and his team homed in on two-wheelers as the best alternative for their ride-sharing app. 

 

How Tootle is faring

Tootle has already gained a stable customer base, and as word has spread, more people have started to use Tootle. The reason behind the increase in the number of Tootle-users is perhaps a result of the way the service has been packaged and branded. The Tootle app, available on both Android and iOS, is extremely user-friendly, and app navigation is a breeze. Moreover, Tootle has been quickly gaining steam owing to positive word-of-mouth referrals by customers. 

The Tootle Partner (bike riders) demographic is highly varied; there are office workers looking to earn a quick buck on their way to and from office. Quite a few Tootle Partners are college students, many of them having hopped on board to make some pocket money by dropping people off on their way to college. There are also many college students dedicating large portions of their day to completing as many rides as they can.

Because Tootle can get you from point A to point B quicker than buses and taxis, Tootle’s market should only grow from here on. To make things easier for customers, Tootle offers the option of choosing whether to ride with a male or female Tootle Partner. With all the positive feedback that Tootle is receiving, the company could have turned to more aggressively marketing their product, but they have chosen not to. “We would rather grow slowly in the right direction than grow fast in the wrong direction,” says Bhatta.

 

How does Tootle work?

Tootle charges its customers based on distance travelled, which is determined with the help of Google Maps. Tootle charges Rs 60 for distances of up to three km, and fares go up by Rs 18 for every extra three km travelled. The fares are higher than when using a bus, a micro-bus or a tempo, but considerably cheaper than taxi fares. And the best part is that it’s a win-win for both the rider and the passenger. Passengers get to move around with ease, in safety and comfort, without having to use a crammed bus or an overpriced taxi; Partners, on the other hand, can earn a little something by sharing their vacant pillion seats. Tootle Partners get 80 per cent of the total fare, while 20 per cent is retained by Tootle. Partners have several other incentives. For example, if a Partner gives five rides a day, he or she is awarded Rs 200 as a bonus. Similarly, 10 rides a day equals a bonus of Rs 500. Tootle currently offers its services from 8 am to 8 pm. “We want to ensure the safety of our partners and passengers,” says Bhatta, of the 12-hour slot. “Right now, we can guarantee the safety of both parties involved because we constantly monitor rides from 8 am to 8 pm, with the help of our app’s real-time tracking technology.” 

 

Tootle app and its Partner app

Tootle has two different mobile apps: the Tootle app and the Tootle Partner app. The Tootle app is for people who want to get a ride from Tootle Partners. And the Tootle Partner app is for two-wheeler riders working as Tootle Partners. Both apps are available on the iOS App Store as well as on the Google Play Store.

When you first install the Tootle app, you automatically get a Rs 200 bonus. With this app, you can book rides and set up pick-up and drop-off points. The app interface is very user-friendly and rides can be booked by simply selecting the preferred rider gender and pick-up time. The payment mode needs to be selected before a passenger gets on a ride. Once the passenger has been dropped off, he or she gets a four-digit code, which will need to be forwarded to the Tootle Partner so that he or she can get paid. Passengers also have the option of rating the quality of their rides.

Currently, anyone with a two-wheeler licence can register on the Tootle Partner app. But in the future, Tootle wants to introduce more stringent rules and regulations that aspiring Partners will have to comply with if they want to sign up, to ensure better rides. The latest Tootle update enables visually-impaired customers to avail of Tootle rides. This feature uses a voice-integrated system that asks customers about their ride preferences.

 

First published in M&S Vmag

 

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Guest Thursday, 23 November 2017