EP 272 – Reyasat Chowdhury – co-Founder and CEO at Shuttle – We Believe We Are Creating a New Category

by | May 3, 2023

Bangladesh is the 8th largest country in the world by population and its capital city, Dhaka, is one of the world's most densely populated. The Asia Tech Podcast was joined by an incredible founder from Bangladesh, Reyasat Chowdhury, a co-Founder and the CEO of Shuttle. Shuttle is a mass-transit startup based in Bangladesh that serves both B2B and B2C customers.

Some of the topics that Reyasat discussed:

  • His and his brother’s entrepreneurial motivations
  • The importance and significance of population density in the building of Shuttle
  • Why Dhaka‘s bus companies were not interested and why Shuttle switched to minivans
  • Initially launching a service only for women
  • Moving into the B2B segment and building a subscription service
  • Creating other value-added services for Shuttle’s riders

Some other cool titles we considered for this episode:

 
  1. Someone Who Leads, Someone Who Conquers
  2. We Are Able to Use the Population Density to Our Advantage
  3. We See a Huge Opportunity on the Supply Side
  4. We Could Just Focus on Doing Something Impactful
  5. Last Year Was All About Growth
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Reyasat Chowdhury 0:06
I’m excited.

Michael Waitze 0:07
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast today we are joined by Reyasat Chowdhury, a co-Founder and the CEO at Shuttle. Reyasat, I love your first name, by the way, it’s such a cool and unique name. We’ll get into that in a second. Thank you so much for the show. How are you doing?

Reyasat Chowdhury 0:27
I’m doing great. And I would love to, you know, tell you the meaning of my name, please. So, yes, it means, you know, ‘Someone who leads. Someone who conquers’. So yeah, I’m pretty happy with my name.

Michael Waitze 0:41
But this is the reason why I try so hard to get the names. Right, right. Because like your parents didn’t wake up one day, like my name is Michael. I always say this. My parents woke up one day and we’re like, oh God, another kid. Let’s just give them a generic name, whatever is at the top of the list. And the year that he was born. That’s his name, Michael. Like it couldn’t be more boring. no meaning, no significance. Six kids in my first grade class, I had the name Michael was like, everybody’s parents were just born. But your parents thought about it. And they were like, our kid is going to be a leader. Anyway,

Reyasat Chowdhury 1:12
I’m not sure if they thought about it. Maybe they just liked it. And it it just had a good meaning.

Michael Waitze 1:20
Maybe it turned into like a self fulfilling thing, right? I don’t know. Let’s see. Let’s see what happened. Either way, it’s definitely way better than Michael, for sure. Thank you. You’re welcome to call your mom and dad. And thank them. And before we jump into the main point of this conversation, can I get some of your background as well, just for some context?

Reyasat Chowdhury 1:41
Yeah, for sure. I’m reassert, I’m currently working as the co founder and CEO of Shaddoll. I started shadow bank in 2018. Before shadow, I used to work for a telecommunication company. I worked there for two years, as a product specialist I worked for the second largest telecommunication company in Bangladesh will be ICT limited. And before that, I studied finance and economics. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and study finance and economics because I loved I still love math, and numbers. But right now, I’m having to do everything starting from marketing sales.

Michael Waitze 2:13
Because you said you always want to be an entrepreneur is there are you from an entrepreneurial family, do your mom and dad run businesses to grandpa start something or this is just something you’ve just had in your blood, and you’re just like, I’m gonna do this thing.

Reyasat Chowdhury 2:23
Actually, you know, completely opposite. I mean, my, my father was a banker, he worked in different banks for 48 years. And some of his friends actually, to some of his friends actually, you know, started business when they just started their career. So and my, my, my father, he always wanted to become an entrepreneur as well, seeing his friends, but he couldn’t, he didn’t get the opportunity. That that is what actually, you know, motivated me and my brother to start something of our own. I mean, for for my father, it was, you know, a lot of responsibilities and all that taking care of family. So he just couldn’t do it, even though he wanted to. So and he shared that regret with us as well. And that motivated us to start something of her own. And my brother, he was actually,

Michael Waitze 3:07
I want to understand the generational change that that has taken place in Bangladesh, right between where your dad said, I’m just going to be a banker. And it’s not just that I’m going to be a banker, I really want to start my own thing. But I have all these responsibilities. And the best way to do this is for me to take this path, but looking at his sons, and maybe his daughters as well. And then saying, Guys, there’s an opportunity here, and I’m just curious, like, what changed generally, generationally in Bangladesh itself? Yeah, because every family has this, but I’m curious what changed there to make it possible for you to do it.

Reyasat Chowdhury 3:38
Yeah, so a few things. Number one, first of all, my my father, he did not ask us to become entrepreneurs. He asked us to do whatever we wanted to do good. But just because we, you know, grew up seeing him. And, I mean, hear his stories and stories of his friends and all that. So that actually indirectly motivated us to sell something of our own. And secondly, I mean, the change that happened was, I think, my father, as I was mentioning, he had to I mean, he had to take care of a lot of people, not just, you know, us, not just his parents, but a lot of other people as well. So I think for for us, the best thing that happened was, we didn’t have to, you know, worry about leading a normal lifestyle in Bangladesh. So we could just focus on doing something impactful. I think my father did not have that luxury. And not just my father, a lot of people in the previous generation did not have that luxury. But when we grew up, I mean, we didn’t have to think about you taking care of a lot of people, or, you know, maintaining a certain lifestyle, you could just focus on doing something good doing something impactful. So yeah, I mean, I think that is the biggest thing that happened. And also I mean, even when we were kids, I mean there was this means that if you want to sell something of your own, you need to have a family business, or your father needs to have a lot of money, because because there was no startup. I mean, if you want to start something of your own, you had to Started with the old capital. But I think that is the biggest challenge, biggest change that happened over the years that the culture of startups, I mean, anyone can start a business without without his own money. I mean, if you have a good idea, if you have a good plan, you can raise money you can get investors, I think that was not available previously. I mean, you could you could take loans probably before, but not not investments. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 5:24
Is there a certain amount of pride in your family about the fact that it’s now possible for you, and you’ve mentioned your brother to be able to go out and start something on your own? You don’t? I mean, like, as your dad looking? Just go, okay. It was all worth it kind of thing. You don’t? I mean,

Reyasat Chowdhury 5:41
I think yeah, I mean, I agree with you, I mean, my father, for him, just being able to take care of all the responsibilities that that was, you know, fulfilling? Yeah. So I think I think he’s, I think he’s a very successful man. Because he did, he was able to do whatever he wanted to do. His mission in life was, you know, make sure that he fulfills all his responsibilities. So and I think he did pretty well.

Michael Waitze 6:05
So one of the things that my grandmother said to me when I was a young man was don’t ever count anybody else’s money. And one of the reasons why I think she said it later on I, I learned was that, you know, your father’s maybe one example of this, but not the only one. You just don’t know who else is getting taken care of. Right? In other words, if it’s just like you, your brother, your mom and your dad, okay, it may look like one thing. But if there’s an extended family, or a bunch of relatives and stuff like that, you just don’t know. And that’s why you look at it, you just think, yeah, I can be proud and I’m happy and he’s fulfilled as well. And that’s actually really interesting for me. Can you talk a little bit about why you found it like why you went down this path to found a shuttle? What was it that you saw? What was the problem you were trying to solve? And why did you choose this as opposed to something else? And the reason why I ask is because I think entrepreneurs see gaps everywhere. So why fill this? Yeah.

Reyasat Chowdhury 6:58
So I mean, that was mentioning, when we were kids. I mean, the idea of startups was not I mean, they’re right. I mean, people were there was this means that you have to start, I mean, if you have a family business, maybe you can become an entrepreneur, or businessman, otherwise, it’s it’s very, very difficult. So we didn’t have any direction, I would have thought, something of our own, or whatever the first step. So I mean, but we were constantly exploring, we’re constantly brainstorming about different ideas. So for example, during my university days, I actually have regular discussions with my friends on how we can start something of a role that will have positive impact on the society. And that will be scalable as a business as well. During one of the discussion, discussions, one of my friends who is just he’s also my partner right now. Jawwad. Hi, he actually share his concerns about public transportation. He already had a company, it was Ansara, it was even better for the company. So he had to use public transportation sometimes to commit to this office. And it was a nightmare for him. Yeah. And that was actually the start of our journey we wanted to I mean, before we started, the advent of rationing services already brought massive changes in our country. So but they were solving the problem for a specific segment, the people who were using public transportation, they actually their situation did not change. In fact, it was more obvious the problem after the rationing companies started operating, because he could see the difference. So so that’s why I mean, that’s, that was the start of a journey, he shared his concerns about public transportation, and we decided to do something about it. We didn’t know exactly what we’ll do what we will be doing. But we knew that we wanted to work on this particular problem. And then, I mean, we started our initial idea was actually completely different in order to, you know, automate the process and help the past owners. That’s how we started, we started talking to different boss owners, and getting the feedback. And, and we soon realized that they’re not willing to cooperate, they were happy the way things were. They didn’t need any automation. They didn’t need any system, they were earning a lot of money. So and we need the service, Easy Transfer. Actually, when we were starting, we got our first investment for that particular business. But right after we got the investment, I mean, we decided to put we decided to change the idea because

Michael Waitze 9:06
you said, you said when you said when the ride hailing companies came into Bangladesh, it then became more clear, more obvious that there was a problem with the people that were using public transportation, how did that signal to you like, how did it manifest itself? What did you notice?

Reyasat Chowdhury 9:22
Previously, we were under the impression that in Barangay, is everything is manual, there’s no automation, and that’s normal. We thought that was normal. Right. But But when rationing companies came, we actually could see the difference. We started using Uber, for example, if you’re already using Uber, and and we saw, you know, you know how difficult it is for people who use public transportation to commute every single day. And also the I mean, the number of buses is not enough. And then I mean, it’s very difficult to get information about the upcoming buses in a certain route. So everything is a mess here and most of the people in our country they are completely lost. Have a public transportation kind of even though it’s not efficient at all?

Michael Waitze 10:04
Can you talk a little bit about the benefits and also the drawbacks of just the population density in Dhaka itself? And then I want to move into some of the other cities to see how it’s different. But in a country of 169 million people, what is it like 11, or 12 million of those people live in Dhaka, it’s the highest continent, it’s the highest population density city in the world. So how does that impact what you saw, but also how you solve that problem then of transportation.

Reyasat Chowdhury 10:29
For example, when we were studying, we were, you know, doing a lot of research on similar startups, all over the world, right. I mean, we saw I mean, previously, some companies in the developed countries tried something similar to what we were trying to implement. So but and we thought that some of them were not successful. And, you know, the adoption that we had was that, you know, in developed countries, the population is not that dense. And for Actavis, like shuttle succeed, it’s very important to, you know, people to live close by each other so that we can club more people together in a single vehicle. So I mean, that was the biggest, one of the biggest, you know, findings that we had. I mean, I would say that that is one of the biggest advantages for us at Chateau, because we are not able to utilize the population density to our advantage.

Michael Waitze 11:20
Yeah, I mean, one of my connections in taka has always said to me that there’s a massive benefit. There’s like a population density dividend, I think is what he called it. Yeah. Because everything is so close. And so many people in one place that if you can get the scale, you can get the scale pretty quickly. If the bus companies, because this is interesting, right? You go to the bus companies, they’re natural, it’s a natural source for this stuff, right? Because that’s the public transportation. But if you go to the bus companies like, yeah, we’re fine. We’re making a ton of money, we don’t need your help. So then what are the vehicles that you use? And you follow the Uber model and just go, anybody can be a driver? Do you have your own cars? Like, how does that work?

Reyasat Chowdhury 11:54
So when we realized that these companies are not willing to cooperate, not just actually there was another realization, I mean, for us to change public transportation, infrastructure changes were required as well, not a lot of support from the bus owners. And we realized that for that to happen, a lot of initiatives need to be taken. And we just didn’t want to wait for other people. Since we wanted to start something of our own, we just felt that it would not be a good idea to wait for the government or the bus owners to help us. So that’s why we decided to you know, do something different. So we wanted to implement some something that will that we’ll be able to do in a controlled environment ourselves. So then we pivoted from passes to minivans or microbuses. Where I mean, if you use microbuses, in Bangladesh, or in taka, you don’t need any permission from anyone really needed permit or anything. Yeah, I mean, if it’s a bus, you have to go through a lot of, you know, processes, but

Michael Waitze 12:50
I can just kind of walk up and start picking people up and start charging them for it. And everybody thinks that’s okay.

Reyasat Chowdhury 12:55
Yeah, yeah, that’s okay. Maybe Maybe, yeah, maybe, maybe if we are super successful, they will have a new, you know, new rules and regulations for us. But right now, there’s just nothing. Yeah. So that is why we, you know, we were two minivans. The idea was exactly the same, clubbing more people together in a single single vehicle. But, but we just shifted from a bus to minivan. That’s it. And secondly, and then we did I mean, then we, instead of talking to the bus, when we started talking to potential users, for us, then the potential users were, you know, university students and office goers, who would be everything to service. And we talked to more than 700 people in two weeks. And after doing those interviews, we realized that, I mean, these are things that we already knew from our childhood. But after doing all the interviews, we realize the severity of the problem among the women segment in our country. So that’s when we decided to launch a service only for women, because one of our core findings was that they don’t care about features and all that the women, all they care about is commuting in a vehicle that does not have male passengers. That’s it.

Michael Waitze 14:11
Can we dig into this? Because this is actually this is actually really important to me. Yeah. If you’re a 25 year old, young lady, and you’re alone on a bus or a minivan with a bunch of guys, it’s hard to explain to a man how scary and uncomfortable that is. Even if all those guys are bankers, brokers. It doesn’t matter. Yeah. It’s so hard to explain. No,

Reyasat Chowdhury 14:36
in fact. Exactly, exactly. I mean, you don’t have to, you know, get harassed or something like that. Look, I mean, certain things. Yeah. I mean, women just don’t feel comfortable here in Bangladesh, because they have to, they had to go through a lot.

Michael Waitze 14:50
I mean, I think it’s everywhere in the world. To be fair, I’ve had some of my female friends here. Tell me this in Japan, they have subway cars in the morning that are all ladies only. So it’s an Not just unique to Bangladesh in that sense, but interesting. I’m everywhere. Sorry. Go ahead.

Reyasat Chowdhury 15:05
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I mean, and that was, you know, one of the core findings that we had, I mean, we could have a lot of features that would ensure safety, but our customers did not want those. And they were not excited about the features. But the moment we told them that we are going to launch a service only for women, it was a game changer. It was a game changer. And, and, and that actually, you know, made our communication a lot easier. Initially, when we started communicating with our potential users about launching a new service, we got a lot of signups just by communicating that we have we are launching, we will only service that in transportation for women. That was our tagline. Very simple, very easy. But we could convey the main message.

Michael Waitze 15:46
So interesting. So are you still doing now just transportation for women? Or do you just have separate vehicles for men and

Reyasat Chowdhury 15:51
women? No, no, no. So I mean, yeah, I mean, we always knew where to start how to market. But we wanted to start small, we wanted to make sure we have a loyal customer base, and we have actually, you know, solve the huge problem in the country. And we always knew that if we could actually have a core base of customers, we could always expand. So I mean, a lot of people when we were deciding to focus, when we started to focus on women, a lot of our, you know, mentors, and people did not like the idea that they thought I mean, we are reducing the customer segment or the target audience. But we knew that I mean, getting getting 20% of 100, which is like 20 people, that is probably worse than getting, you know, 80% or 50 people, which is 40. So that is a strategy to be, we consciously decided to target a smaller segment, but to ensure that we are actually solving, solving their pain points. That was a goal. And that was our initial, you know, focus, we operated as a webinar service for more than one and a half years. And then we expanded to branch out to b2b segment, in the b2b segment. It’s not just women, depending on the company’s human requirements, we actually have unisex surveys, we would only surveys, and I mean, however the companies wanted, because what we saw was that, you know, women usually do not do not want to share rice feet, you know, main passages. But if it’s a colleague, they feel they’re comfortable with it if they go to the same office, for example. So we didn’t see the need to have we’re only service for b2b segment.

Michael Waitze 17:30
So what is the sales? What is the sales cycle like for? Because this is a completely different model, right? Then you see in other places, for sure. So you go to a business and you say, Look, your your employees need to commute, and that your employees know each other. So we’re happy to build a route for you. We’ll work together with you. Do you own the vans yourself as well? Yeah. Right. So we’ll get those vehicles and we can we don’t want that? Yeah. Okay. But we can at least we don’t, we don’t so at least have access to vehicles so that we can get all the people that want into your office. You know, maybe we do three runs a day on the way there and three runs a day on the way home or whatever it is, but there’s so many other things you can do if you’re providing ride sharing services to companies, like Yeah, how long have you been doing that? And what does it look like now? Like, how has that changed?

Reyasat Chowdhury 18:18
Really distinquish. Actually, I mean, our business model in the b2b division segments are actually quite different. The b2c segment, as you can imagine, our revenue is determined by the number of rides that we provide, and the utilization of the vehicle the motor vehicles utilize, the more even we generate, the more profit we get from from a vehicle. But in the b2b segment, we actually charge the company’s a subscription fee for the for the entire month for a particular vehicle. So the number of passengers or, or the utilization of the vehicle, not directly affect our revenue. For example, for your company, if you decide to, you know, have four vehicles from total, you just got to pay for those four vehicles for two trips per day. And we don’t directly get revenue based on the number of fees that were that were used by the passengers. So yeah, I mean, so this one is quite different. And our pitch to the b2b companies is actually we can we have like two kinds of customers or clients. Number one, the clients who are already providing transportation and we are, we are going there to convince them to onboard with shuttle instead of, you know, another rental company. So, for them, our pitch is very simple. I mean, we tell them that if you onboard with shuttle, your transmission costs will reduce by more than 50%. And there were two ways we do that. Number one, right now the vehicles that they use, they rent them for the entire month for 24/7. Those vehicles are used only twice a day in the morning and evening. And then they’re always with the client, but they’re not used. So they have to pay for the entire day for the entire month. But what we do is we we mostly provide the transparent support for two trips in the morning and one in the evening. So we can reduce the cost significantly there. And secondly, our dashboards, you know, that provides all that other information to the client. So they don’t necessarily need to have a separate team to manage transportation for their employees. So that reduces their indirect costs as well.

Michael Waitze 20:12
So what does that mean? You give them a dashboard, so they can actually see who’s riding on the vehicles, what they can attack me capacity, everything, what the utilization rate is how much they’re spending on this, if they open a new department or opening a new city, they can then transport that to the other city and stuff as well. This is…

Reyasat Chowdhury 20:29
Of course, I mean, they can get all the information. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 20:31
this is a classic example of abstracting something away from the company that they’re already doing. And yet not making the service worse, making your way better and less expensive. But like, nobody loses in a way, right? It’s not like you’re automating people out of a job or anything, you’re just moving them around, it’s kind of cool.

Reyasat Chowdhury 20:48
Exactly, I mean, it actually makes that companies really happy, because they don’t want to take the hassle of managing transportation, for example, if it, if a driver doesn’t come, they didn’t wanna, you know, make 10 calls, just to get an information about when he’s going to come, and then calling all the all the employees to communicate that the driver will come. So it’s, I mean, they’re gonna take that hassle. And then we have like, the second segment of Yeah, second second segment of clients who are, who are, you know, who haven’t provided transportation to their employees ever. But we are going there to convince them why they should. So an RPG is completely different. So and Pandemic actually helped us a lot in in, you know, getting these clients who previously did not provide transportation to their employees. So right now, there was, there was a massive shift. During the pandemic, employees, they started valuing transportation or commute a lot more than before. So right now, they, what we’ve seen is that the employees, they’re willing to, you know, get a lower salary, if they get transportation support from the companies. So we, our pitch is very simple. We don’t we don’t ask them to, you know, allocate more budget to their overall HR costs, we tell them to, you know, change the allocation, or make the overall employee benefit package a bit different, you just, you know, reduced the salary. And I just said we, we the transportation costs, or transportation benefit that has been working really well for us.

Michael Waitze 22:17
So what is the experience like for the employee, let’s say I work for a company A, I’ve been maintaining my own transportation, or they’ve been providing some other transportation. How deeply integrated into my commute? Is it? In other words, do I have an app on my phone that says, oh, it’s gonna be here at 735, I go downstairs from my building, or go outside my house, and I get into that van, it’s there every day on time, whatever it is, so that changes to it. And so there’s that experience, like, sorry, go ahead.

Reyasat Chowdhury 22:44
Yeah, I mean, exactly. As you mentioned, I mean, we have an app for that user as well, the users, they can actually track the bagels and know exactly where the vehicles are coming. And those routes are, you know, the routes that we have for the b2b clients, those are exclusive for those companies to sell such from their their office location, they don’t have to go to a separate pickup point to get on the vehicle. So that’s a benefit that our b2b clients have. And yeah, I mean, we sometimes even you know, change the schedule as well, if our clients request us beforehand. So it’s, it’s very customized, and be very easy for the users to use.

Michael Waitze 23:23
Do you get the sense that companies are using this as like a hiring tool? You don’t? I mean, come work for Company B, don’t worry about getting to work every day. We just take care of it sign up for this course. Yeah,

Reyasat Chowdhury 23:33
exactly. Yeah, I mean, you know, pitchers will be focused on you know, how this will improve productivity, how this will, how this will help them attract more better talents. Yeah. Things like that. We actually focus on these things during our pitch as well.

Michael Waitze 23:49
Yeah, I mean, boy, if I’d had somebody picking me up at work for work every day, when I was working at Goldman Sachs, that would have been awesome. I had to walk in the snow anyway. Um, so are there other like if you leave the main, like the capital, if you leave Dhaka? Yeah, and you go to, let’s say, some of the other top five cities, like I’m gonna mispronounce these, but like chattogram, coldness, all these other cities? Yeah. Is it a massively different business? Is the population density so different, that it’s a different type of business? Or can you just like plug and play into these other locations as well?

Reyasat Chowdhury 24:20
The market in Bangladesh is actually quite concentrated in Jakarta, okay. So, even in the next few years, we project around 95% of our revenue to come from Tata alone. And, and for us, you know, we already have we are operating chattogram For example, our b2b clients, they have branch offices in Chittagong orchard program, I mean, they actually, you know, we can just start providing the support in those branches as well. So we do that with quite a few companies. But other than that, I mean, our plan of expansion I mean, we still expanding within Tata, and we see a lot of opportunities in this particular City. But after that, I mean, we will actually be, you know, more interested in expanding to other developing countries. Yeah. For example, yeah, for example, India, Pakistan, Thailand and African countries. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 25:11
exactly. Yeah. I mean, God, you could go to Kenya, you could go to every Yeah. Yeah. So can I ask you this, though? If every employee is has your app on their phone, right, and they’re looking at it every day in the morning to see like, what time they’re gonna get picked up, and at nighttime, what time they’re gonna go home. You kind of have a captive audience. Is there anything else you can sell to them? Like insurance, financial services, any that kind of stuff? How does that work?

Reyasat Chowdhury 25:39
A lot of things. So I mean, the customer segment that we have, they have the highest purchasing power in the country. And their income is, yeah, and yeah, young professionals, their income is increasing every year. Sure. So and there’s they’re spending roughly three hours with us every day, what happens in the morning, what happens in the evening? We know we know exactly where to leave, where the work, what time to wake up, what time they leave their office. So we have a lot of information. A lot of reviews can be explored, including, you know, delivery, advertising, advertising, advertising, insurance, and insurance, FinTech a lot of things. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 26:15
Yeah. I mean, there must be some other companies you can work with in Bangladesh as well, some other startup companies that are in the logistics space, and they can then piggyback off of what you’re doing to give their clients better services, right. I mean, I can think of different things where I want to have dinner, I want to bring it home to my wife. So on the way home, like I pick it up at work, and I just bring it home on your van, and then everybody’s settled. Right. Like it’s, I feel like it’s an endless opportunity. No.

Reyasat Chowdhury 26:40
I mean, for example, I mean, people who use shuttle they use it for everyday commute, right? Yeah. So for example, you order something today, and you get it delivered in the van tomorrow. Right. So you don’t have to pay any delivery costs, for example.

Michael Waitze 26:52
Yeah. Yeah. Because it’s like a it’s like a moving locker. Right. So in Thailand, where I live, you can get it delivered to the BTS station, they put in the locker there, you scan it with a QR code, you get it out. But it does have some friction, right? Because you have to go find the locker and stuff like that. But if you’re on the van every day, well, here’s your package. Right? It’s so much easier. That’s so cool. So can I ask you this? How long you’ve been doing this? 2018? How’s it going? Because anything? Yep.

Reyasat Chowdhury 27:20
So it’s been going good. I mean, especially during the pandemic, when all the other ride sharing companies on structuring companies, all the transportation companies were in hibernation, we actually grew almost 100% During the lockdown. And that was just by focusing on the b2b segment, because I mean, our BD segment, it was paused, because all the universities and offices where most of the offices were closed as well. But some of the companies were open, for example, the banks, government organizations, and E commerce companies. So we focused on providing safe and sanitary transportation solution to the employees of these companies. And since they were sending roughly 20 to 30% of the employees to offices, they were willing to pay whatever was required to ensure safety of their employees, they were not price sensitive at all. So that helped us a lot. We actually, as I was mentioning, you know, increase our revenue almost 100% During the lockdown period, and we were cashflow positive, we didn’t need any, we didn’t need any investment during those period, the impact of pandemic happened after the lockdown was lifted, because all these companies that were taking these transportation service, they suddenly started, you know, stop, they stopped, you know, providing the service to their employees. And then we started going to new new companies who would provide transportation regardless of the lockdown, but they were not sure when they’re gonna open the offices. There was a transition period. And during that time, we, you know, we had almost almost close to zero revenue in the b2b segment. So but But 2020 Yeah, but last year, 2022 was, you know, was all about growth, we q 14%. Every month, I think the beginning of the year. So by the end of the year, we increase our revenue almost by six times compared to what it was in the beginning of the year.

Michael Waitze 29:02
I feel like hanging up the phone right now and letting you get back to work. Like I don’t even think you have time for this conversation. How big is your management team, just out of curiosity.

Reyasat Chowdhury 29:12
So I mean, we are three co founders and CEO, I have a partner who is CEO. And then we also have a CTO chief, product and technology officer. And then we have the thickening layer, we have like, oh, we also have, you know, chief strategy officer who was promoted just last month. So right now we are four people in the management team. And then we have the second layer, the managers and the heads. So there we have like seven more people, for example, the head of b2b head of b2c marketing, sorry for school, something that we’re planning to start this year, and then it’s a new company, new product, and then you know, the partner side by partner, we mean the supply side of tratto. Yeah, so So yeah, I mean, we have a few heads, their heads and managers, and then, you know, the other people, the people who are working up Did to take care of the operations? So in total, we have a team of roughly 85 people, 80 members at the moment,

Michael Waitze 30:06
that’s a lot. Tell me again, I just don’t remember what you said, like how you source the vehicles where the vehicles come from, who owns them? Is this an asset light business? Are there people that already have vans? And do you have a quality standard that people have to meet, like, you can’t just have like some old, you know, 1960s. Van, how does that work?

Reyasat Chowdhury 30:25
It’s actually very interesting. And we see a huge opportunity in the supply side. And this was opportunity was actually there, two, three or four years earlier, I mean, what we do is we, we rent the vehicles for two trips a day, one in the morning, and one in the evening. And we sometimes you pay them for a four day Sunday for a week, and most of the time for for the entire month. So within them, we own the vehicles, we work with companies or work with, you know, Van owners, or companies who are dealing with all these found owners. So I mean, it’s actually asset life because you don’t have to buy the vehicles or are, you know, have any expenditure. In the capex side, it’s all about, you know, renting the vacant space or the requirement and providing the support to the customers accordingly. So, so that’s how we we sold the vehicles. And we have, you know, a training training period for the drivers and the drivers that the past that training period, or training module, are eligible to drive with us. So it’s a very straightforward process. But there are like few layers, for example, they have to submit a form a three page form as well, where they have to provide all kinds of information about the background and things like that. And they also have to have a minimum three years of driving experience to be eligible to drive with shadow. And then I mean, in the training training module, we mostly focus on the behavioral side, because we can understand how the driver based on their vision, the years of experience and things like that, but the training is mostly focused on how we would want our drivers to treat our customers, we would want them to drive in the road is like that. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 32:08
What’s the brand equity, though? The value of the brand, right, in other words, to the van owners want to have shuttle on the outside of the van? Do they want to wear a shuttle cap? are the companies that use you proud? Do you know what I mean to say that their employees are shuttled back and forth to work kind of thing? Is there? Are you building that brand equity as well? And is that important to you?

Reyasat Chowdhury 32:29
Yeah, of course. I mean, that is why we actually, you know, we did our rebranding last year, the beginning of the year. I mean, because we felt that we are creating a new category, we believe we are creating a brand new category. And we wanted to communicate that well, because a lot of companies, a lot of people, you know, when we started, they were confusing us, we are the ride sharing companies, but we knew that we’re not a ride sharing company, I mean, the typical ride sharing company, we are, we have different value proposition. So we wanted to make it very, very clear. And that is why you know, if you see a logo, you see that there are two dots by two dots, we are, what we are trying to convey is that, I mean, we are always taking you to your office or university, and then again, making sure you can come back to your home, going to Officer University, and then coming back. That is one of the key messages that we wanted to convey through our logo. And also the color, you know, it’s purple, because our previous color was green, but a lot of companies have have green logos. So we wanted to have something bright, something different so that people can recognize us separately.

Michael Waitze 33:32
Purple is such a great color. Before I let you go. Have you raised any money. Are you still funding this out of cash flow?

Reyasat Chowdhury 33:40
No. So we thought a raise around $2.5 million in two different rounds? Yeah. I mean, I mean, we got our first investment before we had a product, we just had a presentation. So I mean, in the beginning, I was running that I worked for the second blood smart Tilly commission company in Bangladesh, they were actually our first investor. I mean, they they started this program where they wanted to invest their employees who had innovative business ideas. And the moment I saw that email, I knew that this was my opportunity. There is this famous quote, I’m sure you have had heard as well, when you truly want something the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. So the moment I saw that email, I knew that I had to apply and because I always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. So I applied. And then we got selected, we became one of the winners in the program. And we got our investment before we started the service. And then we raise a few more rounds as well. So far, we just closed around in December last year, which is like two months earlier of $1.5 million. And in total, we raised $2.5 million.

Michael Waitze 34:43
Okay, this is a killer story. I’m gonna let you go. You have to promise me that you’ll come back and talk about this more. I’m so interested. And I have so many more things. But I only take up too much of your time. This was awesome. Thank you so much.

Reyasat Chowdhury 34:55
Love to talk more.

Michael Waitze 34:57
Yeah, let’s let’s see. If somebody because I want to, I want to follow up and actually next time, maybe we have you on one of your co founders, I’m indifferent. But I want to keep telling ya, is that cool?

Speaker 2 35:07
That was perfect. I’d love to do another discussion with you. I mean, it was good. I mean, thank you so much for inviting me. I had such a good time talking to you. And yeah, I’m really looking forward.

Michael Waitze 35:21
Okay. Reyasat Choudhry a co-Founder and the CEO of Shuttle. Thank you so much again for doing it.

Reyasat Chowdhury 35:26
Thank you. Thank you so much, Michael. Had a great time.

 

 

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