No Uber or Grab as Chalo wants to fill the gap in Bangladesh!
Taxi aggregator startups are booming in Asia. The undisputed leader in Southeast Asia is GrabTaxi, with over 3.8 million mobile app users, and a valuation of above a billion dollars. In China, astronomical amounts of money are being poured into the industry, as global heavyweight Uber tries to tackle homegrown startup Didi Kuaidi. The situation is similar in India, with the likes of Ola and TaxiForSure competing with Uber, all of them armed with massive VC funding to acquire more users.
It is easy to see why users are attracted to these O2O services. The fragmented, chaotic, and risky taxi industry in most parts of Asia means there is little transparency in rates and driver quality can be questionable. Aggregator startups harness the power of the internet to help fill the gaps and allow users to breathe easier.
Bangladeshi startup Chalo is trying to build a similar service for the local market. Currently, the country does not have any significant players in the space, with the likes of Uber preferring to concentrate on larger markets in the region. Chalo, which means “let’s go” in the local parlance, wants to bridge the gap instead.
Chalo founder Dewan Shuvo has been based in Silicon Valley for the past few years. He credits his decision to start a taxi aggregator service as a direct impact of witnessing firsthand the meteoric rise of Uber. “Their [Uber’s] office is right next to mine, here in the Valley. They started with sixty employees, now they have over three thousand. The expansion is mind blowing,” he tells Tech in Asia.
Shuvo, who has over a decade of experience running web businesses, moved to the US several years ago to pursue higher education. After finishing his masters degree, he accepted a job at Silicon Valley to strengthen his understanding of how to run and scale startups. Now, he believes, his home country Bangladesh is teeming with opportunity for entrepreneurs to make a mark for themselves.
“Dhaka has a population of over 15 million people, but hailing a taxi is cumbersome and fraught with difficulty,” says Shuvo. “We want to make this process simple, transparent, and friendly.”
The entrepreneur is now moving back to Bangladesh to work full-time on building his company. He points to the rapidly-growing mobile internet segment in the country as his core target market. “Dhaka alone has approximately 200,000 smartphone users, with the number expected to increase significantly in the coming months,” says Shuvo. “Many are mobile-first users, and I see significant opportunity to scale.”