The popularity of ride-hailing apps Uber and Pathao that brought in convenience in commuting within Dhaka is tempting other local and international players into the field and compelling the existing ones to expand their services.
For instance, a new player Ezzyr is set to hit the Dhaka roads this month, said Kamrul Hassan Imon, a director of Innovadeus Pvt Ltd, the app's parent company.
On average, Uber, Pathao and Bahon altogether log in 10,000 rides a day, according to market sources. But a top official of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority thinks the actual number is higher.
Every ride costs about Tk 150 to Tk 200 on average and if there are about 2,000 rides a day, the market size is quite huge, Imon said.
“No doubt Uber and Pathao have changed the city dwellers' riding habit and we are targeting to grab a fair share of this segment. There is enormous potential for growth,” he added.
By way of the Ezzyr app, which is now in the testing phase, one can hail a car, bike or ambulance. It is now available on the Google Play Store and will soon be on Apple's App Store.
Meanwhile, following the huge response it got for the bike-hailing service it has been running in Dhaka since July last year, Pathao is set to introduce the option of cars from today.
“We have been working on the car segment for the last few months and now, we are fully ready to roll out the service in the capital,” said Hussain Md Elius, chief executive officer and founder of the company.
For car rides, Pathao will charge Tk 50 as the base fare and Tk 20 as the per kilometre fare. The per minute waiting charge would be Tk 2.5.
The local start-up will roll out its car-hailing service with 100 cars initially. “This number will grow quite fast,” Elius said.
Going the opposite way is Uber, the global pioneer in the app-based ride-hailing service: it is now working to roll out the option of bikes for its customers. The San Francisco-based company is the market leader in the car ride-hailing segment in Dhaka with its two tiers of vehicles: premium and regular.
For rides on premium Uber cars, the base fare is Tk 80, the per kilometre fare Tk 22 and per minute waiting charge is Tk 3. Uber charges Tk 40 as the base fare for rides in the regular cars and Tk 18 as the per kilometre fare. The waiting charge is the same as in the premium cars.
“Dhaka is the fastest growing market for Uber,” said a company spokesperson, while declining to share any numbers from the Dhaka operations.
Once Dhaka is conquered, the logical next step for companies is to expand to port city Chittagong, which is what Pathao did.
Pathao launched its popular bike-hailing service in Chittagong on a full-fledged basis on October 10. “In December we will go for another city,” Elius added.
Following the footsteps of Uber and Pathao was another local company named Bahon, which entered the market in September this year with a vision to “revolutionise the commuting service in Dhaka with affordable fares”, according to Sanaullah Morshed, managing director of Get Bahon Ltd.
Bahon, however, has failed to make a dent in Uber and Pathao's market share.
Meanwhile, Indian ride-hailing service Ola is also planning to extend its operations to Dhaka, different international media outlets reported. The BRTA confirmed that it had received multiple applications for permits from app-based ride-hailing companies, though it refused to say if Ola was among them.
To better regulate the emerging industry, the BRTA has drafted a ride-sharing guideline and forwarded it to the Road Transport and Highways Division.
Once the policy takes effect, the industry will become more compact, said the current players.