About a year ago, Shreeyash Shrestha, participated in a startup pitch competition on a whim. Ever since he has become an advocate for bicycle use in Kathmandu. Currently, he is developing the bike-sharing app called “Let’s Cycle” to make his idea into a reality.
Let’s Cycle allows users to pick up bikes from fixed points and ride them to locations of their choice. In urban areas like Kathmandu where traffic is a huge issue, the app will promote the use of bicycles, increase bike paths and help reduce traffic too.
In conversation with Shreeyansh on his plans for the app
1. Could you give us a general introduction to your idea?
Car transportation has been a huge issue in Kathmandu; there’s nowhere to park. Using bicycles would give you access to all the gallis and inner roads throughout Kathmandu that cars cannot go through. Also, it’s good for your health and the environment too. We’ve completed the prototype for the app and we’re now moving onto the product stage which should be done by December. Once we finalize the product we can move towards mass production which will need significant investment. The kind of bicycle we’re planning on using is a city cycle that’s comfortable for students, tourists, job goers and everyone in between. With the growth of Let’s Cycle, we might consider offering mountaineering cycles in the future.
For now, we’re promoting two different cycles which are the ladies’ cycle and a city cycle. These bicycles will have a lock and a GPS which will allow us to observe their location in real-time. Through the app and the GPS, we can always keep track of where a cycle is and the user can also make use of the GPS to get to their destination.
2. How will the application work?
We plan to have stations throughout Kathmandu where the bikes are to be picked up and dropped at. We felt that this was more appropriate not only for security reasons but also for location-related problems. People don’t have to look for these bikes once they become familiar with where the stations are and just have to deal with the payment.
We have prepared a prototype for the app from where you can make the payments but can be done through Khalti or Esewa too. Our plan was to charge 50 paise per minute on each bicycle. We will have 15 stations to start with and based on our business model and calculations, we found that even at 25% efficiency it would take about 4 to 5 years for the business to break even. At 75% efficiency, it would take only 2 years.
3. Tell us more about the trial run you did? How did it go?
We had Panc Bikes, Nepal’s first cycle distributor, sponsor 15 bikes for this trial. There was another startup challenge that we participated in that gave us the leverage to conduct market research. The first challenge was determining whether people would like the idea or not. Accordingly, more than 300 people participated and we got a lot of positive responses. At that time, we had just formed a team of four and didn’t have an app. Our team has now expanded to a group of about nine members through collaborations with other people.
4. Are there any security measures to avoid theft?
Firstly, our cycles will have a distinct look so they’ll be easily recognizable. Secondly, the GPS can always tell us what the location of the bike is. Furthermore, the cycle can only be unlocked using the QR code. Along with that, we also have the KYC and customer records of the account holders, so we would know who unlocked it last.
5. What are the challenges in implementing this idea?
The real obstacles are in the infrastructure. The roads aren’t very wide and there isn’t enough space to install the stations or create bike lanes. We’re trying to do research on the best ways to tackle those issues as well. Nevertheless, the biggest challenge is getting an investment along with the support of the government and the public. We haven’t registered our company yet because we want the final product to be ready before we start approaching potential investors. Getting permission for these things is also difficult but the Smart Urban Tech Challenge helped us start the conversation with government bodies.
Although this idea is difficult to implement in Nepal, the Nepal Cycle Society has been doing a lot of research on cycle use in Kathmandu and we’re collaborating with them. The City Planning Commission (CPC) and Mahalaxmi Nagarpalika also approached us about our idea. So, in some ways, the government response has been fairly positive too.
6. What made you start pursuing this idea?
I was at this point in life where I had faced a great loss and had dropped out of school. But, one day I heard about a startup competition and wanted to find out how I can benefit from it. In the meantime, I also saw someone taking a bike out of a station although I don’t remember if that was on TV or in real life. That’s where it hit me; it could be really convenient to have something like this in Nepal. So, in December 2018, I pitched this idea at the startup competition, formed a team and have been moving forward since then.
7. What are your future plans?
If we’re able to get Let’s Cycle off the ground in Kathmandu, we would like to try and implement it in areas like Pokhara too, which is the best possible location for Let’s Cycle. We want to try it in Patan as well. But before that, we have to identify bugs and the best efficiency model. Thus, there’s a lot of research to be done first.
For more information about Let’s cycle, connect with Shreeyash Shrestha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewed and article by Jyotika Shah.