Prasun Timilsina, co-founder and CEO of Karyalaya Ventures, has been trying to improve our chaotic public transport system and ease the lives of commuters by digitizing Nepal’s public transport system. His team developed and launched Nepal’s first public transportation app MotorBhada in 2017 with hopes to help improve the lives of daily commuters across Nepal.
MotorBhada will allow people to track public transport vehicles in real-time and help commuters get to their destinations on time. It also includes a second app MotorBhada Company designed for use by companies that need to monitor their vehicles. It is a much-needed solution but there are some challenges to its effective implementation. Nevertheless, he is undeterred and sticks to his motto and vision: “Where there are roads, there is MotorBhada.” Read our interview with him to find out more about the app.
1. Could you give us a general introduction to what MotorBhada is?
Nepal’s transport system is chaotic and disorganized. More than 70 percent of Nepalese citizens use public transport for their daily commute, but they have no information on timings and potential delays, or even basic transportation fares. The public commutes are in confusion every day due to a complete lack of information on public transport. We noticed this information void and created an app that could ease the lives of daily commuters. Although we came up with the idea in 2014, we didn’t have any other resources, so we waited a few years. Eventually, when we started Karyalaya Ventures, the first thing we did was to pitch MotorBhada ideas to potential investors. One of our investors, Ms. Shivani Dhakal was so excited about the idea that she brought in Ms. Rabina Bhattarai and Mr. Saurav Timilsina on board as investors –which itself was a major boost for us to kick off the project. Then we acquired a larger IT team from Nepal, India and the UK to develop MotorBhada. It took our 8-member IT team, led by my partner Sujit, approximately six months to complete the project.
2. What does Karyalaya do?
Karyalaya is a team of young thinkers, strategists and programmers that provides work-ready 24hr office spaces, complete IT solutions and strategic consultation via Karyalaya Space, Karyalaya IT and Karyalaya Strategy. OYO Rooms is one of Karyalaya Space’s clients. Karyalaya IT, which is what MotorBhada is under and lastly, we have Karyalaya Strategy that works with brand building and advertising – Khalti app’s first promotional song was done by Karyalaya Strategy.
3. How does the MotorBhada app work?
MotorBhada has two apps working together- The MotorBhada user app and the MotorBhada Company app. The user app is free for the public with all the transport-related information but the Motorbhada company app charges public transport companies, schools or any other companies with vehicles a certain fee to register. Their entire fleet can be registered with us and the supervisor can track their location. Accordingly, we use this data to inform our public users about the vehicles.
If a driver using the MotorBhada company app has an issue while on the road, he can just tap a button to notify his supervisor. Using the company app in conjunction with the public use app allows both parties to coordinate and work together efficiently. We’ve made both apps extremely easy to use for all demographics and is offered in both Nepali and English languages.
The user app is currently available for Android phones. Its IOS version is also ready but we would like to launch it once we have more than 80% of Nepal’s transportation data.
4. What were the challenges you faced or are currently facing with regards to Motorbhada?
Our first challenge was to collect data, which was an arduous task. There was nothing available digitally, all the information was registered manually in big-thick registration books (dhaddas). There were hundreds of them and if we wanted to collect data, we had to go through every page of every book to digitize Nepal’s transportation data. We were ready for that too; we even requested the department of transport to have our data entry consultants placed there for three months to collect data, but we were not allowed to. In the meantime, we also visited Mr. Ramesh Mahara for the Yatayat Mahasangh and made another request. Finally, he gave us around 70% of Kathmandu’s data.
Initially, when we launched this app the response was very good, but that 70% of our data ended up being quite insignificant. After the launch, we visited Dr. Roop Narayan Bhattarai, who was the Director at the Transport Department at the time. He was excited that it was just the right app to manage the transport system and wanted to sign a contract with us right away. He called his team and had everything ready to sign the contract but at the very last minute, he was transferred somewhere after he acted against the transport syndicate in Nepal. Since then we haven’t been able to move forward because of the lack of data. We had thought after the Smart Urban Technology Challenge, the City Planning Commission and KMC would surely think of digitizing Nepal’s transportation system, and tie-up with MotorBhada, but we are yet to hear from them.
But the irony is, though we made it to the top 24 in SUTC, and many City Planning Commission members and experts realized the potential of the app, they haven’t done anything about it. Though transportation is the basic to make any city smart, our experts were more interested in toilets, perhaps because they don’t have to take public transport to commute daily.
5. What are your future plans for MotorBhada?
Although we have had to take a temporary pause on MotorBhada promotion, we are still going to follow up with the Department of Transport, despite all the difficulties we’ve been facing. We are already prepared to work with a lot of data, and I think once we have all data in place, the app downloads should increase significantly.
We can also collect data by ourselves, but it’s a job that will require a lot of investments. And this is where we are stuck. But if its potential is realized and we are supported by the department of transport and the government, we can digitize every single transportation data in 3 months.
Not just Nepal, this app is good for third world countries as well where people use public transport to commute. To create a smart city, the first necessity that needs to be fulfilled is digitization of public transport, and we want MotorBhada to help fulfill that need and create our vision of “Where there are roads, there is Motorbhada” come true.
For more information about Motorbhada, connect with Prasun Timilsina at email@example.com.
Interviewed and article by Jyotika Shah.