In a conversation with Dhaka Tribune's Nawaz Farhin Antara, the Pathao co-founder shared his challenges and the company’s plans for the future. Elius envisions Pathao as the country's ‘super app’ and is inspired by one of his key investors, Indonesia's Go-Jek. Pathao raised over US $12.8 million from four rounds of funding and is valued at over $100 million
Hussain M Elius and Shifat Adnan co-founded Pathao, the leading ride-sharing, on-demand logistics, and food delivery, platform in Bangladesh.
Pathao’s motorbike and car services currently cater to 5 million riders across five cities in Bangladesh, and in Kathmandu, Nepal also.
What inspired you to launch Pathao?
I was born and raised in Dhaka and I am very much aware of the traffic problems here. I always looked for a fixed ride available on Dhaka streets, so some of my friends and I initially started it as a small scale plan with only five motorbikes. In a short period of time, we learnt there was a huge demand for the service as it was cheap and saved time too. And this is how it all began.
Has Pathao changed the commuting system in Dhaka? How big is your ride-sharing service now?
Unlike any other country in the world, Dhaka did not have a bike or taxicab culture earlier. There was no motorcycle based ride-sharing service and we were the first ones to start it. It was not a known concept either. Because of the huge traffic problems, it surfaced as a new category of transportation and saves time, especially for those who use motorbike-sharing.
Our app has over 5 million downloads and we have 200,000 registered drivers across Bangladesh and Kathmandu, Nepal.
Do you consider payment a major challenge, as ride-sharing is still a cash-based system?
Ride-sharing is one of the services we provide. Pathao has an e-commerce logistics service which is the biggest in Bangladesh. We also have a food delivery service and we are also exploring others sectors using our expertise and riders.
As for payments, it is a big challenge, we do have options in our app where a customer-rider can pay-receive money using debit-credit cards and through mobile banking service, bkash. Most people still prefer cash. It will take time, but the matter will be solved eventually.
What challenges are you facing now with ride-sharing?
The biggest challenge right now is regulatory. A new policy was implemented last year and we have been working with the government to design it, as well as help them learn how ride-sharing businesses operate.
The regulatory body is also cooperating with us to come to an overall solution which benefits both parties.
You are already providing 3 types of services in Bangladesh, and bike-sharing in Nepal. What comes next?
We already have a strong base because of our partner drivers, riders, and our logistics part.
Our vision is to establish Pathao as the “super App” of Bangladesh.
We are constantly improving our services and capabilities. We have plans to go global where we will handle multiple languages, currencies, time zones, and our operations skills across borders.
Nepal is an interesting market as there are more motorbikes in Kathmandu than in Dhaka. We have similar plans for there as well.
Forbes listed you for contributing to consumer technology in Bangladesh. How do you see the achievement?
I am honored to be on the list. However, it wouldn't have been possible without my amazing team. Because of their relentless support to our users, drivers, and logistics partners, one day, Pathao will put Bangladesh on the global map.
What are the areas you look to prioritize as you go forward?
We want to make Pathao a digital lifestyle of Bangladesh.