Maliha, an MBA from Harvard, has been named Young Global Leader of 2017 in Asian Countries by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for her efforts in digitising the ticketing system in Bangladesh.
Your business is different from other e-commerce. Tell about your passion for the business that inspired you to choose it.
I started my career in big corporate house with responsibility in information technology and digital issues. Since then, I had a dream to do something in Bangladesh, which will make the sector digital. I tried to do something, which will help mass people. Since transportation is an everyday need of people, I considered it a business sector since e-ticketing would make easier for individuals to obtain tickets sitting at home.
Transportation sector is a vital sector. People in all walks of life use different modes of transport every day. On the other hand, due to traffic congestion business persons find it difficult to approach the ticket counters to obtain tickets.
What are the challenges facing you in doing business?
Operators especially the small ones do not know about the system while local operators outside Dhaka are unwilling to introduce the system. That is why penetration is very tough while clients are not accustomed to taking the services from the e-commerce. To make people aware and make them technologically sound, we are investing money in advertisement and training also for marketing. Since there is no existing market, we have to go through huge arduous work to create markets.
To make people aware and make them technologically sound, we are investing money in advertisement and training also for marketing. Since there is no existing market, we have to go through huge arduous work to create markets
What are the challenges for a woman to run such a business?
In Bangladesh, most of the businesses are male-dominated, while women did not run such business earlier. As a result, people were not primarily willing to take the services from us, and sometimes they failed to rely on us. This is a social taboo, but I got lots of support from the bus operators.
I always prefer taking challenges and like to work in problem-solving area. My work area was e-commerce and digital services. Since Bangladesh is working on making a digitised country, from that perspective, I have taken the challenge to work on the transportation sector.
What should be the government approach towards policy support in promoting digital ticketing system?
As the digital ticketing is new in Bangladesh, the government can allocate a larger portion of tickets for private service providers to make it popular. In this regard, the government can introduce quota especially for trains and steamers. On the other hand, the government can use tools like Bangladesh Television, Radio and online media to advertise e-ticketing and to inform people of e-ticketing. The government can also set aside an especial allocation to make the transport sector digitised.
What do you think about the future start-up in Bangladesh?
In any country, there is a good future for any start-up, but it should start in a well-designed and perfect way. Getting fund for any start-up projects is tough in Bangladesh compared to other countries like India.
If the start-up entrepreneurs get fund, there will be a huge opportunity and they can come up with new window of economic activities, thus a lot of employment opportunities will be created.
I think, any start-up should have some experiences in the field it is going to do business, or else, the project can end up in failure.
Recently, you have received an award titled “Young Global Leader”, what do you think worked behind your recognition?
In every country, there is indiscipline and mismanagement in transportation sector. Since I worked a lot to bring a change to the sector through digitisation, the World Economic Forum might consider it to appreciate my efforts and they awarded me.....
Do you think that payment gateway is a barrier to e-commerce business?
The existing payment system is not an obstacle, but a problem for e-commerce. There are problems regarding the settlement, which needs to be addressed while banks and mobile financial service providers should be more liberal and user friendly so people can pay very easily through new payment methods.
What are the main challenges to popularising the digital ticketing service?
The main challenge is to make people understand that there is no risk and it is hassle-free and build trust in the service. I would like to assure all that there is no risk as we have invested a huge amount of money in the business and we are committed to providing the best services we can. Another challenge is the lack of technical knowledge among the transport sector people, but we are training them on how to operate the system.
What is your future plan?
I dream a digitised ticketing system through which people would be able to get the tickets sitting at home, as our daily life is turning hectic every day.
What is your future plan in expanding your business to rural area?
People can now purchase ticket from anywhere in Bangladesh, but there are some problems like printing facilities of online tickets. We are working on how to reach people in remote areas. Even we are mulling over appointing local agents so people can get help from their own areas.
How are the people’s response to e-ticketing?
Though it was very tough to sell tickets primarily, now we are getting good and increasing responses from our valued clients. People are positive towards e-ticketing, but they don’t know how to do buy ticket online due to lack of technical knowledge. Our young generation is very active about the new system. The future of business is good but it would take time.