When it comes to ride-sharing platforms, Uber is perhaps the largest service provider in the world. Founded in 2009 in San Francisco, California, the platform has grown to become a multinational mobility driver in over 80 countries of the world. However, the growth and popularity of Uber have always been challenged by local competitors and the scenario has somewhat been similar in Bangladesh as well. To combat that, Uber has always tried to come up with innovative strategies and services to outperform their competitors and their latest addition of auto-rickshaws is a testament to that end.
State of Mobility in Bangladesh
Transportation has always been one of the prime constraints in Bangladesh. whether it’s the lack of infrastructures or plain ignorance of people, there aren’t many that can say that they haven’t faced the ugly side of Dhaka’s traffic. So naturally, the concept of ride-sharing has been a relief for many, especially those in a rush. A simple estimate is enough to prove our point. The total number of users of the ride-sharing platform in 2016 was about 10,000. Within just one year, the number jumped to 500,000 in 2017. Now in 2021, there are about 7.5 million rides completed every month with a market cap of about 2200 crore BDT. It only proves that the market is highly lucrative with even more growth opportunities.
The main competitors in the ride-sharing platform of Bangladesh are Uber, Pathao, Shohoz, and Obhai. There are other utility-based mobility services but those are mostly service niche-based so we won't be including them in the general transportations segment.
As the earliest adopter of the ride-sharing concept in Bangladesh, Pathao has been a market leader since 2015. Soon after, Uber entered Bangladesh in 2016. The other two prominent competitors entered the ride-sharing market in early 2018 even though Shohoz was founded back in 2014.
The Competitive Landscape
It's clear that Uber isn’t the first and neither the only company in the mobility business of Bangladesh. With three other prominent competitors around, the work for Uber is cut out to be much more than they faced in some other markets of the world.
One of the prime reasons for a competitive landscape is the multipoint service offered by the competitors of Uber. Pathao and Shohoz both have an all-in-one super app that provides a host of other services in addition to mobility. Naturally, the appeal of Pathao and Shohoz holds higher ground given the solutions and value created and offered.
However, the strategy of Uber also goes neck and neck. The ultimate goal of Uber is to be the gold standard in the transportation sector in each of their market. Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, even went so much as to say that they plan to develop Uber as the Amazon of the transportation sector. So how is Uber faring compared to that goal?
Unlike the competitors, Uber didn’t focus on a multi-point service in Bangladesh. Uber Eats, a food delivery substitute of Uber even recently closed its operation in Bangladesh. What Uber focuses on is on perfecting the game it is already playing and created a strategy based on the offered service.
If you open the Uber app, you will find 7 different ride-sharing options at your disposal. This outnumbers the other competitors who offered 2 or 3 options at best. The strategy of Uber here is to offer something for everyone at every level of convenience. Whether it’s the moto service or the Uber Hire, the company is aiming to make ride-sharing an integral as well as personalized part of its users.
Recently Uber has also included auto-rickshaw in its service arsenal. Though they have been test driving the auto-rickshaw in Chittagong since 2019, it’s the first time people of Dhaka will be able to experience auto-rickshaw service through Uber.
The move to include auto-rickshaw by Uber is a clear indication of mobility aggression by the company. As the company adds more and more transportation options to its service, customers will inadvertently incline towards Uber putting its competitors in a precarious position. And if basic economics has taught us anything, in a highly competitive market, the customer is always better off.
Currently, Obhai is the only competitor to provide auto-rickshaw service. The move by Uber will force the likes of Pathao and Shohoz to reconsider their business approach, all the while enabling Uber to take advantage of their already well-established mobility ecosystem.
We already talked about other niche-based services. The likes of Jatri which is working with the public bus transportation and shuttle, a convenient and safe group transportation system initially developed for women are now looking to broaden their horizon as well.
So is Uber doing things right? For the time being, yes. Their move to include auto rickshaws will definitely give them an upper hand against the prominent competitors and gather considerable market share. The strategy of Uber to become the Amazon of transportation may well become true given how their strategies resonate with their customers.
The ride-sharing market, as well as the platform, are continuously growing. The growth in demand has forced the market leaders to come up with innovative services to better enhance the experience for the customers. As more and more players enter the mobility market of Bangladesh, the competitive landscape will surely help to increase the market cap of the industry as well as bring ease to the traffic nightmare of Dhaka.