KARACHI: A Pakistani startup offering online carpool service has received an “overwhelming” response in the wake of the recent fuel price hikes in the country, its founder said on Monday, with over 7,000 users signing up for the app in a week.
Last month, Pakistan reported 21.3 percent inflation, a 13-year high, following an over 90 percent increase in fuel rates since May 26.
Statistics show the rise in transportation costs contributed 61.46 percent to the overall inflation recorded in June this year.
“In the current circumstances, carpooling with enhanced security precautions is becoming an economically viable solution to the rising fuel costs,” Mughira Irfan, who launched the DriveLu app last Monday, told Arab News.
“We have received overwhelming response from users that include both riders and drivers,” he added. “Within a week of its official launch, the number of users of the app went beyond 7,000. This was a number we expected to achieve after a few months.”
Irfan said he had started working on the idea when he was in university and had to travel on crowded buses.
“The idea was close to my heart because I used to face this issue during my university life,” he said. “I even waited for buses for more than an hour since they were mostly overcrowded.”
He recalled coming across people who offered him a ride for a nominal price.
“I realized there was a space here and people wanted to pick you up and give you rides for money,” Irfan said.
The startup founder said his idea was to turn a car into an asset that not only provided a safe commutation solution but also became an earning tool.
“The main goal was that if a vehicle was taken to the road, it should be an asset and help generate money,” he added. “The whole purpose was to bring down a driver’s fuel cost to zero and give him the opportunity to earn some additional income.”
Asked about the security of drivers and riders, he said they were both verified through their computerized national identity cards while an additional security button was also added to the app.
“We have addressed the issue of security because we think that carpooling now needs to be trusted by more people,” Irfan said. “We have the driver’s and rider’s CNIC information which is a must for both. Also, the vehicles’ registration information is always available with us. We even take CNIC numbers from single riders since there is no compromise on it.”
He said his team was also reaching out to the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) for automation of the CNIC verification system.
“Currently we are manually doing this but our hope is that automation will reduce chances of error,” he said. “The embedded panic button in the app can also alert our monitoring team.”
The startup founder said he was planning to initially offer the service in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and their surrounding areas, adding that demand was also coming from other cities.
As Pakistan’s inflationary outlook remains elevated for the current fiscal year, Irfan said he was hopeful the carpool idea would gain further traction.
Pakistani startups have been on the global radar since 2021 when the country received about $365 million, accounting for over 60 percent of all deals completed by such firms within the past seven years.
The flow of funds also continued in the first two quarters of 2022, accounting for $266 million, according to Invest2Innovate and Alpha Beta Core data.