Feature FridayTechTransportation

“We are giving the populace more options to move around in Lagos”: Shuttlers Mobility

It is not uncommon in Lagos to see, in the wee hours of the morning, large frustrated crowds of professionals, gathered at bus stops, waiting to force themselves into just any rickety bus to get to their work destinations on time. With the way, Lagos life is, one hardly has the luxury of careful gentlemanliness when getting to one’s destination on time is at stake. The fluctuating scarcity of buses and transport alternatives, the erratic changes in bus fares, and the terrible traffic gridlock situation in the city all compound what would generally have just been a simple movement from one end of this bustling city of Lagos to another. Asides from all these, the fragile security situation in Lagos, with robbers disguised as public transport workers, and the notorious ‘one chance’ buses, many commuters are left without safe and secure ways of getting to their destinations. This is what has driven the rise of shared mobility platforms across Lagos.

Shuttlers: Making bus transportation easier and more affordable 

These challenges in mobility within Lagos, and the solutions to be found in shared mobility, significantly define the resolve of Damilola Olokesusi and Shuttlers in building efficient transport alternatives for

professionals and companies to access comfortable yet affordable transportation through ride-sharing services.

Shuttlers is, as she shares in an interview with Startup Lagos,

basically a new category of ridesharing in this part of the world, where users, especially professionals that want to move in groups comfortably can do so through our platform.

 

Through the Shuttlers platform and mobile app, commuters can prebook for their rides/seats, and track bus routes in real-time, through an affordable subscription-based model. The startup was co-founded by Damilola Olokesusi who together felt that a safer and more flexible transportation model could work at solving some of the issues in transportation for professionals in Lagos. As she says,

We created a service that uses the traditional staff bus system, and makes it efficient, by applying technology to make it available for everyone. Click To Tweet

Iterating in the Nigerian market

With the peculiarity and volatility of the Nigerian market, startups are needing to iterate faster and more efficiently to keep themselves relevant. Damilola shares the urgency of this need, especially with Shuttlers, and points to two key lessons learned in constantly pivoting her business. 

Firstly, she points out that mentorship is key to this, and most especially, getting access to the right mentors. She shares that one remarkable thing that Shuttlers did was to get close to people in the transportation industry with vast knowledge and experience spanning many years, on whose understanding and knowledge they could leverage on. She also highlights how being part of tech communities has helped with different resources for growth, as well as opportunities to bounce off ideas and learnings with other entrepreneurs. 

Secondly, she emphasizes that part of growing as a startup in the Nigerian market is the necessity of trying out a lot of business models fast, to avoid being submerged by market dynamics. As she says,

…at the beginning, we [Shuttlers] tried owning buses and managing drivers, but that changed drastically because we realized it wasn’t working for our model.

As Kath Fuller, head of innovation services at Bruntwood SciTech opines,

…the idea of failing fast is an iterative design thinking methodology. It’s about redefining and getting feedback quickly.

Once a solution is being tested as a right fit for the customer’s needs, one has to fail fast as many times as possible until the right fit and idea is happened on. This, significantly, is the philosophy through which Damilola constantly matches her startup to the Nigerian market.

Why is Shuttlers’ innovation necessary? 

As with the case of Gokada and harsh government intervention, many startups have had to quickly and effectively iterate against antagonistic policies or market situations. And so, with the Lagos State government also actively exploring steps to curbing and eradicating transportation problems, it is a thing of concern as to how Shuttlers is looking at remaining relevant to commuters. As such, Damilola makes the point that Shuttlers is different from public transportation. 

We are giving the populace more options to move around in the city…we take people closer to their communities and closer to their destinations, which is not the way public transportation is mapped out. One would still need a connector or a last-mile shuttle to take them from the public transport bus points to their final destinations. All these connections would be made possible with only one ride.

Not only does Shuttlers enable ease of access of commuters to affordable and comfortable transport options, but they also have opportunities for networking and learning during the time it takes to commute to work and back. These are what present unique value to the target demographic of the bus-pooling startup, and capture their team vision.

Passion vs purpose?

The task of managing teams, and striving towards success, however, is a very weighty one. This is because of the dynamism of human systems, and the necessity of sustaining team drive. Many founders distinguish between passion, which entails the motivation behind the work being done, from a purpose that defines the reason or why for doing what we do. 

Tabitha Laverty, host of Startups: Guide to the Galaxy, clearly outlines that passion is what sells a startup on its ability to deliver on its purpose. As such, in the same vein, in choosing which of passion or purpose to have as a distinctive team spirit, Damilola believes that both go hand-in-glove, and is unwilling to choose any for the other. This is because while she possesses little or no previous knowledge in transportation, apart from her some undergraduate classes during her training in civil engineering, she has been driven to making an impact in the transportation sector. This defines her purpose, as well as fuels her passion for Shuttlers.

Moving forward

This passion for change in the transportation sector is one that is taking Damilola and Shuttlers to newer vistas. As she says,

We started with buses. It is just the beginning. Our plan is to provide a platform where wherever you are trying to get to, you can find an affordable and comfortable manner in getting there. We are doing that in a sustainable manner, by using the shared mobility model.

With new pivots focused on particular demographics, the startup, as at last year, launched shuttles for females, while also targeting branching out into other geographical areas in Nigeria. Through their SHE-MOVES (Strengthen Her: Mobilizing Ventures for Social Innovation), a Ford Motors Company initiative, the startup offers female professionals the opportunity to bring value to their commuting time, through learning and development avenues while sharing rides. 

The impact that the startup is making across the transportation sector is one that must be applauded and supported. This is because all of this success and growth has been done in the absence of VC funding, though they have been successful with grants from the World Bank, Airtel, and Sahara Energy, and Ford Motors Company. Lagos is one of the fastest-growing cities globally, with statistics revealing that between 2010 – 2030, over 77 people will move into Lagos every hour. With the growing challenges and opportunities in the transportation space in Nigeria, startups like Shuttlers that are offering these innovative solutions promise a great deal of comfort and freedom of choice for commuters within Nigeria’s different busy cities. 

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