Hussain M Elius, Chief Executive Officer, Pathao _Photo : Monitor
One of the control rooms of Pathao _Photo : Monitor
Dhaka : There have been very few organisations like Pathao, which has scaled up and gained popularity so fast in Bangladesh.
Started by Hussain M Elius, CEO, Pathao and his partner only about two years ago in 2016, Pathao is now the most dependable way to transport people at less cost, given the huge traffic in the city.
Pathao came up to the rescue at a time when the general people were finding a way to reach their destination in time as the unbearable traffic made their life hellish.
Hussain M Elius and his partner started doing simple e-commerce deliveries for facebook merchants, hence, the name 'Pathao', at a time when e-commerce was just starting to take off in Bangladesh.
As a start-up, they identified a need and created a solution around it. As time went by, they understood the needs of the customers better.
Thus, they continued developing their service accordingly. And in a short time, Pathao became the largest e-commerce delivery company in the country.
Hussain M Elius, CEO, Pathao said, "At first Pathao rides did not happen on an app. It started as a small project. We had a secret facebook group where we invited all our friends."
"If someone wanted to take a ride, we would have to call my personal number and place a booking. We would then schedule the trip via phone calls to the riders and keep track of where we are - through Google Sheets."
"It was a very hacky way to get started and test the market. Our hypothesis was: would people actually take a shared motorbike ride? It turned out, they would," said Hussain M Elius.
Six months later, in December 2016, they released their app. It was a simple app built by a team of three to four people. The idea was to connect a customer with the nearest driver automatically - bypassing the cumbersome customer call and manual dispatching process.
They were very wary about the launch, wondering if people would even bother to download another app.
Hussain M Elius said, "The response we received was fantastic. There was a need of fast and cheap transport in the traffic-ridden city of Dhaka. And the bike sharing model worked from the very first day."
Pathao CEO said, "By January 2017, we were doing hundreds of rides a day. In February, we were already at thousands."
But with growth, came scaling challenges. The last 18 months had just been about scaling up. Two years ago they were only serving, maybe 10 to15 customers a day. Now, they are serving several thousand times more the number.
And it is increasing every single day. Meaning, as Pathao continues to grow, it also needs to develop its capabilities of serving those growing customers. They are constantly trying to catch up to maintain the level of growth.
An example of evolution is noticeable in their technology. Their code base started small. But as they kept on building things on top of it, it started getting huge and bulky.
The monolith of a code base has been useful to process thousands of requests coming in every second. But as they grew 100 times more in a short time, it kept failing - affecting both the users' and the drivers' experiences. The database kept locking up, dispatcher kept failing, and connections kept getting destroyed.
Hussain M Elius said, "Thus, we started an ambitious project earlier in 2018 where they would move from the monolith to a manageable, micro-service based architecture."
"We had slowly started working on pushing it out in the middle of the year, but it had its own challenges - which we are staying up all day and night to fix. Soon, the services will be a lot faster and more reliable than ever!" he stated.
Safety has also been one of the challenges. When they were smaller, the absolute number of accidents that were reported was also much smaller. As they grew bigger, the number of reported accidents also went up. That means they have the opportunity to get better around safety.
"We are starting an initiative recently where we give the riders and captains more intensive training - whether it be on our code of conduct or how to read GPS or driving skills. We have also started to give out and persistently encourage drivers to carry helmets for themselves and the customers."
"It broke our cultural norms. Now we are doing many ways like - food delivery, Pathao car service and female riders," said Hussain M Elius.
"In Bangladesh the barriers are - no supportive infrastructure, less stamina of risk tolerance and lack of government support," he added.
"Pathao's future plan is now to go all over in Bangladesh," concluded Hussain M Elius.