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Rubik Joshi: We retained customers by building trust

Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talked with Rubik Joshi, executive chair of Tootle and managing director of Zapp, to know about Tootle, Zapp and more

Rubik Joshi: We retained customers by building trust

Rubik Joshi, Shreyas K Shrestha, and Keyush Shrestha co-founded Zapp Services Pvt Ltd, a delivery service, amid the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The company grew with leaps and bounds, and continues to do so. Zapp has recently expanded its portfolio to include Tootle, a pioneering ridesharing app in Nepal. Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talked with Joshi, executive chair of Tootle and managing director of Zapp, to know about Tootle, Zapp and more. Excerpts:

Tootle experienced its share of ups and downs since its inception and has recently undergone a rebranding. How is Tootle faring these days?

We were offered ownership of the Tootle brand, which is a pioneer, home-grown, and beloved brand. We were excited about this opportunity. Upon taking over Tootle, we revamped the app with new technology, features, and services. The relaunch of the app has met some of our expectations. Given its already established reputation, it was relatively easy for us, and both our riders and customers were thrilled to see their favorite ride-sharing app back in the market. Many take pride in Tootle as a homegrown app. Consequently, we witnessed a significant number of downloads, rider and user registrations, and orders from the first day of the relaunch. Presently, we boast over 30,000 registered riders, more than 80,000 user registrations, and fluctuating daily order volumes. However, our numbers continue to grow daily, showing promising signs for the future.

What strategies do you have in place to compete in the ride-sharing app market?

All ride-sharing apps typically offer a straightforward service: getting from one point to another. However, we’ve aimed to infuse our app with vibrancy. Within the Tootle experience, customers encounter a variety of engaging in-app services. For instance, our ‘Around You’ section features a curated selection of locally made Nepalese businesses partnered with us. This not only promotes local brands but also encourages users to discover new experiences. Additionally, Tootle offers both riders and customers the option to select their preferred gender, allowing them to specify whether they prefer a male, female, or both-gendered service. This feature aims to accommodate the comfort levels of both riders and customers.

We’re actively encouraging female riders to join our platform, and we’re proud to say that they’ve embraced it, with a ratio of approximately 100:5 compared to male riders. This reflects positively on the level of female participation in this market.

In the near future, we plan to integrate our delivery service, which was the foundation of our startup, directly into the Tootle app. This expansion will provide users and riders with a comprehensive, all-in-one service experience.

We’ve also partnered with organizations focused on empowering women, where they provide training for females to obtain driving licenses. Upon completion, we offer them employment and a platform to earn through our service. While we typically don’t provide training for riders, in the case of female riders, we make an exception. We offer training tailored to their needs and also provide self-defense training to ensure their safety and confidence on the road.

What has the business of Zapp been like? What is its market share?

In the delivery service sector, one of the major challenges is establishing trust with partner companies. I’m proud to say that we’ve successfully made Zapp one of the most trusted companies in the industry. Acting on behalf of vendors, we handle cash payments in cash-on-delivery cases, steadily building trust with each transaction. Remarkably, many of our partner companies have been with us since our inception, a testament to the trust we’ve cultivated with them over time. We prioritize prompt settlement of cash payments, ensuring vendors receive their dues within a day. I can confidently assert that we are the leading delivery service provider in the market, a position earned through our relentless dedication and hard work. Starting the company from scratch provided us with invaluable lessons that laid a solid foundation for our growth and success.

We prioritized cash handling, product safety, and customer service by tying insurance to the packages and educating riders on proper parcel handling. In the ride-sharing and on-demand delivery sector, profit margins are notoriously slim. Nevertheless, our emphasis remains on delivering exceptional service, ensuring customer satisfaction, and both retaining and expanding our customer base. We strive to strike a balance between maintaining quality and achieving quantity.

The surge in digital delivery and mobility services have provided employment opportunities for many Nepali youths, thereby slightly mitigating the trend of Nepalis seeking employment abroad. How can these youths be encouraged to remain in the Nepali market? Are they remunerated adequately to sustain a comfortable standard of living?

We’re committed to retaining our riders, especially the younger ones, recognizing that losing this demographic is not just a loss for the country, but for us personally, as we strive to contribute to our nation. Until April 14, we didn’t charge any commissions to Tootle riders. However, to ensure our sustainability, we’ve now implemented a minimal commission fee—12 percent for cabs and 15 percent for bikes. Additionally, we’ve partnered with NIU Electric Scooters to empower our riders. For those who can’t afford two-wheelers but wish to work with us, Tootle will provide Rs 50,000 to assist in purchasing an NIU electric scooter. This initiative is aimed at retaining our youth within the country and fostering their growth domestically. We’ve also introduced rental schemes, allowing riders to rent bikes and kickstart their Tootle journeys. Furthermore, we prioritize rider safety and security by providing insurance coverage.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs and youths looking to establish startups in Nepal?

I recommend that newcomers adopt a long-term perspective. Merely entering and exiting the market yields little benefit. Setting a clear direction and committing to it for the long haul is crucial. While many startups face challenges, maintaining a never-give-up attitude is essential, as businesses rarely turn a profit from day one. It takes time to see returns on your investment. If initial plans falter, adjustments can be made, but adherence to your long-term vision and objectives is key.