This ‘bus’ is worth catching
By Karamjit Singh September 20, 2013
- CatchThatBus aims to become the go-to portal for bus tickets
- Founders see the same pain points in other SEA markets
IT is a journey that has taken over two years, but August this year saw Ashwin Jeyapalasingam and Viren Doshi (pic), founders of Catch That Bus, scale a new high in their entrepreneurial journey as their website finally went live with tickets from bus companies Nice, Plusliner and Transnasional on offer.
It is not difficult to create a website – unless that website is really the front-end to drag a reluctant industry, in this case express buses, into the digital economy.
Little surprise then that when asked their understanding of what it takes to be an entrepreneur today versus when they started in June 2011, the two founders answered: Patience, perseverance, and at least a 50% buffer to everything you estimate – from timelines and revenue forecasts, to costs and break-even point.
But now that they have, the duo is looking forward to monetising their product and capturing the market opportunity present from an industry that does a poor job of serving its customers.
This can range from buses that do not run on time, to customer service numbers that ring practically the entire day with nary a pickup, to overselling of tickets which will leave some innocent passengers fuming.
Mind you, the duo feels that these problems are not unique to Malaysia but are actually present in the entire Asian region. Which means the market opportunity they smell is also Asian-wide. But for now, they want to capture 10% of the RM1-billion (US$309-million) market in Malaysia within the next three years.
For bus operators, Catch That Bus literally acts as an extra sales channel. “Smaller operators love the increased visibility which helps them make more informed decisions … which then leads to increased monetisation,” notes Viren.
For instance, during off-peak periods, bus operators can offer last-minute deals and flash sales to drive revenue. But Viren and Ashwin (pic) also see a role to play in helping drive up the revenue per passenger – a common challenge for all bus operators.
“We believe we can help them sell add-on services like WiFi, etc,” says Viren. “It’s the AirAsia model.”
The startup is self-funded, with the duo counting their lucky stars on being a CIP150 recipient from Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd which saw them receive a RM150,000 (US$46,350) grant last year.
“Together with that and what we've made from charter sales, this has helped keep us going to the stage where we have a fully launched website and mobile app for Android (with the iOS app planned for the end of September),” says Viren.
Classmates during their A-Levels in Taylor's college in Kuala Lumpur, the duo has been thinking over the years of wanting to build something together – “but only if we both thought it was worthwhile,” says Ashwin.
In the end, it was Viren, working with an NGO (non-governmental organisation) in India at the time, who came up with the idea. He contacted Ashwin and they worked on developing the business plan together.
“The idea was simple to understand, the need and value evident, and most importantly (for us), the numbers made sense,” says Ashwin.
The next target is to sign up as many bus companies as possible and try to become the go-to portal for booking bus tickets in Malaysia. After that, the region beckons.
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