By Bhavani Chandrasekaran
Indian American cofounder Shukoor Ahmed says subscription model beneficial to both drivers and consumers.
A new ride share app called “Wakuk” is giving a run for their money to established providers like Uber, Lyft and Ola in India’s small cities.
Designed and developed by a Hyderabad, Telangana, India-based young 26-year-old entrepreneur, Shoeb Ahmed, Wakuk’s subscription model is beneficial to both drivers and consumers.
Helping Shoeb Ahmed translate his app into a business model is co-promoter Shukoor Ahmed, an Indian American angel investor who has mentored several young technology entrepreneurs.
Shukoor Ahmed, a Bowie, MD, resident who is an immigrant from Hyderabad, himself worked as a travel agent in his early twenties. After moving to the US, he did BS in Computer Information Systems from Strayer University and Master’s in Public Policy from American University
AB: How did you get the idea to start Wakuk?
Shukoor Ahmed: The primary focus of Wakuk is to ensure the service providers are paid well and consumers have more choices beyond the usual providers.
AB: What is the difference between Wakuk and other ride share companies like Uber, Lyft and Ola?
SA: Wakuk is a subscription model and beneficial to both drivers and consumers. We believe this model is sustainable in the long run especially in smaller cities in India because of non-availability of established ones.
We don’t take anything from drivers if their take away is less than Rs. 500 and we charge a subscription of Rs. 99 for a day once the drivers earn more than Rs. 500 through our app. There is no commission on ride fare, which is beneficial to both drivers and consumers.
Also, we are keen to provide a part of ownership, say about 20-25%, to the drivers’ community. Our margin will be minimum compared to Uber or Ola. Also, there is no surge pricing providing relief to the consumers. Anyone can compare the pricing on a real-time basis.
AB: Given the current interest rate, how do you find your firm to be? Is there any data to support your idea?
SA: We have not done any survey for this service nor do we have any data to support. But we believe that there is a recalibration between owning and availing the service.
Owning and availing have their advantages. We are betting on the ride share service because our offering is better than other providers and also we have more operational efficiency to produce more with less.
We believe there is enough space for this sector and we thought of experimenting with Rs. 8-9 million rather than spending Rs. 100 million.
Our expenditure for developing our app is considerably lower than the amount spent by Uber or Ola. Therefore, we are cautious in our spending.
AB: What is your focus region or country?
SA: Currently, we are operational only in Hyderabad in Telangana and focusing mostly in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. But we see a lot of potential in smaller cities in India.
This is mainly because the established ones are focused on larger cities and as a result the competition is also very high. On the other hand, there is a significant space for the emerging ride sharing firms to grow in the absence of established ones.
Also, with internet reaching even the villages in India, there is a tremendous opportunity, especially for locals and tourists.
AB: Did covid-19 affect your plans or operations?
SA: Yes, like any other business, Wakuk has also been adversely impacted. We expect the pandemic to reset the economy. Currently, we are keeping low and don’t want to spend due to the prevailing conditions in Hyderabad or Andhra Pradesh.
We hope to re-launch the service once the situation settles down or normalizes where consumers opt for a ride share without any fear due to the pandemic.
AB: How do you plan to fund?
SA: Currently, me and my friend James Matayoshi are the investors. However, we are talking to investors and explaining what we have done so far and our plans and the business model. For a year, we will focus mainly on smaller cities in India in two states.
AB: Any plans for other countries?
SA: Initially, we thought of venturing into Pacific countries, but felt that Indian small cities offered tremendous opportunities.
However, we have plans for going to Pacific countries, either by ourselves or partnering with local firms to boost presence.
We believe that local partners know the market better and we can provide technology to grow both. It also enhances the local tech, business and entrepreneurial ecosystem.