Yet another crisis for Nepal. The southern border blockade – so called undeclared fuel & supply blockade by India to Nepal – has been the worst crisis to Nepalese after the notorious Earthquake six months ago. The fuel crisis caused in the landlocked country, however, helped some young minds with the alternatives. From mobile apps facilitating lifts to going with the bicycle city to even the locally possible bio-fuel have gone to even wider reach. In this article, we discuss about two mobile startup apps, namely Carpool Kathmandu & PickMe, which have been helping Nepalese in this time of fuel crisis.
Starting from the Carpool Kathmandu Facebook public group which aimed to provide a common platform for helpers and seekers in lifts, this Android smartphone app does exactly what it means to. Developed by Fawesome Apps – the same Anish Shrestha (aka Anish Supertramp) company behind Yellow Nepal, InstaMeMe and Dubblr App!
This (Carpool Kathmandu) group is for those people who have a car, bike or are taking a taxi and are willing to offer a ride and those that are willing to accept a ride. Life is coming to a grinding halt for many as there seems no end to the fuel crisis. Below is how this platform should be used. To mitigate the risk, before you accept or offer, check for mutual friends and vet. If you have better idea on how to mitigate risk, please do write. Thank you! (Sumana Shrestha, initiator of Carpool Kathmandu)
Rules of engagement:
#ASK – if you need a ride.
#OFFER – if you have a ride to offer
#Filled – Once the capacity is filled, please edit your hashtag to #FILLED
Traffic and pollution has never been easy. But you can change all that by carpooling. Carpool Kathmandu is the community of like minded people who are ready to lead that change. Be part of this fantabulous journey of transforming the way we commute in Kathmandu. Share rides, reduce congestion and reduce pollution. Be the future of new Nepal.
In the app, use ‘Asks’ to get help, Use ‘Offers’ to help others. Update your status to ‘Filled’ once your carpooling is over. Happy Carpooling!
The Carpool Kathmandu Facebook group has already crossed 100k (one lakh) users while this app has current install or download of approximately 5k as per the app info. Download Carpool Kathmandu from Google Play Store here.
Another app that aims at facilitating lifts during fuel crisis in Nepal is PickMe. This is one of many creative ideas sprouted on the Internet to help people reach their destinations amidst fuel crisis. Currently, the app has around 500 users and a rating of 4.3 in Google Play.
PickMe is an Android app developed by HazeSoft Pvt Ltd, and is meant for a social and voluntary cause – provides a communication platform where the people currently facing the problem of fuel shortage in Nepal can communication each other to provide lift and ask for lift. The app is available as a free download from the Android play store here.
“We developed this PickMe in a very short time. In the beginning, it had its flaws and was not quite compatible with different mobile brands. But we’ve been working on it and updating it regularly. Bug reports from our users are gradually decreasing, too,” says Bijay Luitel, one of the six developers of this app. The developers credit the blockade and difficulties it brought forth as the major catalyst for developing this app.
While registering for the app, the lift provider is required to enter detailed information including his/her phone number, vehicle number, vehicle type (whether two or four-wheeler) and their routes.
Bijay explains that this ensures security to some degree: “It’s compulsory to provide these details so that even if something goes wrong, we won’t have much difficulty tracking the perpetrator.”
PickMe will soon see lots of new changes. The team will introduce features such as ‘notification as per the location’, which will notify users seeking lifts as soon as someone offers a lift from the same locality. For now lift seekers are required to call the lift providers to book the seat. The app will also see a comment system, which, the developers believe, will facilitate communication between users. PickMe will also incorporate a mobile number verification system so that users can’t post just about anyone’s number. “Once a user enters a phone number, we’ll send a verification code to that number which should be further used for verification purposes. This will ensure greater security,” says Bijay.
Sajilo Ride (Ujjwal Atreya) and seatkhalicha.com are other similar ideas that serve similar purpose.
So carpooling has been a great platform for people without a vehicle of their own at this time of political impasse. But traveling in a public vehicle in Nepal hasn’t been convenient in “normal” times, either. Especially during rush hours, commuting has always been a burden. So this should continue even after the borders open?
Some people prefer apps as searching lifts and responding back it easier than the Facebook group where only the latest offers whether filled or not are on the top of the page. Hitchhiking is a logical option to consider in times like this. Using apps is also somehow safer as it included user verification before the app can be used instead of asking for lifts from random people on street, however safety can also be considered by looking at offerer’s profile in Facebook – in both cases the choice is of the user or the lift seeker.
Looking at a larger user base of Carpool Kathmandu Facebook group and mobile apps already into the action, let lifting or carpooling continue in the country not only inside the Kathmandu valley. Whatever the cases be let’s continue helping and getting help.
Share us your carpooling experiences in the comments below.
Note: The article’s portion about PickMe was published in Republica “Can you pick me up?” highlighting the in-house solutions from Nepal’s startups to address the fuel crisis and hitchhiking culture in the country.