Public Transport App Jatri attracts leading UAE investors to Bangladesh

Public Transport App Jatri attracts leading UAE investors to Bangladesh
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Published: 23 January 2020 - 12:48 p.m.

Bangladeshi technology start-up, Jatri, announced it has closed a seed round for an undisclosed amount backed by Superangel, Falcon Network, Tahseen Consulting, and leading angel investors – many of whom were early investors and advisors to leading transport apps like Bolt (previously Taxify), Uber, Bird, Angkas, and Buseet. The seed round is believed to be one of the largest seed rounds ever raised in Bangladesh and is being viewed as a watershed moment for the country’s rapidly growing digital economy in attracting leading investors from the Middle East and North Africa.

Dr. Sayd Farook, co-founder of Falcon Network, says “at Falcon Network, we aim to invest in startups that not only have strong market potential but which also show promising results in creating a sustainable impact in the lives of people. In a very short time, Jatri has proven that it has the aptitude to revitalise the public transportation industry in Bangladesh. It has created a pathway for the everyday commuter to benefit from smart solutions, and we believe these solutions have wide ranging applications in many markets in the Middle East and Africa region as well.”

Jatri’s pre-seed financing came from Adventure Capital, a global venture capital fund founded by Fahim Saleh, cofounder of Pathao and several other on-demand transport apps. The participation of prominent global investors in Jatri’s seed round indicates a growing appetite for early-stage investments in Bangladesh, one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Jatri is currently in discussions with other MENA investors to participate in its Series A round, and its management team is traveling to the UAE later this month with intentions to meet with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, and Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority to discuss deployments. Dubai’s integrated mobility platform, S’hail, offers an outstanding use case for Jatri’s technology, in particular.

“When most people think of startups, they envision Silicon Valley. We back world-class founders in emerging and frontier markets who are empowering and uplifting the next billion. Bangladesh doesn’t have Silicon Valley's mystique, but its entrepreneurs are building transformative, world-class companies. In Jatri we see a passionate, experienced management team where we believe our capital and expertise can support leveraging technology to transform public transport in Bangladesh and globally,” said Wes Schwalje, Chief Operating Officer of technology advisory and investment firm Tahseen Consulting.

Jatri was founded in early 2019 by Aziz Arman, Khondoker Taswar Zahin, and Zia Ahmed who saw an unmet need to enhance the reliability of public transport to address Bangladesh’s notorious traffic congestion challenges and insufficient public transport system. According to the United Nations, Dhaka’s traffic congestion reduces GDP by 6% annually and pushes commuters to use private vehicles to get around due to lack of public transport coverage and passenger-centric services offered by transport operators - thereby creating a cycle that results in more congestion from significant private vehicle use.

Transport surveys show that lack of reliability is the primary reason for Bangladeshis not using public transport. Jatri views increased bus ridership as a critical solution to enhancing public transport ridership. The founders have set about redesigning the passenger experience for public transport users starting with buses. Jatri’s mobile application enables digital tracking and ticketing which significantly enhances the rider experience on buses. Its technology also enables bus operators to enhance schedule adherence and optimize travel times. The result is a more seamless, reliable, and stress free passenger experience and enhanced fleet management capabilities for bus operators to significantly improve service levels and bus system performance. Jatri’s technology also has use cases for minibuses, electric scooters and bikes, and other emerging transport modalities.

"We are very grateful to be supported by such a prominent team of business builders and investors. Our initial target is to significantly enhance the rider experience on buses, but we are just getting started. We plan to look at other transport modalities and view enhancing the public transport experience as a global challenge that Jatri’s technology is uniquely positioned to solve. We are creating a solution born in the developing world that can address congestion and enhance public transport ridership in the developing and developed world. Later in the month, we are traveling to the United Arab Emirates to explore opportunities after significant interest was shown in our technology for improving their bus system," said Aziz Arman, co-founder and chief executive officer.

In just over eight months of operation, Jatri has over 30,000 users, and its technology has been used by leading bus operators to complete more than 50,000 trips. The funding raised in its seed round will allow Jatri to significantly scale-up its services in Bangladesh’s populous metropolitan areas and fast track product development for additional transport modalities.

Fahim Rahman, managing partner of Noksha Capital and angel investor says “The intra-city public transportation market in Bangladesh desperately needs technological reform. Simple improvements, like more reliable timings, mean people get to work on time, while transparent pricing and digital payments build confidence allowing commuters to leave their cars at home. Digital routing and on-time performance enhancement means more efficient fleet management for operators and more reliable service. Jatri’s achievements in such a short time are nothing short of extraordinary. This could very well be Bangladesh’s first unicorn.”

Jatri is improving the commute of thousands of public transport passengers while complementing the significant investments Bangladesh is making in transport infrastructure.

“We look forward to building a strong relationship with investors in the MENA region, and the UAE in particular, to help grow Jatri and investor confidence for private equity and venture capital investments in Bangladesh,” said Rahman.

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