POST TIME: 8 March, 2018 12:24:36 AM
Ride by women, for women
Int’l women’s day
Faisal Mahmud

Ride by women, for women

Back in 2011, when Israt Khan Mojlish first rode her motorbike on Dhaka roads, people stared at her as if they had seen an alien. Seven years down the line, “a woman biker is a pretty common scene on Dhaka roads,” smiles Israt.

She attributes the rise in the number of female bikers to one simple reason: “The motorbike is the best mode of vehicle to move around in a congested city like Dhaka.”

Madiha Tamanna, another female biker, too, believes that the “motorbike is the best vehicle” to move around. And she also sees it as a mode of earning extra money.

“Last December, I joined Lily, an all-woman bike-sharing app. Apart from covering my fuel cost, it (Lily) has actually opened a new income avenue for me,” says Madiha.

Lily, the motorbike ride-sharing service “for women and by women”, started operations on December 2 last year in Dhaka. Within a few months, it has gained popularity among the capital’s female commuters. Shegufta Hossain, a third-year university student, would earlier use other bike-sharing apps that have got popular in Dhaka in the last two years. But the drivers were men, and Shegufta was anything but comfortable riding pillion with them.

“I would always put a bag between me and the driver to make sure that I never touched him. They (the riders) are well-mannered, but it was awkward sitting behind a male stranger. So, when I found out about Lily, it was like a dream come true,” she says.

Incidentally, it was two men—Syed Md Saif and Shah Md Tushar—who founded Lily, banking on the needs of the city’s women.

Saif, an IT professional, came up with the idea of Lily a year ago after his wife Syeda Shahida Maknun told him about the awkwardness of sitting behind a male stranger.

“A lot of women want to use bikes, as it is the best mode of vehicle for commuting in Dhaka,” Saif says.

“It is cost-effective, and, most importantly, it can move faster than anything else in this congested city,” he adds.

According to a study conducted by BRAC University, the average speed of vehicles came down to 6.8 km per hour in 2015 from 21.2 km per hour in 2004. Motorbikes, however, can still move fast as these need less road space and can zigzag their way out of heavy traffic.

It took about a year to develop and test the software. The operational procedure was similar to that of a common ride-sharing app, says Tushar, also the chief technology officer (CTO) of Lily. “There are two versions on Google Play Store: one for the rider and one for the user. The rider can be a user as well. Once you download the app, it works exactly the way in which other apps do,” he explains.

Saif, who acts as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Lily, says they are happy with the response they have been getting since the launch. “We are also getting into partnerships with bike sellers and manufacturers to let them know what type of bikes women prefer,” he adds.

The owners realise that Lily is primarily a service-oriented business and its success would ultimately depend on skilled riders. “So, we have also started the Lily Training Club, in which only women get trained in bike riding. We are getting very good response there as well,” smiles Saif. Lily, however, is not the first “all-female bike riding service”. Share-a-motorbike (SAM), another popular bike-ride-sharing service, introduced Pink SAM last October.

However, Pink SAM has not been officially launched yet.

“We received big response from female bike riders and users when we announced Pink SAM. We have started our female bike-training facility in collaboration with the Bangladesh Women Riders’ Club. We will start the commercial service quite soon,” says Imtiaz Quasem, the CEO of SAM.