Ride-sharing app comes to Bangladesh and faces unique challenges.
Currently, the ride-sharing app Uber exists in over 450 cities worldwide and the company is eager to continue its push into emerging markets. As such, they have just launched the service in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. This marks the first time the app will be available in the country. The launch will be fairly limited, but as more drivers register to use the service, Uber’s reach will expand to include more parts of Dhaka, and eventually beyond.
Bangladesh may become a lucrative new market for Uber; the country has a population of over 150 million people with 18 million residing in Dhaka alone. Getting a large user base in an emerging market however, poses some unique challenges. For one, internet access in the country stands at just 11%, despite over 130 million mobile phones being active. Mobile giant Telenor commented on this, stating that internet in Bangladesh is somewhat of an “elite phenomenon.”
Lack of internet access is obviously a challenge for any online service, and in order to improve accessibility, Uber has teamed up with Bangladesh’s largest mobile carrier, Grameenphone to promote the service, as well as Bangladeshi cricket player Shakib Al Hasan. Telenor, which owns Grameenphone, successfully used the carrier earlier this year to launch a mobile health service for Bangladesh.
Another challenge to overcome for the app is the lack of credit and debit cards in Bangladesh (as well as in other parts of south east and central Asia). In most regions, these are the only payment options available for Uber, but in several spots across the globe, the app has started offering cash payment as an option. Cash payments were first tested out in the Indian city of Hyderabad, and then expanded to cover all of India, south east Asia, as well as some African and South American countries. This same system will be available in Bangladesh as well. Uber’s official launch statement says “simply pay in cash at the end of the ride”, making no mention of credit cards as even being an option.
This is not Uber’s first expansion into the area. The app launched in March of this year in Pakistan, a country with over 180 million people. These expansions are part of a $250 million effort to strengthen its foothold in Central Asia, Africa and in the Middle East