If you live in Lagos, Nigeria, chances are you lose a chunk of your weekly working hours to traffic, this is not up for debate. 

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On a usual workday, you step into the streets of Lagos with a plan to navigate your way through your to-do list and make it right on time to the comfort of your bed with your complete body intact, Lagos always comes with some form of distortion that leaves you handicapped, perhaps totally helpless.

Most Lagos bus drivers are out looking for commuters to prey on and if you happen to be this unlucky person, a single encounter with one of the yellow bus drivers would be the beginning of your work-day misery. With the hustle and bustle in the city, one would think Lagosians are the most productive people on the continent. But with infamous traffic problems, productivity in the city is rather not as it should be.

As Africa’s fifth-largest economy and being one of the smallest states in Nigeria with a population of 22 million people and counting, Lagos records 30% vehicular movement of the country’s total mobility. The Southwestern city is unhealthily crowded with more than 8 million people moving in over 5million private cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles. Living here means you are putting up with far more than you can take.

To have a normal life in Lagos (whatever that means) is to accept the bitter-sweet moments that the city hits you with more often than you’d ordinarily wish to have. Damilola Olokesusi had her fair share of  Lagos’ bitter-sweet road experience and she decided “you know what, I can help work this out.”  Having stayed in Ibadan, the serene capital city of Oyo state, which only takes about 85 miles (approximately 2hours) drive from Lagos, Olokesusi and her two friends Damilola Quadry and Busola Majekodunmi, tired of their frustrating Lagos commute decided to build Shuttlers

Lagos’ problem is simple- too many cars on narrow, deteriorated and overused roads. “Shuttlers’ platform enables professionals to share rides in corporate buses to and from work. 

Lagos transport regulatory pressure 

Having sold over 500million worth of seats since 2005, one would think Shuttlers have defeated the ever poking transport regulations that have pressured ride-hailing startups in Lagos State. There is a harsh business condition that continuously keeps startups in Nigeria on their feet, especially for ride-hailing companies. 

In August 2019, the Lagos State government introduced some levies and licenses to help regulate the transportation industry. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Bolt drivers were mandated by the regulation to have a Lagos State Drivers’ Institute (LASDRI) card and a driver badge issued by the Department of Public Transport and Commuter Services from the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation. Also, it became compulsory for vehicles on these platforms to possess a Hackney permit and a tag issued by the Lagos State Motor Vehicle Administration Agency.

For Opay, which already saturated the market with Ocar, a ride-hailing platform that showed up as a formidable competitor to Uber and Bolt, the harsh business environment was never favorable, to say the least. After the ban on bikes on major roads in Lagos, Opay faced serious challenges operating its non-fintech verticals. 

Running a business in an environment that digs up policies for regulation every now and then, how has Shuttlers handled regulatory pressure from the Lagos state government? Olokesusi told Tech Cabal that she believes that networking and contacts save their team a lot of stress. She says Shuttlers understands what the government hopes to achieve in the transportation sector so their only task is finding a way to fit into the master plan.

“What we have done is to get into the minds of decision-makers in the transport system. There is a master plan the Lagos state government is working with and we only find ways to align with their plans. We attend their events and that has given us a chance to grow relationships with important stakeholders in the state.”

Shuttlers unique value to customers

To be clear, Shuttlers is not a hailing company. Olokesusi said that is what makes their services distinct. They offer a pay-per-seat package for brands and individuals. Here, organizations can decide on the number of seats they need and this means two or more brands can share a bus, ultimately leaving people no choice but to leave their vehicles at home. 

Shuttlers mostly run Corporate shuttles and only opens up empty seats for 10-20% individuals. Unlike hailing platforms, they run via a subscription model. Buses don’t stop at designated bus stops to call passengers. 

for a highly competitive industry, Damilola claims they offer a 60-80% lower cost than ride-hailing services without surge or peak pricing. This means more people leaving their private cars at home to join the bus at an affordable cost. ‘We move fire and brimstone to get you to work in a comfortable and safe bus.” she said.

Traffic doesn’t have to be boring

Young graduates from other states in Nigeria see Lagos as the land of opportunities. Data shows that Lagos records the highest number of immigrants of all megacities worldwide, with over 86 migrants per hour according to former Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. This means about 2,000 people migrate to Lagos every day and 60000 every other month.  

The problem of migration, overpopulation and infrastructural mismatch, especially in the transport sector is the major cause of traffic congestion in the city. Shuttlers has a project called ‘She Moves’ where female professionals have the opportunity to use their otherwise long commute time in traffic as a learning and development time where they access online courses, have mentors and peer-to-peer support for professional courses they might be taking. 

“We are able to engage female professionals on our platforms. We convert their time in traffic into a learning experience. We give them access to digital skills, organize webinars and pair them with mentors who take them through professional development.” 

To reduce the amount of time wasted in traffic, sometime in 2020, Shuttlers and its partners sponsored 60 female commuters on their platforms to advance training on graphic, UX/UI designs. 

Why just women? Shuttlers is a female-led startup that understands the transport problems peculiar to women. The data gathered from the SheMoves project will help further create products that are tailored to easing women’s commuting stress as well as helping them with training that could help increase their skills and potential in the workplace, ultimately helping to close the gender pay gap in the corporate world.

Bright Azuh Author

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