Bykea, the Karachi-based motorcycle riding service, secured $13 million in funding, but investors put it on hold after the Sindh government extended the ban on pillion riding for another two weeks till July 15.
Pillion riding was a lot safer than travelling on buses, rickshaws and breathing recirculated air in cars, the company said in a press release quoting its founder and CEO Muneeb Maayr.
It said that motorbike riders wore helmets that serve as health visors, which are used by health professionals for protection, and ride in the open air with gloves and face masks on.
A homegrown startup, Bykea accounts for more than half of the bike ride market with more than two-thirds of business coming from Karachi alone. After Sindh went into lockdown, commercial bike rides were banned in the province as a measure to implement social distancing. Uber and Careem also provide bike ride services but they have a significant share in car rides and are not solely dependent on bike rides.
After the lockdown entered its third month, Careem laid off more than 500 employees and later launched a super app to tap into other online segments for which demand has increased during the pandemic. Careem now offers online shopping, payments and grocery options.
Earlier this week, Airlift, whose core business is providing smart bus rides, also ventured into online grocery delivery service for residents of Lahore with $10 million in funding.
Bykea has been lobbying to have the pillion riding ban removed as 90% of their business depends on pillion riding. They have been meeting available government representatives and writing letters to the unavailable ones.
Bykea also claims that an incoming investment of $13 million was on hold due investor paranoia on investing in a category that the government of Pakistan continues to suspend.
Bykea officials, along with Tech Valley, recently met Federal Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Amin Ul Haque about their grievances.
Maayr said Bykea is the only app in Urdu that Pakistan’s middle class used for affordable transport while also claiming that pillion riding was better than traveling in buses, rickshaws or cars.
Tech Valley founder and CEO Umar Farooq also told the minister that the official suspension of pillion riding services was hampering investor confidence in investing in Pakistan, particularly given that Bykea’s incoming investment of $13 million was on hold.
Bykea Vice-President Usman Chaudhary said the official ban on pillion riding was impacting the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people looking for affordable ways to contribute to the economic uplift in Pakistan.