When I first pitched the ride sharing idea that is now Savaree at the Lahore Civic Hackathon, I was emphatically encouraged by tech industry bigwigs to pursue it as a serious carpool venture. I was in my final year of college with a knack for tinkering and hacks, numerous examples of people my age ‘making it big’ across the world in front of me, and little experience of the world beyond the classroom. With so much media coverage and so many rooting for me, what could go wrong?
My rosy landscape of the future got its first reality check when, a couple of months in, we finally launched Savaree as a beta service and began trying to sign people up. We pitched Savaree to our friends, students in universities and employees at offices, pointing out how such a service could help them drastically cut commuting costs while at the same time be a significant upgrade over rickety old public transport. We’d help them get in touch with fun, energetic people going the same way and voila, you’d have a carpool!
Turns out, there was not a single soul we talked to that did not ask who these ‘fun, energetic people’ were. How did we know they were reliable and trustworthy? Would they energetically snatch my wallet? Would they kidnap me for fun? What would Savaree do if one of them decided to have some fun and energetically raped somebody? And what if all the while they were carrying a nuke in the trunk?
In a society as cautiously reserved as Pakistan, and rightly so, people need assurances about ride sharing.
Amidst all the incredulous head-shaking, I figured something was fundamentally amiss with our sales pitch. In a society as cautiously reserved as Pakistan, and rightly so, these people needed assurances about ride sharing, and they had concerns about trustworthiness. Savaree needed to provide these assurances, and address these concerns from the outset. We needed to build trust and credibility at every possible point of interaction of users with Savaree, right from their first exposure to Savaree, to their first ride, to their eventual becoming a veteran user of the Savaree community. Here’s what the Savaree team came up with:
During a potential customer’s initial exposure to Savaree, the idea that Savaree is a viable alternative to other transportation choices needs to be ingrained in their mind. We need to establish ourselves as a credible entity that they need, and a few things are of paramount importance. Repeated exposure, whether through social media, newspapers/broadcasts, or posters and the like, sends the message that Savaree is ‘everywhere’ and a physical reality. Adding customer testimonials to this compounds the first impression and tells potential users that other people are having a great experience and that they themselves are missing out on something great, which by now is already (hopefully) established as a credible service.
As the user’s interest in Savaree is piqued and they begin to inquire about us, the concrete measures that we take compel them to do their first Savaree carpool. These concrete measures include background verification of newly-registered users as well as ensuring that there are people going along your route when you search for a ride. At this point, I must add that the unique combination of privacy-preserving openness and friendliness that we use for community-building are integral to the trust-building process that is at the core of Savaree.
The idea is to create hubs throughout the city, where users are comfortable carpooling with each other, eventually bridging these parallel, smaller communities with an overarching greater community.
Thus, you as a user have control over who can see your profile. Do you want only your coworkers or classmates to be able to see your profile or to contact you? Check. Ladies only? We got you covered. Oh, and your contact information is only shared with someone AFTER you agree to share a ride with them. The idea is to create hubs throughout the city, where users are comfortable carpooling with each other, and as they share rides and their level of trust and comfort with Savaree increases, we gently nudge them towards carpooling with people from other communities, eventually bridging these parallel, smaller communities with an overarching greater community.
The great experience that Savaree’s all about is what makes people stick and come back for more. The friendly chat you have while ride sharing with your carpool on the way reduces the stress of driving and helps you pep for the tasks ahead, discuss the Big Game coming up or just unwind after a long and tiring day. At the same time, a peer-review feedback system consisting of ratings and comments helps in creating an open, healthy and introspective community.
Now we’re thinking of introducing a nice little greeting MO (cue Lyft) to kick-start the conversation as soon as a passenger gets in the car, and to add further interest to the conversation we’re also looking to introduce more detailed preferences including tastes in music, smoking, politics, hobbies and so on. There’s a couple of surprises coming your way from the folks at Savaree. Stay tuned!
For more on what I’ve done, do check out my resume
Get in touch with me at: qasimzafar AT outlook DOT com