Shuttlers, a Nigerian startup that specializes in shared mobility services, is actively seeking vehicle partners, including car owners, to expand its operations. To qualify, cars must be from the 2007 model or later, while Hiaces and coaster buses must have air conditioning. Shuttlers operates a convenient ride-sharing service through a user-friendly app, allowing customers to book seats on vehicles traveling in their desired direction. The additional vehicles that Shuttlers plans to include in its fleet will be assigned to both new and existing routes. By utilizing the app, users can easily locate and join these scheduled shuttles.
Carpooling, the practice of sharing one’s car with fellow passengers traveling in the same direction, is not a new concept. In Lagos, it is common to see private drivers picking up passengers heading in the same direction while on their way to work. On certain routes, gig drivers working for companies like Uber and Bolt also pick up passengers, mimicking traditional public transport services. Carpooling allows car owners to offset some of their fuel costs. However, offline carpooling lacks the convenience of an app and may require longer waiting times to find a driver traveling the same route.
Shuttlers have gained popularity among Lagos commuters, particularly those who live far away from their workplaces. Some employers even arrange for exclusive Shuttler bus services to transport their employees to and from the office. For workers whose companies do not offer staff buses, Shuttlers serves as an unofficial staff bus, enabling them to choose their preferred routes and seats for a comfortable commute. In a city known for its chaos, this level of comfort makes a significant difference.
Critics argue that carpooling is a more challenging proposition compared to organizing staff buses. Digitizing carpooling has proven to be a difficult task, as demonstrated by the limited success of previous attempts by companies such as Hytch, Ridebliss, and GoMyWay. However, Shuttlers’ popularity among office-goers might just be the secret ingredient for success.
Damilola Olokesusi, the founder of Shuttlers, stated in an interview with TechCabal that the company is redesigning its app interface to enhance the visibility of its diverse car options, expressing confidence in this strategic move. Yinka Aghedo, the head of marketing at Shuttlers, emphasized that the company and its customers are not unfamiliar with carpooling. He mentioned that while buses are their primary assets, Shuttlers has always supplemented their fleet with cars and minivans. The app currently offers options to ride in a 6-seater sedan to certain destinations, but it remains unclear if four-seater cars are available. Yinka explained that they do utilize cars, but they must be relatively new (2007 models or newer) due to the observed durability and breakdown concerns associated with older vehicles.
The requirement for newer car models may sound familiar, as Uber, one of the ride-hailing giants, implemented a similar condition upon entering the Nigerian market. However, increased competition and the need to onboard more drivers eventually prompted Uber to relax those rules. Recent blog posts from Bolt indicate that their requirements have also been eased, now accepting cars from 1998 models and sedans from 2002 models or newer. The initial requirements were likely established for safety reasons, a rationale shared by Shuttlers. However, adjustments may have been made to expand the pool of available drivers.
Nonetheless, Shuttlers is confident in the superiority of its offering. Given the state of Nigeria’s economy, it is unquestionable that vehicle owners will be willing to partner with Shuttlers, especially since it ensures a predictable income stream.