Airlift – A great addition to Pakistan’s public transport system

Pakistan is the sixth most populated country of the world and as per the last census conducted by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in 2017, it has a population of approximately 200.7 million. Comparing it with the figure from 1998 when the last census was held, the population has increased by 44%.

On the other hand, during the last few years there has been a sharp influx of people from rural to urban areas like Lahore and Karachi. This can be verified from the fact that only Lahore’s population has increased by 116%. With this sharp increasing trend of population, there is an urgent need to facilitate day to day activities to keep the economy rolling and to cater for wider problems, which includes unemployment, infrastructure and transportation.

The introduction of smartphones with high speed internet and the entrance of ride hailing apps in Pakistan provide commuters with a source of safe and comfortable source of travel but with the rising fuel prices, the cost benefit analysis shows that even these ride hailing apps, sometimes go out of reach from of a common man.

Every problem presents an opportunity so recently a group of young graduates from LUMS launched a smart bus service called Airlift.

Airlift is app based technology startup that offers a smart bus service tailor made for daily commuters. With a fare of just 50 PKR, a reserved seat in an air conditioned mini bus and hundreds of routes spread all over Karachi and Lahore. Airlift is gradually becoming the first option of working professionals and students who have to travel in the morning and come back in the evening.

Airlift works exactly like the ride hailing apps and the users after signing up can reserve their seats by selecting the desired routes and their pick up/ drop off locations. Available for both Android and iOS, the users are able to track the buses in real-time and make payments using their credit or debit cards.

This young startup has already raised venture financing worth $2.1 million from angel investors from New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Dubai, Karachi and Lahore and due to the investment they have been able to expand their route network on daily basis therefore, they have been able to cater thousands of rides per day.

An efficient intercity transport system not only provides a comfortable source for travel but it also adds up to the national cause of reducing carbon footprint in the environment. According to the National Climate Change Policy 2012, the transport sector has the highest emission growth rate among all sectors and accounts for about a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions in Pakistan. Therefore managing fuel emissions in the transport sector is crucial for tackling climate change. Airlift is developed along this very principle. Imagine the reduction in traffic congestion and carbon emissions by five times in case of a 30 seater bus or 10 times in case of 50 seater comparing to a five seater car. The reduction in fuel emissions can also give a major boost to the overall economy itself as with better public transport system, Pakistan’s fuel imports can be significantly reduced which at the present accounts for 28% of the total import cost.

According to Mehr Haider who is an Executive Director at Airlift, the basic service is up and running in both Karachi and Lahore and now Airlift plans to introduce a designated service especially for females known as Airlift Pink. This service would be rolled out in the market in the coming weeks. Moreover, Airlift is also looking for options to expand internationally in cities like Dhaka and Nairobi.

According to the a book called Grown Up Digital authored by Don Tapscott, it would be the young generation who would be directly running every running every aspect of the society by innovating digitally. A successful launch of Airlift, an ever increasing customer base and route network is a testament of this claim. Airlift careers website calls them their workforce as ‘relentless operators’ who are willing to take challenges and think out the box to provide ‘Fast, Reliable, Daily Commute’ which is the moto of the company as well making Airlift a reliable choice among all other transport options.

The writer is former member of staff

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