Congested streets are the result of two factors: the lack of public transportation and single passenger commutes per car. Every day, thousands of individuals driving into Beirut’s city center mutter the same words of frustration on the jam-packed streets, dreaming of solutions to a global problem. One company took on the challenge: Carpolo.
The concept of Carpolo is the result of two individuals who took it upon themselves to devise a solution to the lack of public transportation in Lebanon. One award after another, the founders knew they were onto something. Their mission? To fill additional car seats that weren’t being used, while cars roamed the streets and highways pointlessly, while the complaints about traffic and lack of public transportation continued.
The BDD team sat with Ralph Khairallah (RK), CEO of Carpolo to discuss societal issues, solutions and the future of the transportation industry.
BDD: How did the idea of Carpolo come about?
RK: We identified a serious challenge, and then turned to gamification and community building to create a solution and get the concept moving in Lebanon. Carpolo is now gaining traction in new markets beyond the Lebanon.
BDD: What were the key drivers that lead to the creation of Carpolo?
RK: Quite simple, un-used car seats. Carpolo is a search engine for un-used car seats in private vehicles. The platform unlocks a new mode of transportation using a free and abundant resource which are un-used car seats.
Secondary reasons that fueled our mission are the lack of public transportation systems and the burden of traffic, since this was the result of not using car-space and road-bandwidth efficiently.
BDD: What markets are you operating in and where do you plan to expand to?
RK: Lebanon is where we built and tested Carpolo. We recently started to expand in the Philippines and GCC.
Carpolo is going viral in the Philippines when their government banned paid carpooling apps and Carpolo came as the best option to fill the gap.
We actually did not decide to pursue this market but the people have spoken. They wanted us to come in, as they saw the benefits of our transparent and simple platform. We are still trying to find local partners to support the business case.
BDD: Why would people use Carpolo?
RK: Carpolo is a productivity app that every person can benefit from. The benefits include:
BDD: What challenges did you face when setting up the business? And today?
RK: The biggest challenge initially was to complete the technology and to reach a point where our product is stable and reliable.
Our biggest challenge today is to make people realize that this is a productivity solution and not another paid mobility solution. People think that this is a paid app or that they have to commit to picking people if they posted their schedules on Carpolo. When in fact, Carpolo requires zero commitment from users who would post their “tentative” schedules and get matched with others who happen to have the same commuting habits or routes.
BDD: How will you use the analytics pertaining to CO2 emissions to help decrease the carbon footprint?
RK: This is our overarching aim. We have a B2B model where companies can create their own closed communities on Carpolo and we aggregate the overall reduction in CO2 emissions that resulted from the carpooling activity in their particular community.
BDD: Long-term, how do you see the transportation industry changing?
RK: In the medium term, we see ourselves unlocking a low-cost, high value virtual transportation network.
In the long term, we believe that mobility is one of the hottest challenges in the tech industry. Innovations and investments in the mobility space are making headlines everyday. We see a convergence of mobility under one platform, Carpolo aims to play an important role in this space as the mobility landscape matures in this direction.