The Rise of SuperApps with Muneeb Maayr - Sarah Chen
Impact Investing, Impact Washing, Investment, Philanthropy
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“Even if you’re drowning, give it one last shot” 

Ride-hailing giant Gojek and marketplace Tokopedia, Indonesia’s two largest startups, said a couple of days ago that they’ve merged their businesses to form GoTo Group, on track for a $35-$40B IPO end year.


This sets more fuel to the fire of SuperApps rising in Southeast Asia: a trend that is actually moving from East to West. But is it all that it’s cut out to be?From the rise of SuperApps to the unique challenges of the two-wheeler opportunity in a country like Pakistan, to the fear of a meaningless life, Muneeb Maayr, Bykea and I cover it all.

 

 

 


👊🏻  5 THINGS YOU’LL LEARN:


– 
Will everything eventually be a Superapp & why?

 

– What a hyper-local strategy actually means

– The immense competition of global brands & how that impacts a local startup

– The payments revolution – cash on delivery in the East? 

– How Bykea is thinking about the future of digitization and building trust

 

 

ABOUT MUNEEB MAAYR

 

Muneeb Maayr is Founder at Bykea, the largest network of motorbikes serving on-demand transport, logistics and payment services in Pakistan. Muneeb graduated from the University of Virginia to work in investment banking at Bear Stearns in New York City right after college. He then led a 600 person back office for SNL Financial in Islamabad, a business acquired by Standard & Poors. Prior to Bykea, Muneeb was Co-Founder and CEO at Daraz.pk, Pakistan’s leading ecommerce platform, acquired by Alibaba Group.

 

 

OUR TRANSCRIPT

 

SC

Welcome to Billion Dollar Moves. My name is Sarah Chen, your host and today I have with me a really special guest, an introspective entrepreneur that I’ve always enjoyed speaking with whether we’re on panels, whether we’re, you know, speaking about different issues, I always love hearing Muneeb’s point of view and today I’m so glad to have a power hour with him, where we will be diving a little bit deeper than usual. How are you? 

 

MM

Well, well, thank you for the opportunity. Totally. 

 

SC

Well, let’s get started here. You know, I really want to understand just a little bit about your journey. You’ve been doing a couple of things in the last couple of years, and this is not as one of your investors told me this is not when you first rodeo In fact, it’s your third —you actually started in investment banking and then ended up leaving the Pakistan operations for SNL now, S&P, and later going into Daraaz and Bykea. And yet you say, you know, I’m not the smartest in the room. I’m not the 4.0 GPA. But what what then got you to all these different chapters?

 

MM
Yeah, well. So I’m from Pakistan, right. So I grew up here. And you know, if you don’t have a lot of money, then you apply to like 100 universities and hope that one of them is going to give you a better deal. So that’s how I ended up landing in the US. I ended up going to the college that gave me the best scholarship. So it’s a small liberal arts school in California. I moved to another larger public school—University of Florida. 

 

Gatorade, if you’ve ever had that comes from gators, which is their football team. In my third and fourth year, I was at University of Virginia. And the reason I moved is because, you know, I needed to make money to pay off some debts that I had accumulated from trying to get to college. And I’d heard that investment banking makes a lot of money. 

 

So yeah, I wanted to graduate from college, make enough money to pay off my debt. So, University of Virginia was one of the I think handful, maybe a couple of the public schools in America where investment banks, strategy consulting companies come to recruit, right. Beyond the Ivy’s. So that allowed me to slot myself into these interviews. 

 

And, yeah, I think I interviewed at a lot of places. It’s funny, I see, it’s like dating, right? 

 

Like, you know, or, or trying to find the right girl? So you meet a lot of them. 

 

But it’s very, it’s very seldom that you connect. But I was fortunate to connect with some folks at Bear Sterns and joined Bear Stearns in investment banking in New York City. 

 

That was a great learning curve, it just taught me how to work hard, right? You may think you’re smart. But as soon as you get into investment banking class, like, you find that everyone around you is as smart if not smarter than you. Right? 

 

So, yeah, I was there for about a year and a half or so. And then I hated it, you know, and also I was probably not the best investment banker anyways. What we were doing was this: first year analysts were basically going into quarterly and annual financial statements, pulling the data out, and populating historical financials and investment bankers could build projections.

 

And it makes no sense why you would pay someone so much money, at least in the first six months to collect this data. 

So that got me thinking as to why, you know, you wouldn’t do this in a country where labor was cheaper. And you could hire lots of people to collect, some of this data on public companies that is publicly accessible. 

 

So that got me thinking about Content Collection, and I joined a company called SNL. And I joined them because I tried to make my own content business, but I didn’t have the visa to stay on in the US. So I had to go join someone to be able to stick around in the US. 

 

And within six months, I convinced them to outsource work to me in Pakistan. So I moved back, to Islamabad, which is my hometown, and I started basically handling their back office. And that ultimately, over seven years, grew to about six 700 people. 

 

SC

Wow. 

 

MM

And ultimately that got acquired by Standard and Poor’s. But again, you know, I was a senior leader, I think the top 10-15 people in the company, that business ultimately sold for over $2 billion. 

 

So right after that, you know, got the opportunity to do something else. So basically, I had started with a friend of mine, we started building a clone of EBay for Pakistan. And we were trying to raise capital for it. And we ran into the guys at Rocket Internet. And they were like, you know, we are a clone factory, pretty much, we’ve got these templates, we’re not going to buy your template or your business, why don’t you come run our template, and the template was basically a clone of what initially was Lazada right, you know, from Southeast Asia or Jabong in India. It was initially a fashion platform, but then very, very quickly in about a year converted to general merchandise platform. So a clone of Lazada. 

 

So you get plugged in, you get this fancy title, the co-founder, although you’re not really a co founder, you’re like a paid CEO. But you know, it’s like, it’s like a crash course MBA and everyone at Rocket was typically, an MBA from a great school. You know, I wasn’t, but it was, for me, it was like an MBA, right? 

 

So Rocket Internet is a great, great university. It’s absolutely fantastic. And particularly if you can survive, if you can survive for years at Rocket Internet you’re a dinosaur there. Right? I mean, the highest turnover because the environment is very aggressive. And you build fast, and you fail fast as well. So, so yeah, so after about four years, I kind of wanted to build something on my own for the first time. So so yes. You may look at my history and say, oh, I’ve had all these successes. But, you know, I’ve been sort of a leader of other people’s businesses. And this is pretty much my first real business.

 

SC

Hmm. I’ve heard you talk about Daraaz, and what you’ve learned in this role. But ultimately, you decided that, you know, of course, you’re talking now about how you want to do your own thing, your own gig. But why Bykea? Why the idea of the opportunity of 17 million motorbikes. I mean, that’s relatively different from what you started at Daraaz.

 

MM

So I think a couple of things. One, you know, when we started marketing, we recognized that we were basically selling initially was fashion and fashion also caters to the upper middle class. And then as soon as we turned into a Lazada clone, we were selling a lot of smartphones because it got a lot of GMV (Gross Merchandise Volume). Right. So we were chasing GMV. 

 

But ultimately, I didn’t take that a country like Pakistan, for the internet to be relevant for a larger demographic. How many people are you going to try and sell a brand new smartphone to or a nice designer suit? Right. And so when I saw what Nadeem (GoJek) was doing and you know, Nadeem was also at Lazada at one point.

 

When I started seeing what he was doing there, and I started seeing Uber, who started in Pakistan, you know, that got me thinking and Uber then Careem focused on the car category. And I kept meeting some of their leadership, particularly Careem and I asked, when are you going to start motorbikes, and they had no plans, they had no plans for motorbikes. Right. And motorbikes made sense to me, because, you know, Pakistan, just like Indonesia, or Vietnam, or, for that matter, India, that more two wheeler motorbikes than there are four wheeler cars. And if you’ve got to deliver a person, or deliver an e commerce parcel, you know, or you got to deliver a pizza, it’s got to be on a motorbike, it’s not gonna be in a car, right? 

 

So if you want to, if you’re trying to play a supply game, where, you know, you’re trying to leverage the supply, it’s got to be motorbike.

 

SC

I want to double click on that, Muneeb. Not many who are tuning in, some of them are American, tuning in, may not understand what it means when you say, you can’t do this on a car. Tell us a little bit about, what the landscape is, I mean, Pakistan, and we talk about this a lot, right? It’s a huge population going to be 220 million now, I believe. But that is, not reflective of how many are mobile connected,  how many are Urdu speaking and Bykea you started as an Urdu based app. Tell us a little bit about the landscape here and why you thought motorbikes is the way to go.

MM

Yeah. So, so many of these countries, including Pakistan, urban density is very, very high. Right. 

So if you look at Karachi, some say 20 million, but conservatively is 15 million people, right?

Jakarta is anywhere between 10 and 12 million people as well. This cities are huge, right? 

 

They’re huge metropolitans and there’s a big population that’s living in very close proximity. So, you know, there are many pockets in the city where you can’t even go in a car, let alone go on a three-wheeler, you’ve got to go in on a two wheeler. I guess you’ve been to Bangkok. But say in Bangkok, you got to meander around in these alleys where four wheelers just don’t have access. So, so yeah, I mean, motorbikes is is the way of life for, for many people.

 

SC

Yeah, so it’s essentially infrastructure, and there’s a lot more meandering that you can do because of just the sheer traffic, right? in Jakarta We joke about how it’s “matchet” (traffic) all the time. It’s a traffic jam everywhere that you go. So definitely a lot more condensed and within the cities as well. 

 

So as you were building Bykea, you know, it’s been a couple of years now you started what 2016? I believe? 

 

MM

Yeah, we we started December 2016. So realistically, we started 2017, you know.

 

SC

Right.

And and how did you evolve? I’ve spoken to a couple of your investors, couple of peers. And one thing that really struck me was one of them said, and you probably know who this is, “I was surprised, actually. I was actually confused by why Bykea didn’t die a natural death, because you were really going head to head with the sort of wars between Uber, Careem and there was a lot of struggle in first building it up in the first few years. But yet you persisted. 

 

Tell us a little bit about this journey here. And how you belt how you built Bykea? And how has your business changed over the years?

 

MM

Yeah, so when we when we launched, we launched with like, a million dollars in seed capital. And as soon as basically Careem, which was the most well funded startup in the Middle East, which ultimately sold to Uber. And as soon as basically they launched the motorbike category, which they did, because they were failing in the three wheeler category. So they were like, wait a minute, we thought two wheelers would not work. 

 

I mean, they probably had a million dollars for the launch. Right. So we were fighting games, people with very, very deep pockets. And then Uber jumps in, in the in the category as well. But, you know, one thing we realized is that the only thing they have is money. Right? That’s all they have. Right? And you can you can push all the discounts in the world, right? And you can put all the billboards in the world. But if your product is not comprehensible, or easy for the mass audience, both on the supply side and the demand side, right? Then you’re just driving user behavior, stickiness for greed.  

 

And the minute you bulldoze subsidies, your your supplier, your demand is going to vanish, right. And you can keep playing this game of throwing money perpetually, right. But ultimately, any, any product that is local, where the locals are constantly customizing will win. And I’ll give you examples of that. 

 

So the first thing we did when we knew our app was in the local language. Now, you’d be like, well, how difficult is it for Uber and Careem to do that? 

 

And what most people don’t realize is that we didn’t even have a smartphone based script in Urdu. Till recently, right, Arabic script was used, which is a different script to our script, which is more like a Persian script. So that was one problem. 

 

So initially, when Bykea launched, we would paste images in Urdu, and then we recognized that people couldn’t search in their own language. You know, most people in India can search in their own language either by just for context, right? Yeah. But in India, they have resolved that because there are hundreds of languages you know, They’ve resolved to make English, the common language between people from north and the south for people to communicate with one another. 

 

In Pakistan, it’s still not English, it’s still Urdu, which is our natural language. And so we made the product be be a catalogue based journey, where people would click one, one click at a time to do so for example, if you want to enter a destination that you want to go to, right, what do you do in Uber? Today, you enter, where to but that requires you to know how to spell a certain street. 

 

But if you don’t, if you can’t spell very well, you you get frustrated with it. So what we did was created zones. So we said, okay, you want to go to DHA, which is section within Karachi, right, choose the zone within DHA, and then within DHA which other certain other location you want to go to. So it was a click way, it was a click, click click away, right, choosing your destination. 

 

Similarly, on the driver app, and this is like hilarious, right? Uber spent millions of dollars. And they were showing an address, you know, a string address to drivers in English that they couldn’t comprehend. And also in a city where Google’s string address was not very accurate. Right?

 

When drivers, particularly given that they’re not super educated, they understand areas in a city, you know, um, you know, for example, they’ll understand that you want to go to an area within the city called Kazas. And so they comprehend that you want to generally go towards Kazas, but they wouldn’t necessarily comprehend like a particular street within that area, because they don’t know every single city. So small changes, which allowed both the supply side and the demand side to comprehend what they were doing. 

 

And so I’ll tell you the story today, where we’re probably 11 times the size of Careem bikes, you know, we’ve literally like obliterated them. And I think Uber motorbikes almost doesn’t exist in Karachi. I think the only city these guys exist in is where their management sits, which is in Lahore. So that when the leadership flies in then, you know, they can say, oh, you know, we still have a city. But that’s the smallest of the three cities in the country in terms of, you know, digital commerce and ride hailing. So let them keep the smaller city.

 

SC

This is interesting. Definitely the hyper local aspect is very important. There’s a reason why DiDi in China did a lot better than Uber. And finally, they gave up and why Grab is expanding so rapidly, but you know, when when I reflect on your personal journey, you talked about Rocket Internet and what they did, which was very smart, is hire local, like yourself, to innovate within— why, you know, with the amount of capital that Uber had, and Careem had, couldn’t they have done the same thing, and then brought them rich insights that someone like, you had in Bykea to compete? 

 

MM

Yeah, but I think, you know, the product is typically made in the headquarters, right. And, you know, if you’re in the central team, you’re going to focus on your core markets. So you’re going to optimize the priorities for software development and product for where the bulk of your businesses and the reason why locals ultimately win is because they can tweak their product a lot faster. Right? They can get to market they can do even offline marketing, the kind of intelligence that they can get and drive into their marketing is, is, is a lot more impactful. So you know, could they help? 

 

Yeah, but you know, you hardly see anyone really do that in any any great way today, right? Oh, so sure listen there are products like Facebook, Whatsapp, you know, Google that are global products, but you know, those are visual products. Facebook is a visual product, right? And it has the network that is hard to break out. But in, in transactional businesses what matters is speed to transact. That’s one way, which we also were better at. 

 

We opened our supply up to part time and they focused in full timers, they focused on clocking 8,10,12 hours on a motorbike. And that was, in my opinion, quite stupid. Because our motorbikes are not like motorbikes in Jakarta virtual city, they’re not nice, comfy Honda’s. They’re like little flimsy $100-$150, you know, motorbikes that look like they’re from the 70s. You know, and you cannot sit on one of them for 10 hours, it’s impossible. 

 

So we bet on a supply, which will only clock in a couple of hours a day, we didn’t have to pay them a bonus. Right? While they were bleeding money, trying to make people, force people to work 10 hours, quit their jobs, you know, and build these crazy bonuses. So you know, I think it’s hard. It’s hard, hard, because they just can’t move fast. 

 

SC

Yeah, so what you bring up there, I think is very interesting in terms of the global and local. And that gives me a very nice segway into the topic of the day, which is, you know, GoTo group is slated to list later on in the United States for evaluation of 35 to 40 billion, and the rise of a super app. 

 

And now instead of sort of the Facebook, you know, with a WhatsApp being customized by the locals, to whatever they use, right. I mean, we talked about WhatsApp being used for, you know, in ways that even the people who create a WhatsApp didn’t foresee it, especially across the emerging markets. 

 

And now you have a huge super app that grew sort of from the likes of Indonesia. How do you feel about that? 

 

You know, is there a risk there of a player like them threatening your business?

 

 

MM

I mean, why do you think Gojek, leads in Indonesia? Of course, part of that was money. But part of that was, you know, localization as well. Right. So when I look at basically Gojek, I love that business, that’s the business that inspired us to start.

 

But when I look at Tokopedia, that’s the business that I, in e-commerce prior to ride-hailing. So when I see the mesh, I’m ecstatic. So these countries are not like China, or the United States, or India, or Brazil. 

 

Because in China, you would buy from someone who may be hundreds of miles away. Same in the US. Same in Brazil, same in India. But if you’re in Indonesia, if you’re in Jakarta, the probability is when you’re buying something in e-commerce, you most likely buying it from someone in Jakarta, because these cities are so big and concentrated, similar in Karachi. Right? So, so the premise behind even e-commerce delivery being a few days late is a risky premise. 

 

Partly, because a lot of these payments are made cash on delivery, which means that the customer can change their mind in two, three days. And so if you really want to make e-commerce work, you’ve got to make it hyperlocal. 

 

What that means is, if I click and I buy a cover for my smartphone, the reason I’m buying online is because I don’t want to go through the hassle of getting on a scooter or getting in a bus going to the other part of town and buying it. I can, it’ll take me 35-45 minutes. Again, I don’t want to, I don’t want to waste my time. 

 

But if you tell me I’ll either get this today, or I’ll get this in two to three days. My propensity is just go 35-45 minutes and go buy it. Right. And so what ride hailing solves is ride hailing provides a supply of fleet which is on demand. Someone can go to that mobile shop, buy that smartphone cover and bring it to you in 35-40 minutes, save you time. And it’s equivalent experience of you getting it in the same day, you probably again, the same hour, right, maybe two hours, max. 

 

So I think the future of e commerce in these geographies and very, very large, dense urban cities, is in the mesh of e-commerce, and ride-hailing. If, if you have the propensity to buy something today, versus, you know, buy today and get in three days, why would you? Why would you buy from from from Shenzen, China unless it’s at a huge discount, right? Right, buy it only if it’s way cheaper.

 

SC
which they can do as well. And I want to, you know, dive a little bit deeper on this, but it is now the great pleasure to introduce Ali Soomro, a longtime friend of mine, who is a business architect and a longtime, sort of deep in the business of trying to understand data and turning data into value as well, which I think it’s really up the alley here with what we need is trying to do it over to you. 

 

Ali Soomro (AS) – Guest
Bykea, your core products is in logistics. And it’s a bike, predominantly bike is your medium of providing these transport services. I know that you have had some campaigns around this, but how are you planning to kind of scale up and incorporate a vast majority of the population which is women onto onto this platform? 

 

Where I mean, obviously you’re not providing transport to them women in our country is already a big challenge, because it’s not safe as such. So how do you plan when you scale up further, as you are at the moment to incorporate this vast majority of the sector, which I think currently is slightly untapped?

 

MM

Yeah, so I think it’s you split this up, right? For transport, we’ve got to get to a stage where women who feel they should not sit behind a man on a motorbike and travel alone, with with gotta get past that mental hurdle, cultural hurdle, and paranoia around safety, for women to use Bykea more than they do today. So mostly women do not use Bykea. 

 

Having said that, you probably read there’s an article from New York Times as well, which talks about, you know, women using using Bykea, and how that is kind of transforming the way women and the society thinks about movement, you know, across genders. So I think we can hope that we can build trust for women to know that they’ve been tracked know that they can share with their loved ones. And still trust sitting with a stranger to move from A to B so that there’s nothing we can do beyond that, because we’re not getting into cars. 

 

If ever, we think of launching the Three Wheeler category, that’s what women use, yes. But listen, if you’re in the streets, and I hate to say this, but if you’re in the streets of Karachi, the streets of in Rawalpindi, you don’t see a lot of women. And that’s really sad. But, you know, the we’ve unfortunately, as a nation, we’ve kind of caged them so now what do you do after you’ve caged them? 

 

What can we do as a business? We can enable them to do commerce. Right. And so the payment idea that we have is, is really to enable social commerce sellers, Facebook, Instagram sellers, you know, to be able to transact, send their documents that parcels, that deliveries, their payments, leveraging our network, right. And, and I think if we can empower them financially or economically, we can help pull them out of the cages that they’re in. So it’s a constant struggle. You know, we even at our organization have made a deliberate effort to hire the smartest women out there. So for example, a product and engineering is led by a female, a marketing is led by a female. So we have female leaders, you know, who are also, you know, representing not just Bykea, but what the Modern Pakistani woman can do. And we hope that our, our foray into commerce into payments is going to enable a segment of society, to be able to be more economically independent.

 

SC

Thanks, Ali. Thanks, and thanks for joining us appreciate that. This is a topic I care a lot about, you know, that and I’m glad that you’re seeing it and as a priority, because I think, you know, the independence of women and enabling them through technology will be a huge determining factor here. I think we’ve talked about this before, you know, the digital divide can, the opportunity of technology can help us or divide us, and I’m really looking forward to the leadership of folks like yourself, to bring us out here to the other side. I’ve seen in Nepal, actually, there are a couple of women that are driving sort of what looks like the tuk tuks in Thailand, and it’s really exciting. 

 

Now I have my next question for you coming again from Europe. So you have you know, some fans across the globe here from the audience from Luxembourg. I have Marisha Naz who is from Amazon, and she leads the private brands for Amazon nutrition and health care. Over to you Marisha.

 

MN (Marisha Naz-Guest)

Thanks for the introduction, Sarah, and thanks for having me on here. Hi. Really Nice to meet you. And fantastic story. Super, super interesting. My question is around, you know, with super apps generally, I guess there are a couple of like main popular areas, you know, one being transport, the other being financial services. And the third, you know, partnership with with telcos, all of which I think you’ve spoken about today, all of these industries are heavily regulated or regulatory driven. And in emerging markets, we have a little bit more risk where regulation changing from drastically from day to day does happen. You know, it’s part of the business is something that we, those of us who are in that sector have to manage. So I’m curious to know, what is your What is your mental model on thinking of these regulatory risks as you expand into different verticals to become a super app? I’m curious to know how you think of the risks, how you quantify it, and eventually, what is your mental model for managing and mitigating these regulatory risks?



MM

So the way we think of it, right, so we’ve got this network. Now the network is profiled, so every person we, you know, in our supply, we’ve got bronze, silver, gold diamond, right. What that means is what kind of job they’re gonna get. Can they collect cash? Will they get a credit? 

 

So, so we’ve been, we’ve been sort of pretty good at deciding who to give the job to, or who to offer the job to, right, because a lot of jobs are picked up by multiple, when they’re offered multiple drivers, one of drivers picks it up. So in terms of e-commerce delivery, you know, it already happens in motorbikes, we already do it. But the thing with with our countries, is that most of the e-commerce payments are cash on delivery, and you may say, oh, they’ll eventually become digital. Maybe I’ll tell you why I say that. Right. It’s in the United States. You have the option to pay after we got the item. Why would you use a card? 

 

Why would you prepay in advance, right. So the fact that basically cash delivery has gotten people addicted to after they received the item is a hard thing to change. Having said that, people should have the option to prepay partially through a card through Visa, MasterCard or their backgrounds to ensure the seller to ship the item. Absolutely. So will we be offering that? Yes, we will. Will we be using the rails of existing, you know, payment merchants? 

 

Yes. So our strategy is, don’t try and build a wallet. Okay. The reason you get into regulatory problems is because everyone has been spinning a story around EMI, because the reason they wanted to get an email is because they want to store money, right. And in storing money, they wanted to become a bank. 

 

And the reason they wanted to become a bank is because they wanted to lend. So that was the premise behind these EMI eyes, you know, and these licenses, and I’m against that, I’ll tell you why I’m against it. We have no near term plans to get into any sort of banking, any sort of lending, okay? The business that we want to be in, is to be able to match two parties, right? Allow them to pay each other immediately, but charge a decrease. So think of the Visa, MasterCard or PayPal for cash. So if you can charge a commission and route the payment, immediately the seller is happy because their cash flow gets a lot better. Right. And the buyer basically can pay on delivery, but the delivery happens in 35 minutes, right? So So and they can also pay by by digital cards, or ultimately bank accounts, but only cash. So what we’re trying to do is we’re just trying to expedite the transaction, expedite the received the front seat of money by the seller. But against a fee, you know, so, you know, I don’t know do any banks in the world, which are worth a trillion dollars. But Visa, MasterCard is definitely one bank in the world, which is what the dream dollars, why would I want to be a bank?

 

SC

Yeah, so that’s interesting. And and you know, definitely want to speak a little bit more about that I was tuning into M1 Finance, they’re looking at sort of payments and sort of revolutionizing that as well. 

 

And one thing that was said about, you know, the threats, that a lot of this FinTech solutions posed to banks, talking about banks here and the fact that you don’t want to be that a lot of countries are leapfrogging in some way. And that’s particularly exciting for me, as I look at the emerging markets across Asia, and in places like Pakistan, in China, you know, some of these apps don’t even, it’s all about just making payments on on a super app, where you don’t even have to include your visa or anything like that. And in the US is a very different model where even with FinTech solutions, they still tag along the visa and the different sort of merchant providers, right, the enablers, and that if you know, it’s removed in the way that it is in China, right? So they sort of map that across the banks tend to lose, actually $43 billion, because if you think about transaction, right, so if it’s $100 product, $97 is what the merchant gets $3 is fees right? Whether that’s, you know, your stripe, or whether that’s doing whatever transfer that’s enabling that, how do you think about that with the unique way that you’re thinking about cash on delivery here? 

 

MM

Yeah. So let’s take a step back. Okay. Banking as a service, I’m a firm believer in why, if you look at what has evolved in Europe now, the bank that we also use, because our holding companies in the Netherlands, the underlying IBM International Bank account number for this FinTech that we use is Citibank. 

 

So do I believe that the largest banks are the most powerful commercial banks today? You know, should they have backing as a service? Absolutely. Because they’ve got the licensing, they’ve got the regulatory approvals little bit be there I bands. What fintechs need to do in this space is provide the leads the leads for the deposit holder, the leads for basically the account management around it. 

 

So I think there’s value amongst fintechs there, right. Now when you compare Visa, MasterCard, versus alipay, for example, what’s the fundamental difference? The fundamental differences in Visa, MasterCard, their fees are probably comparable to Ali pay his fees. A point 2.3%. Somewhere around that range. It’s the banks in the middle that basically charge you charging, let’s say, two 3%. But the premise behind that charge was actually credit. It was supposed to be credit cards that you’re supposed to charge 2.5 or 3%. 

 

And it’s criminal, that they’re charging that on debit cards, you know, so so so I think, if they change that, it’s one small change, right? don’t charge those astronomical fees on debit cards. Credit? Absolutely. You know, you should, because basically, it’s not money someone has. So you know, I think a lot of you know, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of storytelling going around the world. Right. And I think it’ll normalize in a few years. 

 

SC

Yeah. So and and you know, this concept on cash on delivery, I find it interesting. I know, this concept may not be as common in the United States and more developing countries. But a lot of it also stems from how do we first build trust, right, that’s how it started. And I want to talk about trust here and your business, because and Nadeem from Gojek talks about this as well, you know that he started the business when he realized he could actually trust an outsider who may not come across as someone you know, in working in the offices and all that, but who was actually an ojek that wants to earn a little bit more.

 

 

And in a country like Pakistan, where there’s undoubtedly for outsiders tuning in a lot of hesitation in terms of just you know, we talked about this or investing hesitation in investing in the market. How do you think about building trust? And how do you think about, you know, handing someone in Pakistan, cash for a product and how you building that trust as you roll out your different products here? 

 

MM

See, ultimately, it’s about your faith If you have an assurance that anyone that you’re engaging with, there’s recourse, if they fail on the transaction, you know, then then you will trust right? Now, the cool thing about ride hailing, is everything strapped. You’d be surprised, you know, that in a city like Karachi, where petty crime, you know, like robbing people, of their smartphone on a motorbike was so common, right? A few years ago, still happens off and on, I just, it’s just a steal a smartphone, disrupt something, right? It hardly happens on bykea. And you’d be like, Why? Because the robber knows that the exact location would be trapped. Now, if you hop on the bike, the mobile number, the telecom, basic tracking of that passenger would also be trapped. So tracking solves a lot of things. You know, in terms of cash management. I’ll take a step back again, you know, let’s look at the examples of Russia or India, or Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia. Saudis are some of the the largest ecommerce buyers in the Middle East. When they buy from overseas, they charge that card when they don’t have the option to pay by cash and delivery the charge that card, but whenever they have an option to pay by cash on delivery, they always choose cash and maybe locally, why? 

 

Because they’ll pay after they get the item. 

 

SC

So I don’t think cash on delivery has as much to do about trust as it does the lack of trust. What I’m getting to right is the reason why cash on delivery started in countries like ours, I am talking to Malaysia here more emerging markets was because compared to in the United States like Amazon, right I I have no hesitation making all these purchases, even if it’s high value because I know the return policy is so good, no matter what I have that trust there. Whereas in Asia, emerging markets, there’s a lack of trust, but eventually what I’m getting to is don’t you think we need that it will move over just as how you know the aunties the uncles in Asia are now trusting, getting into someone’s car you know the premise of your business trust in technology. So don’t you feel like Bykea cash over time, will somehow cannibalize as you continue to build the trust? 

 

MM

You know, that’s the plan, right? The plan is exactly that the plan is to acquire users via cash. And how will users use other services as well? Get them to be sticky, offer them a digital solution as well. And stick to your platform. 

 

Ultimately, it’s like user acquisition and retention. Like if I just exclude all options that a customer wants today, one I wouldn’t even acquire this user and two, I wouldn’t even retain this user? I’m where we’re paranoid about retention. Right. So yeah, it’s it’s a step towards a sticky user long term.

 

SC

Got it. Got it. And I, you know, I appreciate the fact that you don’t want to be a wallet, I know, there’s very strong views on whether this should be the way forward or not. And you talk about retention as being one of the key things in your business.

 

Unfortunately, you right COVID-19 head, you’ve had to furlough quite a few folks, how are you thinking about retention from both supply and demand side, as you emerge from this crisis, that we’re all you know, sort of working through? 

 

MM

On the supply side, listen, I mean, these people are on your network, it’s a gig economy, they’re trying to make extra money. And if they’re working permanently on your platform, that means that means basically, we can’t get a job anywhere else. 

 

And as far as Bykea is concerned, we don’t necessarily like or love that set of a driver. We’d rather have a driver who already has a job somewhere else, and plugs in two hours in the morning, two hours in the evening on our platform. Why?

 

Because the supplemental income allows us to, to one, give this person more money. And the way we think of this is how much will this person make in an hour, not in a month, because ultimately, this whole supply side is based upon earnings per hour.

 

Now you can, you can increase the earnings per hour by giving a bonus. But Your goal should be to give enough jobs in an hour, right? For the two hours that someone’s on a one hour to someone’s on, if you can get multiple jobs, right. You don’t need to pay bonus, right? 

 

You basically allow the person to earn their way into into more income. So how do we do that? You do that through the super abstract. People who come to your platform to your app come from multiple demographics, they may come from a demographic that can only afford to hop on the back for motorbike to get from A to B. But they can also come from a demographic which is slightly more fluid, which is a demographic that can afford food delivery. The reason I say afford food delivery is because in these emerging geographies, you got to pay at least $1 or maybe less than $1 for delivery fees. So if the average order value is very low, the propensity for people to pay the delivery fee is going to be very little. So unless people are ordering in bunches drops to two to three, you know, the average order value does rise. So now you’ve got a middle class in there. And then when you turn things as well, now you’ve got the whole gambit. Right? So all these leads, all these leads fall to the same supply. Right. And so yeah, I mean, I think I think it’s a yes, it’s a two sided marketplace. When I think of a super app side a unified, unified, basically network, it’s actually on our supply side, not necessarily on the demand side. 

 

SC

Right. And how has this pandemic made you rethink the way you’re approaching a business and of course, you know, taking into account as all the recent news that despite a pandemic, right GoTo Group is going ahead and you know, it bears the word and Indonesian ‘raksasa’, this is the newest behemoth, monster That’s coming into the market here, the largest technology group that started as you know, Nadeem, and a couple of guys coming up with something to innovate.

 

MM

You know, just like the SARS was a pivotal change in us in digital adoption in China, unfortunately, but fortunately for us, COVID has been that lever to drive user behavior towards digital. So, it’s been great. Yes, we, you know, during a complete lockdown, you know, motorbike taxi was done for a short period of time. But ever since it’s turned on that business has more than doubled. And then, and then your commerce businesses also growing, right. And so the reason why they’re going public, is because these businesses are booming, you know, in so it’s also a great time to raise money. So I think, you know, all the power to them. 

 

SC

And is that in the horizon for you in the near term, to in public to grow in and the similar way of full super app? And potentially, you know, raise even more? 

 

MM

Yeah, absolutely. You know, who are we inspired by, inspired by Gojek by Meituan. No one talks about Meituan, Meituan is the holy grail of it, right? So we’re constantly studying Meituan we love the kind of, you know, micro micro level advertising that they do, you know, the reviews and the community, you know, building that they do, and I think they drive. One thing that Meituan does very well by which we all need to learn from is, is frequency and repeat usage and user generated content? Grab doesn’t have user generated content. Gojek doesn’t, Tokopedia has to a certain extent. Yeah, we’re trying to figure out how do we generate meet user generated content to get that user keep coming back? So yeah, we have we have plans.



SC 

 

We have plans. I always love hearing that. And what what do you think will be your challenges here as we wrap up and go into the next segment? 

 

MM

Yeah, the challenge is, the challenge is basically, you know, around our product, for example, when we’re doing food, we’re launching, we’re launching a food category as well? 

How do you differentiate the product to not go head on with someone with a lot of money to burn? So for example, in our market, the FoodPanda, but what does FoodPanda have? They got money to burn and discounts. 

 

They’ve got this network, which operates in like a closed radius. And so you know, where, of course, the experiment and you need to tweak and when you get a product down and make certain changes. What we don’t want to do is we don’t want to drive adoption through selling below cost, which is what most companies do, right? Yeah. We want and we hope that the product that we create, the journeys that we create, are a discovery journey. So for example, we’re going to focus on streetfood, on discovering streetfood, on being able to call the restaurant directly, you know, leave a voice note direct directly, we want that communication to happen, right? We want the restaurants to be our friends don’t think of us as enemies. So how do we do that? It’s complex, you know? 

 

But we’re gonna keep listening to them. And we’re gonna keep building products that they love.

 

SC

Love it. Great. And that brings me to a nice segway to billion dollar questions. So eight questions. Say whatever comes to mind succinctly and respond to the eight questions here. So you ready? 

 

Number one, when you think of the word successful, who do you think of and why?

 

MM

Ray Dalio. So the large the largest hedge fund in the world is Bridgewater and Ray Dalio led it. He built it from scratch. And what he leaves behind today is not just a fantastic book called Principles. Absolutely read it. But he’s a mentor. I follow him on Twitter. I listen to everything he says. I hope that if I’m rich, I don’t know if I can be, I am as humble and as good as mentor as he is.

 

SC
Great choice, common misconceptions about you?

 

MM 

That I have money and that I live in my Daddy’s house. 

 

SC

You’re not living your daddy’s house now. Are you? 

 

MM

No.

 

SC

Highest high? 

 

MM

Getting my LASIK surgery done.

 

SC

Wow. When did you do that? 


MM
Long time ago


SC

Nice! Lowest low?


MM

Almost running out of money. We almost died, we almost died. Had it not been for someone to really come in and bail us We almost died once. And that was heartbreaking because we knew that the only thing we didn’t have was money. Because we we had a great product, we had a great team, we had everything going for us. But investors many times get blown away by the paranoia of these guerrillas not recognizing that every one of them has an Achilles heel.


MM

Yeah. Love that. And and you know, I noticed you use the word paranoia a lot. I think that is definitely one of the things that stands you out as a founder because you’re obsessing over what next? Right? And I’ve heard this from a couple of you investors as well. Muneeb, this one guy that I’ve heard same paranoia a lot. And you’ve used that in this conversation a lot. 


Best advice you’ve been given?


MM

Best advice. A friend of mine, basically, when I was at one of the lowest ebbs in my career, he said, you know, even if you’re drowning in money, give it one last shot. And I say that to me. I say that to myself almost every week now, even if you’re drowning, one last shot.


SC

Favorite tool, hack for productivity,

DingTalk, and calendly. So for those of you who don’t know, DingTalk, is owned by the Alibaba Group. It’s a clone of slack. But the cool thing about it, it has voice notes and has had voice notes way before slack did. So and it’s free. 


SC

great, your biggest fear?


MM 

Living a meaningless life, a life without a purpose.


SC

What does that mean?


MM

How can you wake up in the morning and not know, not have something to fret about how can you go to sleep at night? And not dream about work? A meaningless life if I don’t have something to stress about.


SC

Okay. And finally, you’ve got a couple of kids that are looking to you as role model in their life. What are the qualities, three qualities that you would want them to have as they move forward in their life into adulthood?


MM

Yeah, so I mean, you’re never always going to be the smartest person in a room. So so I think persistence will train you to be the best skilled person in that room. So keep at it. 


The second thing is and you know, I bite on my tongue many times on this. Don’t immediately respond to things like don’t immediately respond to emails. Don’t snap back. Always let it let it settle, respond back in 12 hours. You know? Yeah, in this world of chats, and social media, many times will immediately respond back. 


The third is your life is public. Whether you like it or not Google Facebook, everyone knows where you live, every meter that you move, write everything that you say everything that you write is is public, recognize that and curate. This is your digital diary.


SC

And that’s interesting. And I want to throw this last one in as we wrap up here. You know, I’ve heard you speak about the digital side of things and the afterlife that we actually have which is which is your third point, you know, the fact that we are now being watched in some way In the afterlife of Muneeb, when you look back, what would be the legacy that you want to leave behind?


MM

In some way or the other if you are remembered for contributing something good and helping a large set of people live a better life, either economically, or in any other form it whether you’re a scientist, you know, an inventor, deck entrepreneur, social worker, if you have enabled not a handful of people, if you’ve enabled many people, you know, ideally 1000s of people, if you’ve enabled them, you can rest in peace, because we’re all going to go. Listen, no one knows if there is an afterlife or not. Right, you know, you should just go in peace.


SC

Love that. And what a great way to end! 


Muneeb, thank you so much for taking this time really to chat through everything from the challenges of going into a super app, the strategies of emerging markets and really, some of the challenges there and your deepest fear of a meaningless life. You know, there’s been so much that you’ve shared with us here today. I’m so thankful for your time and I’m excited for the 1000s and millions of lives that you will impact on the legacy that you will leave. Thanks so much for joining today. 


MM

Great chatting with you as always take care!