The hottest topic of the town has been issues surrounding Pathao and Tootle with the recent action by Nepal Traffic Police. The organization also went on to say that these business in operation aren’t functioning in legal term and should be put to stop until regulations are formulated around the same. With the current situation, Elisha Kharel, conducted a direct interview with Shashank Shumsher Thapa. He is currently affiliated to Pathao as an Assistant Manager, Legal Head, Human Resource and Personal Relations Officer for their Nepal base. Below is the extract from the interview.
How did Pathao start?
As an adamant, we started as tech industry. A new industry, in fact, even if the model was already used by Tootle here in Nepal, we both are infants in the field bringing new ideas of ease in the market. We had a concrete legal team to define the core operational areas and other essentials required for what our service aimed to be. We were registered as an Industry in Department of Industry under Computer Science and registered as an mobile application based service.
Revolutionists as social media terms you to be. What revolution did Pathao bring for the Kathmandu valley?
We can summarize it on three points.
First being employment, 20,000-30,000 freelancers have registered by the company and are covering up their daily expenses. 20,000-30,000 more jobs, that’s extraordinary by itself.
Second, being resolving an issue of traffic congestion, bikes are faster on roads, quicker to get to the destination and can move past vehicles stuck on traffic jams. The app can both save money (cheaper than to travel on taxis) and time (wasted time on public vehicles, because of their long routes and insolent traffic jams). It’s like one less vehicle on the road.
Third being, real-time tracking and database of users. We have an online tracking system for all the Pathao rides throughout the city. We have complete data base of riders, the blue book details, licence details, bike details, their identification and everything, our database could be useful even for the traffic police. In addition to that, we are trying to bring technological revolution in the country, we want technology to grow with time and make Nepal tech-friendly so as to ease daily lives of people
The Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act, 2049 (1993) is coming into question a lot and about how the company is deemed to be illegal, what are your views regarding this?
Section 160 of the same act has the following thing to say
schedule(2) The competent authority may punish a person who commits, or causes the commission of, the following act with the following fine: (a) A fine from Five Hundred to Two Thousand Rupees, in the case of a person who commits, or causes the commission of, an act in contravention of Sections 12 , 45 or 117.
Section 12 . Prohibition on use for other purpose: (1) A motor vehicle which has been registered for any one purpose shall not be used for any other purpose. (2) A motor vehicle which has been provided with a facility of customs duty exemption shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which the customs duty exemption has been granted.
Section 117. Prescription of number of passengers and quantity of goods to be hold in motor vehicle: (1) The Department shall determine the number of passengers and the weight of goods permissible in a public motor vehicle and publish a notice to that effect for information of the general public.
(2) A public motor vehicle may not carry persons or goods in excess
of such number of persons or weight of goods as may be specified pursuant
to Sub-section (1).
Why isn’t this issue not being covered up ? the number of passengers and weight the public vehicles can handle?
With recent issue of bikes being towed by the Nepal traffic police, has the bikes been returned?
The bikes are still on hold, we have already paid the fees for the same.
What about the insurance and safety of the riders? Lots of new “stories” are being lit up.
Actually, we opted for insurance but no model suited our purpose. We had talks with several insurance companies and none suited the match. What the market is demanding is a “blanket insurance” which means if any accident is to happen, the insurance must cover the bike of the rider, the passenger on the ride and the rider. It’s like covering up for the single trip and once the previous passenger drops off then the insurance must link with the new passenger accepted for the ride and this goes on circles. We do not have this kind of insurance plans. We have even talked to international organizations but we have still not got the module. Yes, we care about safety and are working for it.
About the stories, lots of the riders have been tracked with the track code system or one-time code system issued to the riders and the passengers. We get updated about the location, the fares charged, the details of the rider and their vehicles and the routes they follow. If any such issues do happen the victim can demand complete information and we do have a complete database for the same which will help us track them within few minutes.
Adding more to the issues, we are seeing questions raised about the high income of the riders and invoice system and obviously the tax. Is the system maintained?
As a company, we are clear on taxes. And for the riders, a cut of the fares of the riders is received by the company as commission taking taxes into consideration. And about the issue of income, income and profits are two different things. Let’s look at the bigger picture and see the expenses tagging along for the riders. We do not pay for the servicing or petrol it’s all to be covered up by the freelancers who have registered as Pathao riders. Obviously after the authority makes the taxation policy that suits the model of this industry, company we will apply it as per the module.
Words for the government?
Let’s not stick to the laws that were formed two decades earlier. We are tech-based industry and cyber law being formed so late than the transport act defines that the act needs changes. The time when the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act was formed, the lawmakers would not have even anticipated that any company like this would even come into existence. Now that we did the unimaginable, the government should relax the laws and makes changes thinking how much these kinds of mobility service would aid the people in the country and to what degree it would solve the daily traffic issues.
The government has aimed for “Smart City”. A company like ours are aiming to actually go for it and make the vision real. The government should opt for the cost-benefit analysis make track of the system, bring taxation and an insurance policy that would cover our need. Laws are not static, they are meant to be progressive. so let’s aim for progress and aim to make entrepreneurship flourish. The government should now guide us not give hostile responses.
If Pathao wins, who wins?
Let me rephrase that, If we win, people will win.
The text is based on the interview conducted on 16th December, 2019.