Not entirely pleased with the way the public transportation system in Barbados was serving the approximately 44 000 people who commuted twice daily, one entrepreneur set out, about three years ago, to bring about some needed change.
Co-founder of Caribbean Transit Solutions Khalil Bryan also wanted to help visitors to these shores get around with even greater ease, comfort and security.
“For a number of reasons, we have structural challenges as well as administrative challenges. One could be that the government does not have enough money to implement certain things that would benefit the roads. But, of course, we have such a large dense road network and often it is made more cumbersome by the multiple intersections,” noted Bryan.
“Our goal is to be able to provide information on the buses, and built in is a solution that could allow people to use the buses more effectively . . . We want to get to a place where it is so reliable, or at least you have the information at your fingertips where you can now say ‘you know, I can actually leave my car’. So is the transportation system where it needs to be? No. No transportation system in the world is where it needs to be, but does it continue to evolve and should we evolve more quickly? Yes, I believe we should evolve more quickly.”
It was against that background that the entrepreneur established Caribbean Transit Solutions.
“The goal of the company overall is to improve transportation. So we started with providing real time information on buses, which is now a product call BeepBus,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Pleased with the success in the initial phases, Bryan quickly expanded the services of his company to the taxi and insurance industries, as well as fleet managers, launching the EasyTrack and BeepCab services.
“EasyTrack allows us to use the same tracking that we needed to track the buses, to offer to insurance companies and other fleet managers so they can get great analytics behind their vehicles,” he explained.
“Realizing that if we are going to provide information on buses and we want to provide information on transportation, it really needs to be holistic, so we needed to include taxis. So then BeepCab was born in January 2015,” he added.
When that service was officially launched in May of that year, the company managed to get a “significant” number of drivers on board.
Shortly after, some tweaks were made to enhance the app, which has already been downloaded by hundreds of locals and tourists.
BeepCab provides real time information on taxis and allows users of the app to book a taxi from their smartphones and pay either with cash or by credit card. BeepBus allows users to get static information on buses across the island, while EasyTrack, a fleet/vehicle management platform, provides monitoring, reporting and analytical functionality.
Bryan believes the service with the biggest potential is BeepCab, which is somewhat similar to US-based online transportation network companies Uber and Lyft, Didi Chuxing in China and Kabee in the UK.
However, he said the service that has been the flagship for Caribbean Transit Solutions is EasyTrack.
While Bryan and his team of six are optimistic about the future, he said one of the biggest challenges was the slow pace at which things seemed to happen in Barbados.
“So, if you are applying for a grant or if you are applying to a government agency where something should take maybe a month, then six months later you haven’t heard back, it becomes challenging,”
Noting that the company was still young and therefore had a very lean operation, Bryan said another challenge for him was that the investment climate here was still “extremely conservative”, although there were several initiatives to help startup companies.
“Investors who often dive in and put money into ventures like this in other markets, we are not seeing the same uptake here. But we do know of people who are interested in the business and provided that it gets to a certain place, may be interested in helping it to grow further,” he said.
“I think the Caribbean is a very nascent investment market. They now understand what types of businesses should be getting [investment], how you value businesses, what types of entrepreneurship you are looking for. So it is a lot of growing pains that you have with just being one of the first.”
Asked what he was doing that was keeping his company afloat despite the challenges, Bryan said through laughter, “I don’t know”.
“I think the great part of our business is that we diversify it. So we are not standing on solely one pillar like just fleet management or taxi booking. We have the joint income streams that do lift the company up,” he added.
Caribbean Transit Solutions has formed a number of partnerships and entered a number of local, regional and international competitions, copping a range of awards.
It is considered by some in the international arena “one of the most disruptive and innovative companies in Barbados”.
Bryan said the partnerships formed so far and the competitions have given him a lot of exposure.
“Innovation is not just about creating something new but being able to adopt something to serve your market in a way that has not been done before,” he said.
Product manager of Caribbean Transit Solutions Veronica Millington disclosed that the company, which attracts hundreds of tourists to the island, was in the process of planning its expansion throughout the region, adding that some markets have already been identified.
She revealed that the company was seeking to have at least the BeepCab service available in other markets by the second quarter of next year.
“As we look to expansion, we look to some of the islands in the Caribbean that have similar populations to ours and tourist population. So we look at St Lucia, Jamaica, the French Caribbean – Martinique and Guadeloupe,” said Millington.
The duo attributed the success of the operations so far to the hard work of the team, adding that they “push through in the face of adversity”.
“There is no on-the-clock time for us. We work to build something that can truly make a difference to Barbadians’ lives and the lives of those in the Caribbean when it comes to commuting and just saving time. We want to make our countries in the region better,” added Millington.
She added that said she was looking forward to greater local uptake and growing the business throughout the region in 2017, adding that she was satisfied the local population continued to be drawn to the services, although slower than expected.
“But tourists in the US and UK are aware of the Ubers and the Kabees and the Lyfts, and the other taxi booking apps. So the adoption rate has been a lot quicker [among tourists],” added Millington.
Stating that he would ensure Caribbean Transit Solutions becomes a household name, Bryan told Barbados TODAY he was super excited about the possibilities and the future of the company.
“We want to make it great to move around the Caribbean because the Caribbean is our home. I am excited about taking the products through the Caribbean, in whatever form that may take, and being able to improve lives by providing necessary information on the thing that everybody uses every day – transportation,” said Bryan.