13-19 June 2014 #711

Two wheels good

A new bicycle courier service will deliver a package anywhere within the Ring Road at incredible rates in one hour flat
Tsering Dolker Gurung

PREMIUM RUSH : 21-year-old student Subir Nepali is one of the four bike messengers for KTM Couriers. He says he likes the flexible working hours.
You need to collect your passport from the embassy, but your flight is in an hour and you still have a dozen errands to run. What do you do? Michel Dudal found himself in a similar situation last month when he received his visa to the UK only hours before his flight. A quick Internet search for courier services introduced him to KTM Couriers, a Lalitpur-based logistics company that offers one-hour delivery service to anywhere in the capital.

Dudal dispatched a messenger immediately to pick up the package. Anxious about catching his flight on time and unsure if the company could indeed deliver on its promise, he went to BVS himself only to find the KTM Couriers messenger was already there.

"He is not the first client to have doubted our services," admits Smriti Singh Suwal, 27, who started KTM Couriers with her brother Sajan Man Singh Suwal two years ago.

While Kathmandu has other delivery companies that use motorcycles, KTM Couriers exclusively uses bicycle messengers for deliveries. This makes them more competitive and sends a environment-friendly message. And in some cases when traffic is gridlocked, bicycles can be faster than motorcycles.

Smriti, a management graduate from the US, handles operations while Sajan is the technical brains behind the project and is an IT grad currently based in Bangkok.

Orders can be placed by phone or online through the company’s user-friendly website. A one-hour delivery for a small package (up to 3 kg) costs only Rs 180, and the price is less if you don't require express service. Word-of-mouth has helped increase the company’s profile and added to its credibility, but Smriti admits it’s still a challenge to convince people that deliveries made on bicycles can be quick and reliable.

Founder Smriti Singh Suwal (on the phone) started KTM Couriers with her brother Sajan Suwal in 2012.

The dispatch team at the company's office in Sanepa

Young entrepreneurs with their own start-ups form the majority of KTM Courier's clientele. Fashion magazine Navyaata and popular online shopping sites Urban Girl and onlinekinmel have been using their service for the past year.

The messengers are all young students - some are in their gap year while waiting for acceptance from universities abroad. Bike Messenger Subir Nepali (pic, main)is a student who has been working part-time with the company for seven months, and he likes the flexible working hours. However, there is no girl messenger in the team.

"We did get a girl cyclist who was very eager to join us but her parents didn’t permit her to work for us," says Sailendra Dongol of Kathmandu Cycle City Network who is on board as an adviser.The company is also working to provide life insurance to all its messengers.

As a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) last women's day, it presented five women home-based workers with bicycles with funds collected from Kickstarter. The recipients were taught to ride bicycles for a month and Sailendra says they have been using them for their daily commute.

The Sanepa-based company is now looking at expanding with three more hubs in the city centre and Bhaktapur. They are also working on a mobile app that will allow customers to track their package, a service already available on their site. Food and flower delivery are also on the cards.

Although the company only offers delivery during office hours at present, plans are underway to start night time deliveries soon.

Says Smriti: “There’s a lot of room to growth, and we will grow with time.”

www.ktmcouriers.com Open 10AM to 6PM

Read also:

Cyclists and the city, Bhrikuti Rai

Thank God It’s (A Bike-to-Work) Friday, Tyler Mcmahon

Pathway out of poverty

In May 2013 American couple Caleb and Emily Spares sold their house and business to start Portal Bikes, a not-profit that owns and operates bicycle shops in developing countries. Seven months ago the Spares moved to Kathmandu to start operations here.

"We help people turn bicycles into businesses that create pathways out of poverty," says the couple on their website. Although the company is registered as a private limited, Caleb says Portal Bikes in Nepal follows the same social-business model of its parents company in Colorado.

The company's first project is a cargo bike (pic, above) 'long-tail' that Caleb designed that lets cyclists ferry heavy loads but without the hassle of a trailer. "I thought this would be perfect for Nepal," he says.

Portal Bikes has partnered with local cycle chain Epic Mountain Bike for the project. The company is yet to begin mass production but display of the cycle's prototypes at various fairs has already earned the company many interested buyers. Caleb hopes to start retailing the 'long-tails', priced Rs 33,000 by January next year.

For sale of every three bikes, the company will offer one to an aspiring entrepreneur on a micro-credit basis.


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