IN CONVERSATION WITH MEHEDI REZA

On the 21st of August, 2020 Shad Hussain, the host of our show, Turbine Talk, sat down for a head to head interview with Mr. Mehedi Reza, the founder, and CEO of Jobike, one of the most innovative and socially aware business models ever to have launched in Bangladesh. Here is what went down in the conversation.

Turbine: Tell us a bit about yourself and your career.

Mehedi Reza: My start to the corporate world was very humble. After I finished my graduation from Sydney back in 2002, I moved back to Bangladesh. After doing so I started working for a company that was an Internet Service provider. Even though I had my degree in business, I found myself more fascinated by working with technology. Hence, I started my job as a system support engineer. Gradually my career shifted from being a system engineer to a graphic designer and I was regarded as one of the best graphic designers in Dhaka back in 2004. I even went to Japan for a year as a manga designer. After coming back, I started working for Nokia Bangladesh as a digital marketer and I was the only one who used to oversee this sector for the marque at that time. However, I reached the greatest turning point of my life when I was called to work for Alibaba which was my dream. I was also the only Bangladeshi working for them in their headquarters back in 2015. I spent two years in China working for Alibaba and that was the best time I spent.

working for Alibaba and that was the best time I spent.

Turbine: What is Jobike?

Mehedi Reza: Jobike isn’t just an idea but is a solution for our nation. When I was in China I saw how everyone would use bicycle-sharing services for both short and long distances. This stuck to my mind and made me think that we should take this back to Bangladesh because our people will be heavily benefited by this. Especially considering the immense traffic and mass CO2 emissions. Hence, all the problems as a whole made me think about introducing this concept of sharing cycles in Bangladesh. Before I pitched the idea to any investor, I talked about it with my co-founders, Pablo and Williams. They too were interested and we decided to quit our jobs and progress with our idea which could be very big.

Turbine: Tell us about Jobike’s journey?

Mehedi Reza: The Jobike journey started back in 2018 on a small scale with 20 bicycles in cox’s bazaar. The consumers reacted to this new idea positively and were fascinated by the fact that they could easily unlock a bike using their phone and could ride it which also made the whole experience very exciting.  This motivated us to introduce the Jobike idea to different university campuses and residential areas.  Starting from Cox’s Bazaar, we now operate in different universities like Dhaka University, Chottogram University, and Jahangirnagar University. We are even operating in Mirpur DOHS residential area and finally, in June we launched Jobike for the whole of Dhaka. We are in Gulshan, Niketon, Baridhara, and many other places. The government and IT division also supported us a lot and without that support, I don’t think we could have even launched the service.

The Jobike journey started back in 2018 on a small scale with 20 bicycles in cox’s bazaar.

Turbine: How has the government helped you?

 Mehedi Reza: We had multiple meetings with the government where we explained to them how bicycles are one of the safest modes of transportation during Covid-19. Eventually, the talk went forward to DNCC where we pitched in the idea of doing a trial run to see the public’s response and we also explained how riding a cycle is not only good but is also a safe solution during this pandemic. From this we got a lot of media attention, people talked about us and our honorable Mayor of North City Corporation even rode our cycles to go to his office and other places. On top of this, we are planning to expand our operations to Uttara and other areas with the support of the government. We are also talking with them on how to introduce bicycle lanes and impose safety measures which are very important. This is how the government is helping us, and with their support, the operation can reach its prime state.

we are planning to expand our operations to Uttara and other areas

Turbine: Why did you choose Cox’s Bazaar?

 Mehedi Reza: We started our initiative on a small scale as we wanted to see the response from the people. We noticed if we go to campuses and schools, we won’t be able to get the responses that we were looking for and we also couldn’t let people know about Jobike and our services without spending a lot of money on marketing.  Hence, I thought about operating in Cox’s Bazaar first because; let’s say one goes to Cox’s bazaar for 2 or 3 days and during their stay, they happen to ride Jobike and utilize its service. Once the person comes back home, he or she will be talking about their experience with their friends and family. This as a result prevents us from spending a lot of cash on marketing as we are able to let more people know about Jobike through the experiences of others. This is why Cox’s Bazaar was our go-to option for starting out.

Turbine: What is Jobike’s current pricing structure and what do you plan to do after COVID-19?

Mehedi Reza: Well currently our pricing is per minute one taka if you are riding outside campus. But for students, we made it cheaper as it is three takas per five minutes. As for the future, we are planning to introduce different subscription packages and we may change the prices but we are still planning all of that. On top of this, we are also looking forward to introducing new and much more interesting products. At the end of the day, we want to reach our big picture which would be to introduce Jobike in every neighborhood.

 Turbine: What advice do you have for readers who aspire to be an entrepreneur?

 Mehedi Reza: Well, I have a very simple answer and I would say this from my real experience. I wouldn’t give the advice on whether you should jump or not jump into any idea as anyone can do this as we all have ideas that we can fulfill. But the difference would be whether it would be sustainable or will you be sustainable as the founder. It’s not about the product, it’s not about the idea as at the end of the day the whole thing is about you. When I talk about myself, there were a lot of challenges, good news, negative phases, and a lot of hassle but I have been sustaining it for the past two years. So my last message would be that you should stick with your vision, and never give up. When you start something your first two months would be very simple because you have enough funds and everything is going smoothly. Then the real challenges come forward and can you survive those obstacles is the real question. If you give up at that moment, then you are done and everything is over. Maybe your idea could have worked after two years, but then what would be the point if you give up. So this is my message, never give up. I could have given up because as we faced a lot of challenges, but I never did. So I am going to stick with my idea as I know Jobike will develop in the future for sure.

you should stick with your vision, and never give up