“साझा बसमा जो पनि चढ्दछ” was a popular Nepali song in the 90’s that depicted the love of the public for Sajha buses. Just like the song, the green buses became a nostalgic memory when it’s services were discontinued in 2002. But with the determination to bring back people’s loved public transport, Sajha Yatayat resumed its services again from 14th April 2003. Sajha Yatayat currently has 71 Large Diesel Buses, out of which 67 buses are providing intra-city service in Kathmandu valley and 4 buses are providing intercity services connecting Kathmandu with Baglung and Bhairahawa. Keeping up with the times, the buses have been remodeled and new routes have been introduced. And with a vision to go completely electric by 2025, electric buses are also in the process of being purchased.
In 2015, Sajha Yatayat introduced e-card in some of its buses, to make e-ticketing the standard form of payment in all public transportation. However, the system failed and was discontinued within a short period of time. Sajha Yatayat piloted the e-ticketing system in collaboration with different companies for a few other times in 2017, and 2019 but none were sustainable and eventually faded out. Sajha Yatayat now wants to explore the reasons behind the system’s failure and find ways through which e-ticketing can be implemented in public transportation in Nepal. The visionary board members of Sajha believe that implementing e-ticketing systems in the public transportation of Nepal will help minimize financial leakages, make payment fair and transparent and improve the perception of the public towards public transportation. To explore the feasibility, sustainability, desirability and viability of introducing e-ticketing in the public buses of Nepal, Sajha Yatayat has partnered with King’s College for a co-creation project. As the challenge partner, Sajha Yatayat has provided the challenge of understanding why e-ticketing has not been successful in Nepal and what can be done to introduce the system in public buses of Nepal.
9 students pursuing MBA and BBA from King’s College have begun their journey of understanding the challenge in depth to provide Sajha with a solution. In the two months challenge, that began with a fun and interactive Kick-Off session on January 25, 2022, two teams of 4 and 5 students each will be going through the design thinking process to explore the problem, ideate possible solutions and finally present a prototype of the most feasible solution to Sajha Yatayat — the challenge partner.
With support from the representatives of Sajha Yatayat, mentors and project facilitators, the two teams have begun their community immersion activities to dive into the problem. Besides interviewing company representatives and other major stakeholders, the teams also took a few rides on the Sajha bus for a more experiential learning of the bus’s operation and passengers’ woes.
“The conductor and driver of the bus that I observed were both very active and made sure passengers boarded and got off the bus using the entry and exit door respectively. They were also very considerate towards the elderly people; finding seats for them, reminding them about their stop and giving them enough time to get on and off the bus comfortably. However, passengers seemed confused about the ticket price since the distance – fare chart was not stuck anywhere in the bus. The Sajha App, which only passengers with smartphones can use, also needed constant refreshing”, a participant reflected after riding the Sajha bus from Lagankhel to Bansbari.
Three weeks into the challenge and the participants have come across several issues that could be the reason why the e-ticketing system has not been a success in Nepal. “Time lag of the machine, data collection, passengers’ unawareness and the unfamiliarity of the e-ticketing system; any or all of these factors could have led to the failure of e-ticketing in the past. Right now we feel like all of them are valid and important reasons”, another participant expressed confusion.
This state of confusion and having more questions instead of answers is expected in the early stages of the design thinking process. It shows that participants have been immersing deeper into the challenge and will emerge with clearer insights to move into the solution phase.
While the two teams are not competing against each other, it will be interesting to see if both the teams narrow down to the same problem and solution or find separate paths towards solving Sajha’s challenge.