Nigeria’s commercial city, Lagos, is home to over 25 million people. The city’s high population density has made it vulnerable to vehicular traffic, resulting in workers and commuters spending several hours in traffic before getting to work or their destination.
In order to help reduce the long hours people, particularly corporate workers, spend in traffic, Damilola Olokesusi launched Shuttlers to revolutionize the transport industry. The transport and tech startup provides a decent way for professionals and organizations to commute in Lagos.
Damilola’s personal experience influenced her to start Shuttlers. According to her, she was frustrated by the stress of commuting in Lagos and other nasty experiences boarding commercial transports in the city fueled her decision to revolutionize the sector.
Also, her experience in Dubai and the excellent state of their buses and trains impacted her. Upon her return to Nigeria, she noticed the presence of ride-hailing apps but they were quite expensive.
“Then I thought about using the staff bus model that my company employed while I was doing my internship and making it open for smaller companies and individuals to use. And that was how the idea for Shuttlers came,” she told Techpoint Africa.
Shuttlers works like Uber. It is a ridesharing app that allows professionals and organizations to share rides in corporate buses to and from work. Passengers shuttle in comfortable air-conditioned buses and cars.
Users book trips along fixed-routes at “60-80 percent lower than ride-hailing services and without surge or peak pricings which is the first of its kind in Nigeria,” according to techeconomy.ng. Since its founding, Shuttlers has sold more than 500 million seats.
Damilola has no business background. She studied chemical engineering at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) with the hope of working with energy giants Shell or Mobil. She was drawn to chemistry because she loved studying patterns to solve problems.
“I also loved chemistry because of the changes I saw occur during physical experiments in secondary school, so I was drawn to both subjects,” she said.
Damilola’s exposure to entrepreneurship came during a lengthy strike in 2009 while she was studying at UNILAG. She used the strike period to learn new things from what she knew growing up in Ibadan.
“Then I attended a lot of programmes and seminars during that break. Though I hardly remember what the speakers talked about, I remember a pretty young lady who told us how she was using tech to start a lot of companies. I found it fascinating because it was all new to me, especially since my parents worked at the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) — now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) — for 35 years. All I knew was that one studied, got a good civil service job, got married, and lived happily ever after,” she said.
According to her, she learned not to be one-dimensional in life and she started to question so many things happening around her and unconsciously looked for problems to solve. Although the problems she desired to solve were not clear to her, she was obsessed with becoming an entrepreneur who uses tech to solve problems.
So she even used the money meant for rent to start the first website for her ride sharing service. “I already paid the landlord but didn’t get the house, I was scammed. I got the police involved and they were able to retrieve N150,000 ($360) for me. Rather than searching for another house, I squatted with a friend and used the money for the website,” she told techeconomy.ng.