Why Tootle failed in Nepal

There are lessons to be learned from this revolutionary ride-sharing app, which offers valuable lessons about the importance of legal compliance, user-centric app development

Pranab Malla

  • Read Time 2 min.

Tootle, a ride-sharing app, brought about a paradigm shift in Nepal’s transportation landscape. In a society where parents were cautious about their children talking to strangers, it was remarkable to witness the same people allowing their children to travel with unknown individuals. Tootle addressed the pressing need for a reliable transportation alternative in Kathmandu, where public transport was unpredictable, overcrowded, and unsafe, while taxis remained expensive due to variable meter pricing. 

For those without personal vehicles, the only option was to endure the crowded and polluted buses. Tootle’s innovative approach, which allowed individuals to work whenever they wanted without being employees, created a wave of employment opportunities as well.

Despite having a first-mover advantage and significant positive impact, Tootle faced several challenges that ultimately led to its downfall. One major hurdle was the conflict between Tootle’s registration as a company with the Office of the Company Registrar and the Department of Transport Management’s stance on using private vehicles to transport passengers. The authorities deemed this practice illegal, creating legal complications for Tootle.

Another critical factor contributing to Tootle’s failure was the inadequacy of its app. The app’s poor optimization and frequent crashes frustrated users, including myself. It lacked functionality, such as the ability to cancel rides as a client. Additionally, Tootle’s reliance on its own map, which had missing places and incorrect names, caused inconveniences for riders who couldn’t even book a ride to certain locations.

Moreover, the emergence of Pathao, a rival ride-sharing app, proved to be a formidable competitor for Tootle. Pathao quickly capitalized on Tootle’s shortcomings by offering a user-friendly app with Google Maps support, lower commission rates, higher pay for drivers, and expanded coverage beyond the Kathmandu Valley. Pathao’s ability to outperform Tootle in these areas made it the preferred choice for users, ultimately overshadowing Tootle’s presence.

Lastly, it is worth noting that Sixit Bhatta, the founder of Tootle, became a more prominent brand than the app itself. While Tootle made significant contributions to improving the road conditions in Kathmandu, it struggled to maintain its standing amidst fierce competition and operational challenges.

Tootle’s failure in Nepal offers valuable lessons about the importance of legal compliance, user-centric app development, and adaptability to market dynamics. While Tootle may have been the trailblazer that transformed transportation in Kathmandu for the better, it serves as a reminder that sustaining success requires continuous innovation and staying ahead of the competition.

Malla is an advertiser, entrepreneur and lecturer.