Hello Carpoolians!!!

October 11, 2015 , by Pragya Thapaliya, Leave your thoughts
Hello Carpoolians!!! » My Dreams Mag
History has repeated itself after the Nepalese leaders took no heed of Indian government's 13-month long economic blockade which extended from March 1989 to April 1990. As believed by many, when Nepal did not postpone the enactment of constitution as requested by India, the "unofficial" embargo has made life difficult for the Nepali population.

The short supply of the basic necessities caused their market prices to hike up but things have gone out of hand due to fuel shortage. As the fuel containers are stranded at the Nepal-India border, the government resorted to apply odd-even rule in vehicle and as the crisis deepened, fuel supplies were rationed. Only public and emergency vehicles along with schools and colleges were provided with fuel but also in limited quantity. The roads are occupied by vehicles queuing up in never-ending lines.

Clinging on to the bus doors and riding hoods to commute to their work or colleges is an everyday scene in Kathmandu these days. People had tried everything — from walking long distance to cycling to their destination but this alone was not sufficient. Since, desperate times call for desperate measures, the concept of carpooling and hitchhiking has been introduced in Kathmandu. In the times of crisis, Carpool Kathmandu has been a revelation for the city dwellers.

In the times of crisis, Carpool Kathmandu has been a revelation for the city dwellers.

Sumana Shrestha founded the group Carpool Kathmandu which intends to match the people who are in need of ride to their destinations with those willing to offer rides. It has been a little more than a week, and the group has already managed to attract more than 70,000 individuals and the posts have soared to more than 1100 each day. The group members use the hash tags ‘#ask’ and ‘#offer’ to post their needs. If the match is made, ‘#filled’ is used to notify other members.

(From left to right) Sumana Shrestha, Anish Shrestha and Manish Shrestha

Along with Sumana, Anish Shrestha, Anish Bajracharya and Manish Shrestha are the other prime members of the group. Anish is the CEO and co-founder at Yellow Nepal and Fawesome Apps, and Manish is the Head of Business Development at his creative agency Kazi Studios. Sumana met both Anish and Manish online and she coordinated with the latter when she was working for the quake relief remotely. Anish reached out to her as he was also thinking of making a website for similar purpose.

Shrestha floated the idea of the group when she had to walk everywhere she needed to go on September 28th and ended up getting blisters on her feet. Recalling the day, she shares: “While I couldn’t find a taxi or a public vehicle to hop in, I saw many cars that had only one person in it or scooters and bikes with no pillion. I really wanted to ask for a ride, but I hesitated a bit. It is not a common practice in Kathmandu to ask for lifts."

"There are always concerns about safety, and the culture also refrains us from talking to strangers – there are just so many factors that prevent us from asking for a ride. I thought if I could just reduce those risks, the fear of ‘not knowing the person’, perhaps I could get a ride,” said Sumana. Later that night, Sumana went on to create the group on Facebook.

One can easily visit the profile of the askers and offerers and lessen space for doubt and suspicion, which is why the group has made people more open to the idea of carpooling. The altruism and patriotism continues to get stronger as the neighbouring nation’s blockade led fuel crisis doesn’t seem to get any better, and Kathmandu denizens have started being less unsure and have started receiving or offering help to strangers.

“What is more interesting and humbling is that it has really morphed into a living platform, there is a lot of interaction, lots of personal stories carpooling and lots of picture updates. Moreover, the concept of carpooling and helping each other seems to have really penetrated the psyche of Kathmandu folks. They are offering rides to strangers,” adds Sumana.

The concept of carpooling and helping each other seems to have really penetrated the psyche of Kathmandu folks. They are offering rides to strangers.

Once you visit the group you can come across some really heartwarming stories of people who have offered and accepted carpool service. Whether on helping the school going children or the elderly, Carpoolians have not only helped many but also inspired a lot of people to do the same. Anil Rai, after helping a 76-year old man, posts a picture along with him on the group and writes: “I have not posted this photo to show-off but to inspire others to offer lift to elderly people.”

People have shared pictures of traffic police helping the people get lifts to their destinations, citizens posting stickers and Nepali flags on their bikes to make people know that they are ready to offer help, and many posts thanking the admins for generating the idea of carpool and contributing to the greater good. Despite posting ‘#offer’ requests, some of people are not receiving requests from other members. Hence, some have decided to take matters into their own hands and have started offering ride to people waiting for public transport on the way.

Sushil Shrestha, a Maijubahal resident, shares: “I posted a few offers, but didn’t get any opportunity to pick up and drop fellow members. However, I have been randomly asking people waiting at the bus stands and giving them ride on my way to work, to and fro. Besides, it’s overwhelming to go through people’s carpooling experiences and the national unity they are showing in the face of this blockade. Finally, social networking sites seem to pour down into our real lives. That’s a very good sign, i.e. to find the practical significance of the virtual world in a society where our everyday activities and lives as a whole are largely dominated by computers and internet.”

Although the page has matched many requests and offers, the popularity of page has also managed to attract some online trolls and posts that tend to stray off-topic. The group users are finding it difficult to come across relevant posts. Recently some group members posted fake stories of how a guy offered ride to an old man, but it turned out that the man was returning from his morning walk.

In another instance, there were a series of posts on how a guy offered lift to a girl and after the bike met an accident, the pillion rider left the guy to deal with traffic police and went her way. The posts kept on coming from the guy’s perspective following with that of the girl, traffic police (and eventually, even the bike’s!!). It did not take long for people to figure out the posts were not based on a true incident and many were made by fake accounts. Soon, there was a flood of the snapshots trying to explain the mystery to other group members. In order to keep the group relevant and free from such posts, the admins have asked the group members to stick to the hash tags “#Ask”, “#Offer”, “#Filled” and “#CarpoolStory”.

Admins have also requested other members to stop feeding the trolls with ‘likes’ and ‘comments’, instead report those to the admins. Lately, the people who have been violating ‘Code of Ethics’ have been banned from the group. The group has also made a short youtube tutorial to help people make their searches more specific.

The Carpool Kathmandu team has more goals set to achieve in the days to come. The main aim of the group is to reach the critical mass so that high numbers of requests are matched by the community. The team is also working on developing an app that will manage to make the Carpooling more efficient as it will optimize the requests and offers. The group intends to further strengthen the Carpool Kathmandu community even after the crisis is over.

“I think this concept can go lot beyond those dictated by necessity. The best part is the team has a vision on how we will take it beyond the fuel crisis. First, we hope the fuel crisis just comes to an end and second, we are really looking forward to trying out our ideas on building and continuing this community,” says Sumana.


The idea of helping out each other and minimizing the use of fossil fuel is always a good reason to combat pollution and decrease the dependency on non-renewable resources. DREAMS wishes luck to the ‘Carpool Kathmandu’ team to achieve their goals, and commit to provide helping hand to fulfil the social interest in the days to come.
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