INNOVATE

Meet the Philippine Start-up that Wants to Innovate Mass Transport

Biyaheroes is digitizing public transport in the Philippines

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 06 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Though ride-hailing may get all the attention in the travel space, there are many founders who are trying to innovate in the area of public transport. The Philippine bus- and boat-booking platform Biyaheroes is one of them.

Mirra Reyes, who heads public relations and content at Biyaheroes, says she got the idea for the platform while having lunch with Ace Mercado, who is now the company’s managing director.

“We just complained about how much of a hassle it was to commute to our provinces; Ace is from Pagbilao, Lucena. I'm from Coron, and I love to visit San Juan, La Union to surf,” she says, “We thought about how leisurely endeavors like booking a movie seat or reserving a restaurant table can be, easily booked online. But something as critical as using mass transportation isn't.”

After founding Biyaheroes, they soon faced a significant problem: Most bus providers did not see their platform as a need — customers would still ride with them whether or not there was online booking available. Others even had existing systems and felt Biyaheroes would be redundant.

Reyes says they convinced bus operators to partner with Biyaheroes by explaining that their platform was more than just a means of offering online booking.

“It also covers higher satisfaction ratings for their customers who won't line up anymore, the ability to produce advanced sales, and projecting destination demands with guaranteed passengers. Our system can connect with their existing system through an API too, so we can still be an added sales arm,” she says.

With this pitch in mind, they were soon able to convince Romel Singson, president of local bus company Partas, to partner with Biyaheroes. Since their early days, the company has expanded, offering both long and short distance trips with 20 different partners, via both bus and boat.

They have vetted these partners mostly based on coverage. “We want to be able to modernize our country's mass transportation system on a nationwide, interconnecting scale,” says Reyes, noting that they have now served over 27,000 commuters.

Commuters who want to book through Biyaheroes get an experience similar to booking an airline ticket. They choose an origin, destination, date, number of passengers. Then they choose from the available schedules; seat allocation is displayed in real-time. Fares are settled online via debit or credit card or PayPal, over-the-counter at banks, or at payment centers.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of Filipinos may still not be used to booking trips online so Biyaheroes tries to guide them through customer support.

“If you visit our website, we have real-time chat assistance. We're also active on all major social media sites and messaging apps. We have a landline, a mobile number, and a dedicated email address. We earn their trust, and we've acquired a majority of them from organic, word-of-mouth marketing. They're happy we're here, and so are we,” she says.

Reyes says Biyaheroes has become a favorite of travelers, commuters, and overseas foreign workers sojourning in the Philippines.

To fuel Biyaheroes growth, the platform is partnering with travel agencies, hotels, and tour organizers to offer a booking portal where they can resell their bus and boat tickets with the cheapest rates available online. “So far, over 250 are already on board. We're open to more partnerships, and we're easy to talk to,” Reyes says.