We’ve always had problems on booking a bus or a ferry ride, especially during holidays and festivals where people go to their hometowns or visit tourist sites. The rides are fun, really, but the booking process is quite tedious. With this dilemma in mind, Chea Langda founded the BookMeBus. Since it first operated years ago, BookMeBus has grown to become the leading bus ticket booking system in the kingdom. With the e-tickets from the BookMeBus, you can be confident that you get the best seat and be on a ride favourable to your schedule. So, how did Mr Langda turn his idea of providing a hassle-free booking system for locals and foreigners into a successful startup? Srey Kumneth finds out.
YT: Why have you thought of starting up a ticket booking business?
Mr Langda: Cambodia is a rapidly growing country, and therefore, lots of people need to travel every day around the country and outside the country. Yes, now travelers from Cambodia can book online to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. As we saw that the real challenge was that most of the bus operators managed their operation on a paper basis and offline, and travelers found it hard to access schedules and seat availabilities, and pay for their tickets, we decided that a real innovative tool is needed to be made to provide seamless travel experiences to both local and international travelers.
A hassle-free booking app, BookMeBus, was set up in 2015 to help travelers book a transportation such as bus, ferry, private taxi. We are currently the largest operator in Cambodia by far, and has worked with more than 40 transport operators.
YT: You were invited to join the International Visitor Leadership Programme in the US and visited several business establishments. How did you share your learning with others?
Mr Langda: I was very proud to be selected among the other six candidates from Cambodia to join the prestigious programme and visit amazing startups and incubation centres in several parts of the US. It has opened my eyes wider to a whole new level of possibilities that startups bring and to a more complete definition of what we call a tech startup or tech disruptor which can be a total game changer in one’s society and country.
After coming back from the programme, all the candidates have worked together and we are at the beginning of launching an advisory panel to provide support to a lot of new startups in the country and around the region. We need to give some of our time to support our startup community that is very much at a nascent stage.
YT: As one of the two Cambodians chosen to be part of the Alibaba Academy, what was your most favourite experience in the programme?
Mr Langda: I had the proudest moment when I met Jack Ma face to face and asked him two specific questions. The key take-aways from the course were that I obtained meaningful lectures about the whole Alibaba ecosystem from all business executives at Alibaba Group such as Aliexpress, Tao Bao, Fliggy, Cai Niao the logistics, Ant Financial’s Alipay, Lazada and PayTM to name a few. And, I got to meet and spend time working with the amazing group of young startup founders from all over Asia. It might be a cliche to say that my dream to meet Jack Ma was achieved, because every single Asian startup founder does dream to meet Jack Ma in person and receive meaningful advice from him.
Also, the main purpose of this selected group which is initiated by Jack Ma himself is for participants from different businesses and backgrounds to go back and create an ecosystem in their own countries to empower small businesses and other young people. One of the questions that I asked Jack Ma was what it would be his advice to choose the right investors. The second was how he managed to balance between business and family at the early stage. And, the other Cambodian participant and I are preparing to do a sharing session of this amazing experience to other entrepreneurs this month.
YT: At the age of 28, what are the most challenging parts of the job as the CEO of a rapidly growing startup?
Mr Langda: It is only when you go through pain that you start to grow. When we all accept that pain is part of growth, we can then grit our teeth and continue to work hard towards our goal. Young and old, we all want to be successful and use our success to make a positive impact in our society.
YT: You’re such an inspiration to a lot of young Cambodians out there. What would be your most important piece of advice?
Mr Langda: My belief is that we all can take part in building our tomorrow by starting a single step. If we haven’t even started or quit halfway, we will never see what is on the other side. For me, when I started BookMeBus, I heard a lot of naysayers and rejections, but we did it, and we’re continuing to do our best every day. My advice to other young people and creators is, keep walking through the storm because the rainbow is waiting on the other side.
Please visit http://BookMeBus.com