UT student startup Tuktuk provides budget-friendly rideshare

Leena Alali, Senior News Reporter

When UT graduate Sujoy Purkayastha first came to Austin, he felt particularly lucky to be able to explore the area comfortably because he could always rely on his friends for transportation.

“I had friends who had access to their own personal cars, so we would just carpool everywhere, all the time,” Purkayastha, Tuktuk co-founder and UT alumnus said. “So cost, parking, all of these different things, they didn’t affect me personally.”

But as Purkayastha’s friends graduated one by one, he found himself having to wait for buses, or pay large amounts of money for rideshare apps. As a solution for this issue, Purkayastha and co-founder Akif Abidi used their computer science background to create Tuktuk, a budget rideshare app that aids students in this very situation.

The two created Tuktuk to be the transportation middle ground between CapMetro buses and pricey rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. The app will give students the ability to ride from West Campus to the Engineering Education and Research Center for around $4, Purkayastha said.

“CapMetro … makes a 10-minute car ride into a 45-minute expedition,” Abidi, a computer science junior, said. “If you have groceries, that’s a huge pain as well.”

The app functions by creating half-mile to mile-wide hubs of popular areas around the UT campus. Each hub contains multiple stations that act as pick-up and drop-off points. Users can then request a ride within any station in their closest hub and be dropped off at another hub within the city. For the anticipated hard launch in October, Tuktuk plans to offer hub destinations in areas frequented by students such as Zilker Park, H-E-B and Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Abidi said.

Tuktuk functions like a pooled ride, Abidi said. If a ride is $15 but there are three riders in the car, Tuktuk users would only pay $5 for their seat.

Kaeden Barbarawi, an undeclared natural science sophomore, said he uses rideshare apps more than his own car due to congestion and parking issues in Austin.

“I had family come up and we wanted to play disc golf (at Zilker),” Barbarawi said. “There was no parking and it took almost an hour just to get there just because of traffic.”

Currently, the app is in its beta testing phase and is only open to a select group of students to test rides from West Campus hubs to the EER and the School of Nursing. The Tuktuk team is also working to partner with student organizations, fraternities and sororities to provide budget transportation for large events.

The University’s Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program and the McCombs Entrepreneur Summer Fellowship funded and aided the creation of Tuktuk.

“For me, especially freshman year, Zilker felt like a million miles away,” said Abidi.  “You find yourself in such a vibrant city but don’t really know where to go or how to get there … and hopefully we can help you out with that.”