A yoga teacher, I once used to visit, used to charge Rs 50 for a whole course, which usually lasted a couple of months. On asking why he charged so less, he replied that Indians have the attitude of taking things for granted if they are offered for free.
I later realized the value of what he had said through my experience of commuting between home and office.
A lot of us commute to work daily using public transport services like buses and auto-rickshaws and a lot of the times this is not a convenient choice. Ride sharing and car pooling services have many times tried to tap into this segment without much success.
Hyderabad based RideInSync, started in 2009, pivoted to a B2B model called MoveInSync, after failing to finding enough traction and customers in their B2C avatar.
Another Bangalore based ride sharing service will also be soon pivoting to a B2B model (More on that later). Recently ride sharing service Ridingo launched its Electronic City Carpooling campaign in Bangalore, to attract customers from companies like Infosys who have a huge employee base. Smartmumbaikar is trying some very interesting stuff in Mumbai.
Why do such services not survive in India? Is it the fault of the services or the consumers or just a plain attitude problem!
Types of 4/3 Wheeler Commuters
First, lets take a look at what kind of people we find on the road.
While travelling in buses and autos you will most often come across bigger vehicles like sedans and SUVs with a single passenger/driver. In Indian cities, where traffic congestion is often a problem, a sight like this is looked upon by many. But it is one’s right to choose to travel the way they want in a vehicle of their choice. These commuters will not use a shared service.
On the other hand you have people commuting by cab services organized by the employers, which travel at lightning speeds, ignoring traffic signals and cops with a vehicle full of passengers. These commuters are only concerned about reaching their office on time and ride-sharing may not be the best way to do it.
Then there are public transport commuters, who have access to three main transport modes. An auto-rickshaw service which usually overcharges or has a tampered meter, a regular public bus service that is usually overcrowded and a luxury version, that is still overcrowded during peak hours, but has the luxury of air conditioning. But given a choice, these are the commuters most likely to use a shared service.
Advantages of Car Pooling or Ride Sharing Services
Can reduce traffic congestion to some extent.
Should reduce the amount of vehicular pollution, but with more vehicles being introduced for every one that decides to stay off the roads, this might never be the case.
Paid sharing or pooling models can either match or even be cheaper than regular means of public transport.
Comparatively more comfortable & convenient than common public transport services.
Carpooling as a mode of daily commute is more common in many countries in Europe and North America
Problems With Carpooling and Ridesharing
In order to survive in a B2C market, such services require a significant number of participants, especially in the paid model. Even though the fare offered by ride-sharing services in the country are competitive, like any other consumer service, customer on-boarding is a big pain point as not many people are aware or confidence of these services.
Indian Stretchable Time
Another factor playing against the success of these services is the mentality of the Indian consumer. Most working people run on the ‘Indian Stretchable Time’ and this makes it difficult for services to keep up with schedules of the other co-passengers. So a 5 minute delay for the first two customers will end up adding up to more than a 10 minute delay for the third passenger.
Depending on Aggregators
Dependency on car aggregators is another big setback. Many of the local cab services in the country are infamous for not turning up on time or in some cases not turning up at all and with paid ride-sharing services being heavily dependent on these cabs, it just adds weighs down heavily on their service reliability.
Trusting a Stranger
People don’t trust strangers easily and in a confined space of a cab, trust becomes an even bigger issue. Especially in the case of women, with all the creepy guys around, travelling with strangers in a cab is not deemed safe by many. In the case of B2B services, it is easy to know or at least identify who your co-passenger is. Even some companies take care of security when women employees use the cab services alone. Mumbai based service, SmartMumbaikar, had tried to solve the ‘anonymity of fellow commuter’ issue by adding social media logins to its service, but even this method does not guarantee safety or trust.
Being a daily commuter, I have tried a couple of these services with little success. The paid services seem to work better than the free ones. The last service I used isn’t finding much success (a case where both the operator and the users are to blame) and now has new plans for themselves.