Online travel booking was restricted to more of Air and Rail until RedBus started building a brand around the unorganised sectors like bus travel on the web. Lately we have seen a new breed of startups that is aggregating the much unorganised Cab booking service online. Although there are players like Meru for local travel but outstation travel has been mostly dependent on offline booking. The online presence was mostly through local search portals or classifieds sites.

YourCabs is one such Bangalore based startup that is aggregating local cab rental services online. YourCabs is founded by IIT Bombay grad. Rajath Kedilaya who brings in his tech. skills and SreeHarsha who has been working in travel and hospitality industry for 5 years now.

YourCabs is currently active only in Bangalore and allows for the usual airport commuting, local travel and outstation travel. I tried their service around a month back and was quite impressed with the customer care. They could customize the booking according to my requirements and also got a cab almost with the features I wanted, i.e. with LCD screen, headrest, carrier, front facing back seats. Most of the local tour operators were quoting about 10-15% more for the same features. The online booking was seamless.

Though I am not too sure about scalability but they should look at adding reviews/ratings of travel company, the age/condition/pics of cars and review of drivers, specially for long distance travels. This could be a major differentiator for these players.

Here’s a QnA with the Rajath of YourCabs:

1. What made you start YourCabs? What was the inspiration?
We started thinking about this concept early last year. The initial idea was to take our existing car rental company (Athena) online. But, we realized that in order to scale and make this viable in a multi-location setup, we will have to aggregate vendors across the country under one platform. With online travel portals picking up, and car rental being the only missing link which has not seen any form of online aggregation, it was a good time to start YourCabs.

2. How did you find your co-founder?
We have known each other for a long time and he has been an entrepreneur ever since he graduated. Taking car rental online was his idea and last year, after a few months of discussions I quit my job and took the plunge.

3. What is the current status of funding? Boot-strapped / Angel?
We started out YourCabs with our own funds. It’s been only five months of operations but we now manage to generate enough revenues to handle most overheads. We are ramping up our customer support team now to handle increased business, and hence more capital is being infused (self-funded again).

4. According to your estimates what is the size of Taxi booking services in India. How much of it happens online?
Market reports suggest that the size of car rental industry in India is in the $1.5 Billion range with over a million registered vehicles, and growing at over 10% YoY. Organized rental is only a tiny fraction of this – about 5%. Online car rental is an even smaller fraction of organized rentals. Hence, the current market share is obviously small, but the potential is enormous.

5. We have featured some startups in the same domain (GetMeCab, Olacab, TaxiGuide, Savaari), how is your service different?
All companies in this space, including YourCabs, are not more than 5-6 months old. Hence, it’s still too early to compare the business models as all of us are just beginning to gain customer traction. The basic underlying principle and idea is the same for all, but as with most business ideas, execution is the key, and that will be the primary differentiator. As we go ahead, we do plan to add more innovations and services, but presently we want to concentrate on just delivering the best service and creating a brand around this service quality.

6. Any plans on tying up with horizontal travel portals like MMT, Yatra etc.?
It is an interesting proposition since a strong solution for car rental is one thing which is missing from all these portals. But we plan to scale up to atleast 3-4 cities first before looking at such tie-ups. It’s very important for us to meet our own standards in service quality in these cities, before we white-label our product to any large portal.

7. How do you approach offline travel agencies (cab owners)? Any additional services you provide them?
Currently we spend a lot of time in building vendor relationships, since it is critical to the success of our model. We definitely do have plans to add additional services targeting vendors but we feel that it’s still a bit early to roll them out. Interestingly, most cab vendors are quite open to ideas & innovations, and we feel there is a definite potential in providing a vertical stack of solutions to improve their own service.

8. What are the current numbers like? How many bookings on an avg. per week?
We launched our portal in a beta mode, mainly as a proof-of-concept since it was a sector which had no successful model to emulate. Hence we haven’t advertised much, and concentrated more on obtaining customer feedback and tweaking our model and platform. We have been pleased with the response and we do get around 15-20 bookings a week — mainly outstation. As with any B2C industry, marketing is key and being a startup, we also need to chalk out cost-effective strategies to bring in more traffic. We are now confident that we have reached a stage where we can scale up and handle much larger customer inflows.

9. Who is your target audience?
We target customers across the price range – from economy to luxury. We are confident of having a value proposition across the spectrum, and not restricted to just low cos travel. We currently offer three services: Outstation, Local packages, and Airport Transfers. The target audience changes with the type of service offering, but presently we only target people who search online, specifically looking at leisure or pilgrimage travel. Having said that, we don’t claim to be an online-only portal and provide options where customer can book through phone and pay by cash.

We plan to increase our offline marketing to reach out to customers who are not net-savvy, and also plan to work with hotels and corporate houses.

10. Anything else you would like to add.
The car rental industry, being extremely fragmented, is a challenging space to work in, and will take a few years to consolidate and reach the level of organization that is present in most countries. Being an early mover, we are very confident that YourCabs will bring in the innovations to disrupt this industry and become the premier portal/solution to rent cabs across the country.

Do give YourCabs a spin and let us know if their service really stands out.

[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]

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