Ride Sharing In India – The Changing Landscape [Tripda & BlaBlaCar]

tripdaRide sharing in India is yet to catch up with the pace that call taxis have evolved in the country. The possibility of the service expanding to such a magnitude is also questionable considering the love that Indians have for their cars and they pride that they hold in driving one around. However, heavy traffic during peak hours and the unavoidable pollution that it has caused has sparked an interest for car pooling and ride sharing services among travelers.
In most other countries where ride sharing and car pooling services exist, such services have built themselves on the fact that public transport has not kept up with the needs of the people. However in India, the ‘chalta-hai’ attitude of people has hardly complained against transport services. Naturally, ride sharing and car pooling has never picked up here. In addition, with the increasing number of cases that lack of safety in call taxi services has raised, people’s approach to ride sharing services has only been skeptical.
blablaBlaBlaCar and Tripda are the latest foreign entrants in Indian market who intend to change the scenario of Indian ride sharing services. BlaBlaCar is based in Paris while Tripda is based in New York. Both these services have offices in many cities where they are currently active.
Drivers who wish to share their cars and riders who wish to avail the services have to register for the service through their respective apps. Both services aim at providing instant travel availability to users and have a safe ride by verifying other users through ratings, reviews and moderations.
Here is how these services have tried to build a foolproof system to authenticate drivers and riders:
Both services require the driver to register on their app. Profiles need to be created on the app to start using the services. To maintain the authenticity of users, no images except for the person’s picture can be uploaded as a profile display picture. The app also collects more details like a photo id, email id, phone number and Facebook account link to properly verify the user. These collected details are then verified and moderated by a dedicated team of real people instead of a computerized verification process.
A users trust level on these apps increase by the number of positive reviews that he/she receives on the app. The reviews made on the app are also scrutinized by moderators for accurate pictures and comments. This is how the authenticity of the apps is maintained.
For a user trying to hail a ride through the service, upon entering the necessary details, the user is contacted to the ride provider. The passengers can then contact the driver and decide on a location and determine the expense to be shared by each person in the car. The service doesn’t not aim at creating profit out of sharing the ride but to share the expenses equally so that a vehicle travelling empty can carry someone who needs a ride and the driver do not have to incur all the expenses by himself.
Contact details of passengers are not shared on either of the two services. While on BlaBlaCar the, confidentiality is maintained by keeping the conversation is restricted to ‘member space’ without sharing any contact details, Tripda has an in app messenger service that connects the riders to drivers for communicating. Also, contact details on the profile are not visible to other users.
Considering the fact that the service is not aimed at generating profit, the app has a limit on the number of seats that can be occupied per ride. Seats are allotted to users only if the ride has four passengers or less and the price to be shared is also equally divided and capped.
A major plus point in these services is the fact that the users are given a choice as to who they wish to journey with. Driver’s recent activity and experience level along with profile details are updated every night by the BlaBlaCar app. The experience level is upped depending upon the recent activity and user ratings. Users can feel safer with drivers who have higher experience levels and positive ratings. Experience levels are also dependent upon the profile completion by the user, email and phone number verification, reviews and the duration for which the member has been active on the app.
Tripda has moved one step ahead in terms of women’s safety by introducing a ‘ladies only’ service as well. This option is available for drivers as well as passengers and has a filter that enables only women to register for the service.
We got a chance to talk to Pedro Meduna, CEO and Co-Founder at Tripda. Here are some excerpts from what Pedro had to tell us about ride sharing in India and Tripda’s journey in India:
How does Tripda’s entry in India look like?
We have looked at India as the core of our emerging markets. The government has been very supportive of the service since it mainly aims at solving issues of traffic congestion and pollution. In India we see a lot of people driving solo. It is about consumer behavior – it will always be the younger generation who is more open to new technology and they would be our early adopters. The whole experience that ride-sharing provides – adopting new technology, social experience in getting to know more people and being a part of a community that is helping to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestions is what Tripda aims at providing. We have directly spoken to the government authorities about it and they have shown us immense support in going ahead with our services.
What is the current scenario of ride sharing in India? What service is Tripda providing to its users?
One thing I have noticed in all my travels and visits to India is that ride sharing already exists in India but it is not structured. There is no social platform that promotes the service to a larger audience. In corporate companies I have seen employees posting updates, along with a phone number, about journey to a specific city and asking for other employees who are interested to share their cars. Tripda wants to look at this with a structured mechanism where drivers can post their journey details, get contacted by interested individuals, have an easy to use interface and provide a social experience along with the journey. Tripda also does not make this service available for making profit.
How aware are people about ride sharing in India? What is being done to promote such a service?
Ride sharing needs a lot of awareness in India. The car ownership is very extensive in this country. There are individuals who commute to office, students who go to colleges etc in their own cars. Such people can easily provide car pooling service over short distances. This reduces the cost of travel for users – both drivers as well as passengers. For awareness we are trying social media marketing extensively as this where younger generation spends their time. Media coverage and conversations also help more people to know about the services. We also talk to organizations and corporations about the benefits of ride sharing so that employee does not need to drive his/her own cars and can share the service with other employees.
How are users rated on using this service? How would one user know who is the best to travel with?
Tripda works on reviews and recommendations. We are trying to build a community of people who are more responsible towards having a better environment that has less pollution and lesser traffic congestions. Reviews work both ways – drivers can review passengers and passengers can review divers. More number of positive reviews will improve your rankings and more people will want to ride with you. Punctuality is a serious issue when it comes to ride sharing. No one should be made to wait for someone else while ride sharing and so reviews and rating are taken very seriously. No one wants to have a negative rating in a community.
What does the future of ride sharing in India look like?
We believe in the power of the concept and the potential that such a service offers in India. Ride sharing is still very new in India. But when the biggest social network, Facebook started, it too was used only in colleges and universities among students, but has now developed worldwide. We believe it will be the same for Tripda in India as well. Our early adopters would be the younger generation but we are sure we will gradually expand our community and will have people from all age groups registering with us.
We also talked to BlaBlaCar to understand their take on ridesharing in India. Her are excerpts from the interview:
Why do you think the concept of ride sharing is not widely accepted in India? What has your firm done to improve awareness on such a service?
Our experience is that the concept of car ridesharing is new to most countries (except countries like Germany where ridesharing has been around for many years). It does exist informally and at a small scale in most countries. But to really scale up car ridesharing in our existing markets, BlaBlaCar has applied innovation and technology, and invested significantly in educating users about car ridesharing and its benefits. We have launched in India in January 2015, and are currently working on informing and educating potential users about car ridesharing.
BlaBlaCar’s website and apps connect car-owners with people looking to travel in the same direction. We think that a concept like BlaBlaCar makes sense for India given the insufficient travel infrastructure for city-to-city travel (both trains and buses) and high cost of petrol. Car travel uses so much fuel that it’s unaffordable if you’re driving alone. And if you don’t have a car, you need to plan several weeks in advance to get a train ticket, or take a crowded bus. Existing infrastructure makes affordable last-minute city-to-city travel difficult.
Is the Indian market different from others? What would your major challenges here be?
BlaBlaCar is present in 14 countries and each country is unique. In Europe, our value proposition is a convenient and social travel experience through which people can travel city-to-city at much cheaper prices than last minute train or taking their car alone. These are countries where train and bus infrastructure is already well developed. In India, given that travel infrastructure is not well developed, our value proposition is about making city-to-city travel available and comfortable (especially last minute).
Main focus for us in India in the initial months would be to make potential users aware of BlaBlaCar and ridesharing and get them to try out the service.
How are you luring in customers – both drivers and riders? What would make drivers want to share their cars on your service?
On BlaBlaCar, there are car-owners and co-travellers wanting to travel in the same direction. For car-owners, the prospect of saving money on fuel costs is what attracts them to sign-up. Also, a trip becomes a social experience with people of similar backgrounds, instead of travelling alone. For co-travellers, it is the comfort of going in a car and the last-minute availability of a ride that is more easily available as compared to a train.
What does your firm do to maintain punctuality of drivers and riders? Do they get negative rankings, penalty or anything of that sort?
BlaBlaCar is a trusted ride-sharing community that relies on the ratings system. From punctuality to cleanliness, car-owners and co-travellers rate one another to benefit other members. Getting good ratings from peers is what motivates car-owners and co-travellers to maintain punctuality.
What are the government regulations on ride sharing in India?
Our focus is to ensure that when users travel on BlaBlaCar, the car-owners share the costs of the trip (fuel, tolls, etc.) and do not make a profit. We suggest the price per seat that the car-owner can offer such that it is only cost-sharing and not profit-making. When users rideshare and travel together, same regulations as those for using a private car continue to apply.
What trends are you expecting in the near future in the ride sharing segment?
We expect to witness an uptake in people travelling across the country through BlaBlaCar now that convenient, comfortable and affordable travel platform is available to them.
Ride sharing in India, however is yet at a very nascent stage. Indians are generally very reluctant to try something that they do not completely trust upon. Also even with all these safety measures, we won’t trust a stranger to drive us. Punctuality is another issue. Here is an article written by one of our guest authors as to why B2C ride sharing hasn’t succeeded in India.

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