Zoomcar Raises $24mn In Series B Led By Ford Smart Mobility

Zoomcar, a self-drive car rental company offering car sharing services has closed $24M in a Series B investment round. Ford Smart Mobility LLC, a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, led the round alongside existing investors Sequoia Capital, Nokia Growth Partners (NGP) and Empire Angels.

Zoomcar’s capital raise will be used primarily for accelerating its innovative marketplace model along with furthering its technological lead. The Zoomcar Associate Program (ZAP) launched earlier in 2016, thereby allowing individuals to purchase vehicles on behalf of Zoomcar, list the vehicle on a dynamic basis on its platform, and then finally share in the profit on a monthly basis.

The company c;aims to be witnessing robust adoption with an associate base that’s growing exponentially month on month, though reviews of Zoomcar isn’t that great lately.

Zoomcar expects this marketplace model will account for over 75% of its overall vehicle inventory by early 2017. The funding will allow Zoomcar to reach a fleet size of >25,000 across 25+ cities by 2018. Moreover, Zoomcar will significantly expand its current airport offering across all cities.

Recommended Read : What’s wrong with Zoomcar?

Zoomcar Pilots Self-Drive Autorickshaw In 6 Cities

Self-drive car rental company, Zoomcar has launched what is India’s first autorickshaw rental service and is testing grounds with a pilot run across six cities, the company announced on Twitter.

According to the company blog, customers will be allowed to drive the auto only for 30 minutes for one booking and will need to pay only Rs 40 for a 30-minute drive. They will have to undergo a 10-minute guidance session with the fleet executive before driving the auto. After the session, the customer will be able to drive for 20 minutes, accompanied by two professionals. He can drive only in a 1 km radius around pick-up site.

Zoomcar says, customers will be charged a refundable security deposit of Rs 5000 for every booking, which seems to be a challenging affair given the pricey amount .

Customers can avail the service on the Zoomcar website or their app (android/iOS).

The Rise Of Self-Drive Car Rental Services In India; What Lies Ahead

Few people would argue that the time for self-drive car rental in India has come.  Just two short years ago, the industry didn’t exist.  It was relegated to a few small, local mom and pop type operators who would occasionally hire out a vehicle to a friend of the family or some other known person who wanted to drive themself.  There was simply no organization in the market. No method to the madness.  From a customer standpoint, it was an incredibly frustrating process since there was zero transparency at every step of the way.

Perhaps most disheartening (and frightening) was that the vast majority of these local operators didn’t even have the requisite insurance cover or proper regulatory documentation.  In the event of an accident, there was little assurance that the damage would actually be covered, meaning the customer would have to shell out from his pocket. In the event of a third-party incident, there was even more doubt; certainly a tenuous position to say the least.

Now, fast-forwarding to 2015, look around and one will find no fewer than 8 organized self-drive rental car companies pan India.  One might say that finally, tech innovation has hit this long maligned space.  As a result, customers now have a seamless overall experience, ranging from booking to pickup, all the way through to dropoff.  Some companies like Zoomcar have gone so far as to automate the entire pickup/dropoff process all through the convenience of a mobile app.  Surely, the customer experience has improved exponentially from the days of the mom and pop operators!

While we should all praise these advancements across the board, now is collectively the right time to take a step back and think about the fundamental safety of the driver, the passengers, and the other vehicles on the road as a result of this self-drive explosion.

Safety has not always been treated with the highest degree of importance on the Indian roads.  Just look around and see the frequency (or infrequency) of ticketing done for simple offenses such as seatbelt violations, running a red light, or even illegal u-turning.

Forget about overspeeding!  These issues are certainly quite prevalent with individuals who own their vehicle.  With that in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine that these issues could be even more pervasive when someone is driving a rental vehicle.   Given this fact, it’s critical that self-drive companies have robust, comprehensive policies in place that protect both the customer, third parties, and the vehicle itself.  After all, the vehicle should end up lasting between 2-3 years!

While it may seem like a daunting challenge to put systems and processes in place to help curb rash driving and promote safer motoring, technology is once again right there to help provide a solution.  Many self-drive companies have implemented a speeding alert system through a sophisticated integration with the vehicle’s 24×7 GPS tracking system.  This in-car “black box” helps the company monitor the speeds of its vehicles in real-time.  As a result, penalties can be imposed on customers exceeding certain speed limits (sometimes the rupee fines can be quite high).  This strong disincentive actually goes a long way in encouraging smarter, safer driving.

With the recent advent of novel bluetooth based hardware tied to the OBD (on board diagnostics) port, companies can actually monitor the driver performance by assessing his braking, steering, and fuel efficiency, to name just a few.  This helps companies actually develop objective criteria by which they can rate drivers.  This intelligence can then be pushed back to the driver to make the person drive safer the next time.  In fact, many companies like Zoomcar* have already taken it one step further and provide real-time driver performance feedback. Suffice to say, this helps alert the driver to bad tendencies so they can course correct quickly, thereby helping them avoid accidents and other potential unscheduled maintenance events.  These systems no doubt make the self-drive industry far safer than otherwise imagined by outside observers.

Over and above these technology developments, self-drive companies are also working very closely with OEMs and local dealers to service their fleet of cars at much more frequent service intervals than the standard whiteboard vehicle.  In many instances, this means servicing the car every 5,000 kms once the car is more than one year old.  This is approximately 3 times more frequent than for a retail whiteboard.  This more robust servicing level ensures that the car will run at a high performance even when it’s taken into different driving environments.  Considering the fact that individuals have different driving styles, this additional servicing provides customers with a peace of mind knowing that the car is consistently observed and worked on by vehicle maintenance professionals.

Despite these proactive technology and operations measures taken by many of these new age self-drive companies, the reality is that both the state and central governments lag behind greatly in doing their respective part.  This is where the next great leap forward within road safety will hopefully come from in the months and years ahead.

Unlike in many western countries, India still has a very draconian, highly byzantine structure of regional transport offices and state transport authorities on a state-by-state basis.   There’s seldom any uniformity and continuity of policies across these state organizations.  In reality, many of these states choose to enforce seemingly arbitrary interpretations of the central motor vehicles law.  One current shortcoming within the public sector relates to information sharing around individual driver’s licenses.

For a self-drive rental company in Bangalore, it’s really impossible to validate the driving record of someone with a license from say, West Bengal.  That particular driver may be an at risk individual since he may have gotten into 3-4 accidents in the past 2 years.  This type of information is an obvious flag for a self-drive company.  Rationale might dictate that this individual should be charged a higher price to rent a vehicle because of his recent driving history. Currently, this data is not available for self-drive companies and therefore, there’s no way to truly differentiate between first-time customers who book with these companies.

This is merely one example of a way where more comprehensive information sharing across state governments can dramatically improve efficiency within the self-drive car rental system in India.  The new Motor Vehicles Act slated to be released next year is expected to help address many of these informational sharing concerns and hopefully can also help with enforcement of many current road safety policies.Greg

While the government may be a laggard in providing an inter-linked driver information platform for self-drive companies to leverage, these startups are nonetheless proactively devising solutions to improve road safety across Indian cities.  This type of relentless optimism isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

[*About the author: Greg Moran is the cofounder of Zoomcar.]

Car Rental Service Zoomcar To Launch Doorstep Pickup And Drop Facility

Self-drive car rental service Zoomcar has announced that it will launch doorstep service for users across key cities before the end of the year.

zoomcar

The service will eliminate the need for customers to travel to designated Zoomcar pickup/drop points as executives will drop the car at their choice of location and pick it up upon their return.

Zoomcar recently announced that it had raised $11mn from Sequoia, Empire Angels and NGP in order to improve customer convenience and expand to more locations across the country.

On the sidelines of the announcement, Zoomcar also said that it will expand its fleet of cars to over 1,000 across 250 locations in Mumbai, and introduced ZoomComute that offers office goers an affordable alternative to owning their own car.

Zoomcar Raises $11mn From Sequoia, Empire Angels and NGP

Car rental service Zoomcar has raised $11 million in funding from Sequoia, Empire Angels and NGP.

zoomcar

The company plans to use the funds to add new vehicles to its fleet, continue hiring, and build out its tech and product.

Currently Zoomcar has a fleet of over 1,500 cars that can be picked up from 250 locations spread across 6 cities – Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad.

Over the next one year, the company plans to add 7,000 cars and launch in 15 additional cities in the country.

Despite adding over 1,000 cars in this year alone, the startup isn’t able to meet consumer demand for rental cars that they can drive themselves.

Further, Zoomcar is also working on commute packages that give office goers an economic self-drive option to use its service on weekdays.

Zoomcar partners with Nano to expand its fleet of self-drive cars

Zoomcar has partnered with TATA Motors to add 50 brand new Nano cars to its fleet.
To begin with, Nano cars will be split between Pune and Bangalore where Zoomcar has its operations currently, with further plans to roll out to other cities of India in the near future.

Zoomcar brings Nano Onboard
Zoomcar brings Nano Onboard
Nano had earlier partnered with TaxiForSure as well. And on the lighter side, Nano (like any other Tata Motors car) has finally found its utility in rental/cab model.
At present, Zoomcar has over 700 cars ranging from utility vehicles to luxury cars including Merc GLA, Scorpio, SUV, Safari among others, operating in Delhi, Pune and Bangalore. The company recently raised $8mn from Sequoia.