Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.
Nishchay Kashyap, 23, has stopped asking his parents for his fuel expenses. Pursuing a postgraduate degree from Delhi University’s law faculty, Kashyap drives every weekend to his hometown in Yamunanagar, Haryana, along with a few co- passengers, who share the cost of the journey. All Kashyap does before his trip is to log on to an app and announce the journey a day or two in advance.
“I have been using the BlaBlaCar app for the past six months. I don’t have to travel alone anymore, or pay for the fuel,” he says. Like Kashyap, several car owners across the world are offering rides to complete strangers with the help of such apps. Drivers and riders set up profiles by downloading these apps on their mobile devices and then share or search for rides by destination.
BlaBlaCar is one of the many foreign start-ups that have started operations in India. The French company runs operations across Europe, Russia and Mexico, and has about 20 million user accounts. Its annual turnover in 2014 was US $100 million.
In India, BlaBlaCar started business in 2013. Currently, it claims presence in 700 cities and provides about four million rides a month, with 17 million shared kilometres (km) in the past six months. A trip between Mumbai and Pune costs Rs 400. The price of a Delhi-Chandigarh journey comes to around Rs 500. In other countries, BlaBlaCar takes 10 percent for each transaction, but in India it is yet to start charging a user fee.
The company till now has only focused on inter-city travel, and the operation model has been phenomenally successful. According to Raghav Gupta, head of BlaBlaCar’s India operations, commuters are more interested in sharing long-distance rides because for short distance travel several services are available.
There are several domestic start-ups as well, helping people share intra-city commute. A Bengaluru-based company PoolCircle, for instance, has focused only on intra-city commute to expand its operations. Founded in 2013, PoolCircle has been offering about 30,000 rides a day in the city. It has tied up with leading corporates such as GE that have their offices in the city.
Unlike BlaBlaCar, PoolCircle has introduced a flat rate of Rs 5 per kilometre. “The rate was decided on the basis of consultations with our users. They are free to charge below this but we discourage users from charging anything extra,” says Raghu Ramanujam, CEO of PoolCircle.