Ride sharing platforms such as BlaBlaCar to offer and UberPool came into the limelight when the Delhi government introduced a road space rationing odd-even rule to fight pollution.
A successful run during the 15-day period when the rule was in force was BlaBlaCar’s first big win in the country.
It has been a year since the French unicorn has come to India and has been trying to get a foothold. BlaBlaCar was primarily an inter-city service in the country.
But, the odd-even constrains meant the platform saw a huge uptake in its user base, especially with a large number of commuters adopting it on the Gurgaon-Delhi route.
“About 45,000 seats were offered on the platform during the odd-even period,” said Raghav Gupta, country head.
Now, almost 50 per cent of its customers opt for 30-50 km “planned commute”. But, Gupta insists their primary market stays in the 60-600 km range, where the other 50 per cent of its market lies. The odd-even was a booster, which he hopes will translate to longer distance travel.
In India, cars are considered a personal space and, unlike Europe, trust scores higher than savings. “We have understood that and have included caveats like syncing your Facebook and LinkedIn account to your profile,” he added.
“Users are asked to upload copies of PAN, Aadhaar or passport. These documents are pinged with the government database and verified.”
Gupta has been fighting an uphill battle to get people on board. The company said it has offered a million seats and 55 million kms over the past year, and creating awareness has been its biggest challenge.
“It is not only about knowing the service, but to build a deeper awareness for its need,” he said.
To boost popularity, the company is getting into “contextual tie-ups”. “We already have a partnership with Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, where we flash ads if you can’t find a ticket,” he said.
The company is also trying to mirror the kind of partnerships it has with European service providers in India.
“We have a global partnership with Axa, where the car owner gets extra insurance if he travels via the BlaBlaCar service,” Gupta said.
“If you are part of the BlaBlaCar network in Europe and if your car breaks down, we send a repair service or a towing van free of charge. We are in the process of finalising something similar in India.”
The company is also in the process of finalising a tie-up with an oil company to provide fuel sops to its customers, while they are using the service. “We will also include insurance and other relevant services in due course,” he said.
Gupta said BlaBlaCar doesn’t plan to monetise any of these services despite the potential.
“Our only revenue stream comes from the small slice we take from the customers, nothing else. The rest would just be to create stickiness.”
The company, which has a stronghold in Europe, has often compared itself to airlines and said it aimed to match the number of customers by 2017.
“We plan to reach a 160 million global customer base. Delta, on the other hand, flew 129 million people in 2014.”