“We were working for a big MNC, and the company didn’t provide employee transportation. We were commuting almost 50 kms everyday. This was more than three hours on road and Rs 8000 on fuel expenses. Carpooling was very unreliable and didn’t work for us. There were instances where my carpool didn’t turn up in the evening after an hour’s wait and I’d have to take an auto. We were looking for transport facility, which would be professionally managed, available everyday and not very expensive. Nothing existed at that time. So we started one,” explains Jiten Gupta, Co-founder, UrbanDrive.in, on how he got started.
UrbanDrive is an online subscription based platform enabling people to take a shared cab on a monthly or a weekly subscription basis. UrbanDrive connects professionals to radio taxi providers like Mega cabs, Easy cabs, Ola cabs etc. It works similar to how big companies provide transportation to their employees. The only difference is commuters in UrbanDrive cab may not necessarily work in the same company, but in the same tech park or a nearby location.
The product takes care of route creation, route matching, online subscription booking, detour management, notifications, and subscription renewal etc. It is currently in the Beta stage.
“We are also rolling out our mobile app in the next few weeks, which would help commuters manage notification, leaves, cab changes etc,” adds Jiten.
The target market
UrbanDrive is targeting working professionals in tier 1 cities who commute more than 10 kilometres everyday for work and do not get a transportation facility from their employers. “At present, we are only targeting professionals earning more than Rs 10 lakh per annum. The total addressable market with these categories just in Bangalore is around 2 lakh working professionals (IT, ITES, Banking, Finance, and Biotech industry). Our average subscription cost is around Rs 5000 per month,” says Shashank Baravani, Co-founder, UrbanDrive.
The UrbanDrive USP
UrbanDrive.in claims to be the first company offering commuting service as monthly subscription. “There are many carpooling companies and ride share companies that are starting up who are our direct competitors. Although we are trying to solve the same problem, our value proposition, offering and service levels are entirely different,” says Jiten.
Carpooling, as a concept, has not been very successful so far and most of the professionals at the mid-level earning more than Rs 10 lpa do not want to get into the hassle of co-ordination/pickups/drops for one or two thousand rupees per month. It doesn’t excite professionals who are looking for guaranteed service and who do not mind spending a few bucks more for extra comfort and reliable service.
The team comprises of four people, including the two Co-founders Jiten and Shashank. Jiten comes from a consulting and technology background and has more than 9 years of work experience and has worked for Apigee, SoftwareAG, and L&T Infotech earlier. At UrbanDrive, Jiten is responsible for marketing, customer management and technology.
Shashank Baravani comes from a strong engineering and product development background having worked at Infosys, Sapient, AOL, Yahoo and Apigee. At UrbanDrive, Shashank is responsible for the technology platform, operations and supplier relations.
UrbanDrive is operational on six different routes in Bangalore connecting residential areas to tech parks. The team plans to have at least 20 routes in the next three months.
“We want to have UrbanDrive available at major tech parks in Whitefield and Electronics City area where there is traffic congestion during peak hours. We also have targets to have cabs every hour in some of our existing routes giving flexible timing options to customers.”
An evolving model
The team started its journey in April 2013 along with their full time jobs. Shashank tells us about their early days.
“Our initial model was to hire a cab on a monthly basis and maximize cab utilization by making multiple trips in day. We spoke to some of the popular vendors who rent cabs to big MNC hoping that our solution would be welcome by them and we would get cabs at good prices. To our surprise most of the vendors were not ready to work with us because of our low volume and ‘weird’ business model. After two months, we got a vendor who was ready to work with us. He provided us two Innovas at 55k per month. We thought we would be able to recover the amount. Our target was to run cabs at full capacity, at least 120 kms per day. But we failed at this. In the peak hours sometimes it was difficult to cover even 20 kms in two hours.”
This was when they introduced the transaction-based cab booking system connecting professionals looking for cabs for everyday commute to radio taxi vendors. UrbanDrive started tying up with radio taxis.
“We gave them good business and we are now their preferred customers and are now given priority. We are still at an initial phase as our volumes are not very high, but they see the potential with increase in bookings. The only problem with this model is that the cab changes daily,” says Jiten.
“At first sight we are a service based company, but we are building a solid technology and system which would make life easy for passengers and also for the drivers,” adds Jiten.
“Tying up our operations to a city taxi model knowing very well that two of our competitors have failed is the riskiest thing we have done so far. We believe that our competitors failed because they shied away from solving the real problem and failed to notice the trend worldwide where city taxi businesses are getting disrupted by the likes of Uber because of the revolutionary technologies they are bringing to the market,” the duo signs off.