“With Olacabs, we’re trying to bring quality and predictability to car rental services online.” - Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO & Co-founder, Olacabs
It is said that behind every rule, there is a bitter experience. While this is generally true, there are some who emerge from a bad service experience with a new business idea. Bhavish Aggarwal, the CEO & co-founder of Olacabs, cracked his online car rental service business idea after a weekend trip on a rented car went awry. We at YourStory caught up with him recently to speak about his new venture.
If someone asked you to tell them about Olacabs in about 50 words, what would you say?
At Olacabs, the goal is to bring convenience, price transparency and standardization to consumers booking car rentals and cab services. We offer instant confirmation for car rental bookings, either online or over the phone.
How is Olacabs different from other cab booking portals?
Most of the existing portals work as opaque agents, offering marked-up rates. Olacabs, on the other hand, has a marketplace approach. We tell users the rates of different operators along with what accessories and features each car has. So, users can compare and book the one which suits their needs the best. The rates displayed are also exact fares that a customer would get directly from the operator.
Also, most cab booking portals are plain vanilla websites with price listings. Our strategy is to focus on the backend interface with car operators because that would ensure a certain level of quality and predictability with respect to the consumer experience. We intend to bring all car operators and all taxis on to a single technology platform to enable real time inventory distribution, nationally.
How did the business idea for Olacabs come about?
I had once rented a car for a weekend trip with friends to Bandipur from Bangalore. The driver turned out to be a cheat. He stopped the car in Mysore en route to Bandipur and asked to be paid more than what had been decided earlier. He was so rigid and ill mannered that we had to leave him there and continue our journey by bus.
This led to the business idea of using technology to offer a better and more predictable experience to consumers, right from easy online access to car rental bookings, quality assurances through reviews/ratings and proper information about the car and the driver.
Tell us about your background.
Ankit Bhati and I co-founded Olacabs. Both of us are from IIT Bombay. I graduated from IITB with a B.Tech in Computer Science and Engineering in 2008 and worked with Microsoft Research for 2 years. I left my job in August 2010 to start Olacabs. Ankit has a Dual Degree (B.Tech + M.Tech) in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Bombay. He worked for a couple of startups (QED42, Makesense and Wilcom) before co-founding Olacabs with me.
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have. Is there acceptance for your concept? Also, do tell us about your revenue model.
We have tied up with many car operators in Mumbai. They are very receptive to our concept as we work on a pay-for-performance model. We just charge a commission in whatever sales that we bring to them. Also, to get access to the technology platform, we charge them a small fee. Other than that, there are no other costs that operators have to bear.
Where do you see consumer road transport portals and Olacabs five years from now?
The entire ground transportation industry in India is run in a very opaque, inefficient and ad-hoc manner. There is no service guarantee or price transparency for the consumer and operators are also troubled with no structured channel through which customers can be sourced. We believe that technology will help make this industry efficient and drastically improve the consumer experience in years to come.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?
The biggest joy and the biggest challenge in entrepreneurship is finding a real and challenging problem to solve. Most of us first generation entrepreneurs have a tough time finding the right problem. But once that is figured out, the joy of solving real issues for real users and seeing people benefit from your innovation is beyond comparison!
How big is the Olacabs team? Are you looking at hiring?
Right now, we’re a two-member team Ankit is the CTO and handles the technical aspects, from building the website, building the backend platform, scaling servers etc. I’m the CEO and I handle the operator partnerships, sales and operations. And yes, we are looking at hiring like- minded and passionate people for technology and product development roles.
Let us know about your expansion plans.
Currently, we offer our service only in Mumbai. We are looking at expanding to other cities like Pune, Bangalore and Delhi within the next 2-3 months. In addition, we want to offer a broader service portfolio including local point-to-point taxi services soon. We are also looking to service our current customers better by starting loyalty and referral programs.
So far, how has the journey been?
We started operating at the end of December 2010. It's been 5 weeks of operations now and we've seen a rapid increase in customer engagement and response. The most popular service is weekend outstation travel. Many people, especially youngsters working in corporate jobs, take weekend breaks with their friends and colleagues. Before Olacabs came into the picture, they had a hard time trying to rent a car. We’re very happy with the response and we intend to expand our customer base in Mumbai swiftly.
The entire team at YourStory wishes this startup all the very best. To know more, check out http://www.olacabs.com/. Also, do let us know your thoughts about this story. You can write to us at email@example.com
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 14th February 2011 | Bangalore