The redBus story unveiled by founder Phanindra Sama at TechSparks 2011 Hyderabad Regional RoundTable
What would an event for entrepreneurs and startups be without an actual entrepreneur speaking about his/her successful entrepreneurial venture? Sharing a great story was home-grown Hyderabadi entrepreneur, Phanindra Sama, founder of redBus, who is revolutionizing how India travels, with his site that allows you to book your bus tickets online easily. The initial idea of redBus to set up a site that allowed customers to book bus tickets in a location-independent manner, was triggered by Phanindra’s inability to visit his family during the Diwali season of 2005 due to lack of an available bus ticket. He went back to the bus operator, who had earlier tried his best to secure a bus ticket for him but failed, to find out how the entire process of ticketing worked. He tried to find answers to the questions - why is it(booking a ticket) so complex and why is it not centralized?
Along with batch-mates from BITS Pilani, he initially considered venturing into redBus as a part-time job. “Business was not on our mind,” Phanindra mentioned. Since none of them had a web technology background, they started by reading up and figuring out the space themselves and using their common sense mostly. “We wanted to do something to solve this problem, and our educational background has given us the analytical skills required,” he offered.Phanindra went on to explain that they currently have three products - BOSS for bus operators that provides the easy access to bus information and seat inventory, redbus.in which acts as a consumer facing travel agency, and Seat Seller which provides information to travel agents. “Each product fuels the other and growing one product also results in growth of the others,” he added. They have call centers, a website and franchisees in Mumbai and with this they have taken a ‘highly fragmented bus industry’ and shaped it by aggregating information and centralizing it.
Phanindra also went on to point out the opportunity that they see as a business. The bus industry is a $2.5 billion unorganized business. redBus currently sells around 220 million tickets/year(contract carriage buses). The market is growing at 35-40% p.a. Other factors in favour of this growth are better roads, increased urbanisation leading to an increased need for travel, and scalability (with the lack of a need for railway tracks/airports).
What makes work exciting for Phanindra and his team is the contribution and the ability to full fill a need. “Launching redBus.in has created a level playing field in the bus industry due to its unprecedented distribution with one main distribution network, providing access to nearly 40,000 travel agents across the country”, he says. They are able to research and help bus operators start new routes which goes on to help increase the market size. The technology aspect enables the supply demand match by helping both bus operators and customers. When trains are canceled, they are able to see the requirement and reorganize routes/buses.
Their business enjoys a huge network effect and they enjoy high trust from bus operators since they stuck to standard commissions and didn’t ask for an increase based on increased volumes. Staying format independent by ensuring an online presence, having call centers as well as franchisees ensures that they fit in as an organized travel company in India. They are also excited about BOSS installations in Bangladesh and Malaysia.
We at YourStory.in are humbled by entrepreneurs like Phanindra Sama who focus solely on solving major market problems.
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- Jessie Ruth