Frustrated after waiting for a total of 90 minutes for the traffic to clear up and the bus to arrive, Sahil Agarwal (one of the Co-founders of HippoCabs) could not help but wonder why he didn’t just book a cab. Sahil had landed in Delhi from Germany, where he was pursuing Mechanical Engineering at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. While he was headed to Mumbai to meet his friends, he decided to take a detour and surprise his parents in Jaipur instead.
Assuming taking a Volvo bus would be the best option, Sahil planned his trip accordingly. However, after the entire ordeal of waiting, and then the bumpy ride, he decided to look at the problem more closely. After speaking to several people, Sahil realised that his predicament was a common one, as people were hesitant to opt for a cab because of the cost. “That’s when I decided to start HippoCabs after creating a team five weeks ago,” says Sahil.
HippoCabs is an intercity shared cab service that was launched on the Delhi-Jaipur route.
Currently, people are using buses, which are reasonably priced, but take too long. These rides are usually bumpy and monotonous, and cab rides are ridiculously expensive. So, by using our service, customers are getting comfort and luxury of a cab at the price of a bus ticket,” says Sahil.
HippoCabs is a cab aggregator, and the company itself does not own any cabs. It pays the driver a fixed amount on per-trip basis and charges customers for their seat. According to Sahil, with Ola and Uber becoming a part of the mix, people look for convenience of booking their cabs through an app. While, those companies focus on intra-city travel, HippoCabs focuses on intercity rides.
Growth and challenges
The company started working on this concept mid-June and launched its services on July 10. Till date, the team has had over 1,000 registered users and has served 120 paid customers with Rs 80,000 in gross revenue, all in last 18 days.
Before HippoCabs, Sahil had already worked on various startup ventures. He had studied entrepreneurship and marketing at Purdue University before heading to Germany and his previous startup, Trekking Toes, had won the TIE International Business plan competition – Rajasthan Level and he was among the top eight finalists of TIE International business plan competition – Asia Regional finals.
With all this experience, Sahil was sure of one thing: the importance of a great team. So the first thing he did was build a good one. Sagar Agarwal, the Co-founder at Trekking Toes, has also joined HippoCabs. To find the rest for his dream team, he attended the Jaipur startup weekend to meet like-minded people.
That was where he met IIIT Bangalore alumni Ashish Kumar. Ashish, too, had a venture of his own: NearMyGeo.com, but decided to be part of HippoCabs. Sahil handles online marketing, growth and strategy, Sagar handles offline marketing, operations, financial and legal matters. Ashish handles technology development.
The next challenge was getting customers onboard. “As a startup, you can’t rely solely on online marketing (especially with a startup budget), so we used to, and still do, visit bus stands and talk to people who are traveling to Delhi. We have a very high burn rate as we have to pay the cab owner for a complete ride, even if cab is going empty one way. And, at this stage, we can’t expect to run all our cabs in full capacity both ways, so this is a huge challenge,” adds Sahil.
The team wanted to provide comfort and luxury of a cab at the price of a bus. “Although we do have competition in form of carpooling companies, we have a lot of advantages over them. Safety, security and quality control are major issues for them, and, in our case, we take care of all these things. Also, over a period of time, we want to extend our service to doorstep pick-up: we will pick you up from your house and drop you at your desired destination in another city, all at the price of a bus ticket, something which a carpooling company can never offer you,” adds Sahil.
Besides the Jaipur-Delhi Route, in a couple of months HippoCabs wants to expand into all major routes leading to Delhi and Jaipur and then extend to other routes across India, as well. “Gradually as traffic increases, we will convert our model from point-to-point pick and drop, to home-to-destination pick and drop,” says Sahil.
The taxi aggregator market is growing at a rapid pace in India. Pegged at close to USD nine billion dollars, this market is believed to grow at close to 20 per cent annually. Apart from this, aggregators for aggregators like Scoot, there also in other intercity cab aggregator in the city – Rutogo.