Not only Ola and Uber have done it but several other platforms have entered the world of ride sharing with an objective –to ease the traffic congestion in the cities across the country. Joining this bandwagon is LiftO. But this startup is slightly different from the others. With LiftO, users can share a ride not only with cars but also taxis and autorickshaws.
So it allows you to share your ride on any vehicle platform. Users can post their ride through LiftO, irrespective of whether they are using a car or taxi (like Ola, Uber, Meru and TABcab), or autorickshaws. They can share the ride with a fellow user who is also looking to use the same route.
The platform launched in September this year, exclusively for residents and professionals of Powai and nearby areas. LiftO is designed specifically for working professionals who are in age group of 26 to 45 years, commuting daily and spending between Rs 150 and 200 on transport every day.
Vikesh Agarwal and Nikhil Agarwal have been living in Bengaluru and Mumbai for the past few years and communting close to 40 to 50 km every day. Though they had explored the idea of carpooling, they had found it cumbersome and awkward. "After a couple of times, you do not feel like ride sharing. Either the route or time don't match. We thought if we can transform the existing system by using route-matching algorithm on real-time basis, we can tap the market. And so we started working on our app, LiftO," says Vikesh.
The core team consists of Nikhil who is the CEO and Co-founder, an IIT-Delhi and IIM-Lucknow graduate with nine years of experience in investment banking; Vikesh, COO and Co-founder, a BITS-Pilani and AIM-Manila alumnus with six years of experience in marketing and media sales; and Nandha Kumar S., CTO, SRM Engineering College alumnus, with over 10 years of experience in mobile applications development.
"Being a startup, we look for openness and flexibility in people who want to join us. One should be ready to take responsibility and take the lead to complete the assignment," says Vikesh.
The company's USP according to Vikesh is their proprietary 'route-matching algorithm,' which forms the basis for the app. Vikesh adds that the algorithm is robust enough to give the user the exact location, pick-up point, drop point and ride-tracking mechanism. Vikesh says that using LiftO is a similar experience to booking a taxi on an app.
Users will simply have to choose their end location on the map and select the start time. Within minutes, LiftO will find a matching user to share the ride. Users will be able to see a detailed profile of the person taking a lift, the pickup time and point even before they start their journey. Once users accept the lift taker’s request, they need to click 'Start Ride' on the LiftO app after they meet their riding partner at the pickup point.
Users taking lift, on the other hand, choose their end-location on the map and are presented with various vehicle options (AC cab, non-AC cab, auto etc.) with respective waiting time. On choosing one of them, they can see a profile of the person offering the lift along with a pickup location. Once they find a suitable user offerinh lift, they can send a request and commute with a fellow professional.
The first phase of the app has been launched from Powai and the other nearby areas. Vikesh says the service benefits morning commuters who are leaving Powai and travelling towards popular offices locations like BKC, Lower Parel, Nariman Point, and other western suburbs. "Professionals who are leaving offices in the evening from these areas in Mumbai can use our app and get matching ride partners," adds Vikesh.
He says that LiftO is an alternative to peak-hour services, when people usually find it difficult to gets autos/cabs. The company's maximum traction is understandably during peak hours on weekdays with maximum number of users posting their rides then.
"Currently, LiftO is available only in Google Play store but we have started working on an iOS version which will be up by mid-January," says Vikesh.
After the first month of operations, the team saw a daily average transaction of 50 with approximately 500 to 600 rides being posed on a daily basis. Over 16,500 rides have been posted in the system. The user base has already crossed 4,300 and LiftO is aiming at 100 transactions per day by the second week of November.
The team has recently raised an angel round of funding of Rs 85 lakh. Vikesh says that they've got support from big names in the startup world.
The team has started operations and marketing from Central Mumbai but would be expanding across the city by March next year. The company plans to launch LiftO in other top metros like Delhi/NCR, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata by mid-2016 and go international in two years.
While the concept of ride-sharing and taxi and vehicle aggregation is growing, government policies and laws seem to be shutting the party down early. With recent reports of ZipGo hitting a rough patch, would platforms like these survive? Vikesh thinks otherwise; he says that there is no mention of carpooling or ride sharing or lift giving in Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (a Central government act). He adds that the Act does not specifically disallow those services.
Section 66 of the Act regulates: 'Contract Carriages' and 'Public Service Vehicles' (defined under Section 2, Point-7). The definition covers vehicles used for hire or reward, and those that are used as a whole for carriage of passengers.
In case of carpooling, the cars offered for carpooling should not come under this definition because: the person giving lift would only share the cost of transportation in his vehicle and would never be able to make it a profitable or sustainable business for himself. The cost per km of driving a private car is more than Rs 10/km and any cost sharing receipt over and above this amount only can be termed as driving vehicle for reward.
Carpooling as a concept comes under the large umbrella of shared economy. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the global market estimated it at $15 billion. This figure is projected to hit $335 billion by 2025.
Experts say that India will get a good share of this market projection. The last few years have seen the likes of MeBuddie, RidingO, PoolCircle and CarPool Adda coming up in this space, but the entry of global players like Brazilian Tripda and French BlaBla Car was the real game-changer. It has brought validation to the need for carpooling in the Indian market.