Pune's Loco Cabs acts as a marketplace for small-time taxi operatorsGunjan Parulkar
How many times have you juggled between multiple radio cab apps to find the closest ride with the lowest fareand the best deal? Often, right? This exact problem drove Neha Bora and Shalak Naik to come up with a meta-search engine for online and offline taxi cabs. “As we spoke to more people, we realised this was a pain point not only for radio cabs but more so for all other verticals of the taxi market,namely intercity, airport transfers and hourly rentals” says Neha.
Their Pune-based startup, Loco Cabs, aims to be a one-stop solution for all cab needs – within a city as well as intercity.
Loco Cabs was founded in 2014 by Neha (35) and Shalak (39), two friends who shared passion for tech, startups and entrepreneurship ever since they were together in college. Neha, who manages finance, operations and marketing at Loco Cabs, is a postgraduate in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics, with over 10 years of work experience in equity research and corporate finance in management roles. Shalak has a management degree from the Cardiff Business School. Having been in the travel trade industry for more than 14 years, he has deep understanding of the online and offline travel and transport distribution. He handles product development, strategic alliances and business developmentat Loco Cabs.
Currently, the Loco Cabs app has more than 18,000 downloads on Android and Windows. The startup plans to launch web booking for intercity travel this month and the iOS app by mid-year.
Why the taxi industry?
“The Indian taxi market, estimated at $9 billion, has traditionally been offline and unorganised. Only a small six to seven per cent is organised, but this is now set to change with the upswing of smartphone use. However, this percentage is only attributed to cabs running under big names such as Ola, TaxiForSure or Uber. The unorganised sector constitutes individual car owners and agencies that operate out of one or more cities” says Shalak.
Loco Cabs plans to solve the problem of other verticals in the taxi industry too. Intercity, airport transfers and hourly packages have largely remained fragmented and unorganised. Initial market study conducted by the team revealed that small-time cab operators, like individual taxi owners and cab agencies, in the market still rely on phone bookings for getting fares. They also face challenges in payment recovery, underutilised inventory and limited marketing opportunities. Loco Cabs can bridge the gap by connecting these smaller cab operators to users who require their services.
What’s different at Loco Cabs?
In spite of competition from the likes of Ixigo and Wiwigo, Loco Cabs stands out due to some of its unique offerings in the taxi industry. Loco Cabs focusses on small players and aims to be a marketplace for them to reach out to a wider market without substantial spends on marketing and technology. The operators also get insights by mapping the demand-and-supply scenarios, to better understand the market potentials and optimise their operations.
Small-time taxi operators can also partner with Loco Cabs with a pay-as-you-go model, which will not burn a hole in their pocket. In this model, the operators are expected to pay only for rides initiated through the app. Loco Cabs does not charge registration fees or monthly subscription charges. By allowing these smalloperators to sell their service under their own name without diluting their brand, Loco Cabs gives theman added advantage of brand continuity.
Also, by doing away with pre-charged return fare, Loco Cabs will make one-way fare for intercity travel possible. This will benefit both taxi operators and passengers alike, by saving on the fare by 40per cent. By mid-2016, Loco Cabs intends to achieve a minimum of 150 intercity rides a day that easily fetch a commission of seven to 12per cent on every completed ride.
But, Loco Cabs app was not built only for the benefit of taxi operators. The team has ensured that there is something in it for the passengers too. Being a marketplace, passengers using Loco Cabs can easily compare and make informed decisions about their rides, based on pricing, availability, discounts and user-generated reviews and ratings of operators and drivers.
Entirely bootstrapped since it was founded, Loco Cabs initially plans to on-board cab operators and target users in all the major cities of Maharashtra,and Goa. Once the operations are established in this region, their next phase would target Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. They have now actively started their search for growth funding to take care of their future plans.
On expansion, Shalak adds, “We see Loco Cabs as a go-to app for your entire surface (taxi) needs, be it radio taxis, intercity travel, self-drive or carpool.”