While stuck in a particularly exhausting traffic jam, have you ever wished for someone else to man the wheel, while you can get some work done in the backseat? Perhaps read the paper or even conquer a Candy Crush level? Shivalik Sen studied all the occasions a person may have yearned for someone to take over the driving so that they can be more productive, and engineered a solution to this everyday pain-point.
Working at Crowdfire then, he realised how inconvenient it was for car owners to use their personal vehicles in the city. Most Mumbai residents use alternatives like cab services, carpools or public transport, leaving their cars rusting in their apartment parking lot. Some others use their cars but get temporary drivers to chauffeur them around. But this segment was hardly organized, with varying tariffs and no-shows being the norm.
“The clear solution was to organise this market, with an easy way to book a driver, with just a simple click rather than the hassle of calling various drivers. We wanted to bring this on-demand driver services to people in Mumbai at an economical rate that rivals what you would pay for a cab ride these days, what with the surge prices which are very frequent,” Shivalik explains.
The five in the hive
Once Shivalik hatched the idea, his classmates and friends who shared his vision and business mindset from BITS Goagot on board. Arun Gandhi, the 23-year old COO, and Nikhil Tavora, is their 24-year-old CMO. Aman Sancheti, 22, heads operations and finance, while Gaurav Deshmukh, 23, is in-charge of operations and business development Arun has worked in finance with PricewaterhouseCooper, while Shivalik worked as a full-stack developer for Crowdfire. Nikhil was a business development manager at Zepo, and Aman was a consultant at Ernst & Young. Gaurav was a project manager at Cisco.
“All of us quit pretty early into our college placements and started this as we felt the time was right: the smartphone was becoming the centre of all our needs,” says Shivalik. Driven went live in December last year.
Driven has built real-time technology to aggregate the existing network of temporary drivers who can be hired on an hourly basis, rather than being on the monthly payroll; as most of us hardly need their services round the clock.
“Our vision is to disrupt the permanent drivers and provide temporary drivers who would be available in real time, making the service more efficient and economical by making it just pay per use rather than a high fixed salary,” explains Shivalik.
…with completely ‘Driven’ drivers
The 67 drivers they have hired so far were handpicked after extensive interviews, various background checks, including police verification. They are then trained for the job. The startup promises the driver would reach the customer's destination within 60 minutes.
The first hour's charge is Rs 199, to cover the driver's transportation. For rides post 11 pm, the first hour charges go up while the rest of the hourly rates remain the same.
“We expect plenty more latent demand to arise, when people start seeing convenience and enjoyment in the comfort of their own car and are willing to pay for that experience,” Shivalik adds.
The good kind of traffic
Driven's revenue model is currently one-dimensional - a 20-percent commission on every transaction. It has tie-ups with several prominent night spots in Mumbai and is also in talks with event companies and hotel chains to provide on-demand drivers or valet services. So far, its monthly growth rate has been maintained at 200 percent, and it is doing over 1,000 rides a month, making an average of Rs 400 per ride.
In a $1.6-billion market that is increasing with 18-percent growth in car ownership quarter-on-quarter, car ownership in India is currently at 13 per 1,000 people. It is expected to increase 6X in the years to come. Driven is competing with traditional local agents on Justdial and startups like DriveU - seed-funded by Unitus, Taskbob - that also recently raised a Rs 28-crore Series-A round led by IvyCap Ventures, Housejoy - funded by Amazon and others for Rs. 150 Crore, and and others like Driverskart. Driven differentiates by bringing in data sciences to factor things like expected demand from an area, giving people the same driver they rated well, night time remote drop locations etc.
One growth hack that worked wonders for Driven is WhatsApp marketing. Another risk that paid off is not conforming to the discounts model of most e-comm aggregators. Since Driven has raised only a small friends-and-family round, it cut down all customer-facing discounts and driver incentives and realised that customers were willing to pay for a premium service when it is a real need. The startup is looking to raise funds to expand to Delhi and Pune by mid-May.