Started in Goa, how this bootstrapped startup has expanded its presence in six cities within four monthsSindhu Kashyap
Whether it is to beat traffic, exploring a new city or even a road trip, today the need to take your own vehicle or mode of transport is increasing. Amongst the options of hiring chauffeurs or drivers, taking a cab or self-driving, reports say that 60 to 70 per cent of Indians prefer to self-drive. Looking at this opportunity, several startups like Cartisan, Zoom Car, and Let Me Drive are opening up venues to make it easier for people to book and hire their own vehicles.
One such venture is ZipHop, an online booking platform for self-drive cars and bikes. Starting operations in Goa last December, the team has expanded to Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Cochin, and Munnar. The bikes listed on the platform range from Harley Davidsons to Honda Activas, different choices for different needs. Similarly, they have a wide range of cars from hatchbacks to SUVs.
Drivers of the self-drive
Last August, one of the founders Apoorv Agarwal came up with the idea. He had shifted base from Jalandhar to Mumbai on work and found that getting an auto or transport back to the last mile of his home to be difficult. One day, when he happened to see many people commute by bikes, he realised that it would be great to start a vehicle rental service not just for last-mile commute, but also for people planning weekend getaways. Apoorv has worked for Tata Steel, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Asian Paints.
Apoorv then discussed the idea with his friend Ankit Chaturvedi, who was working as a Brand Manager with Asian Paints. The duo decided to starup, and it took them few months to get the team going. Ankit got in his childhood friend Sumit Hablani, who was working at Reliance Industries, and Apoorv got his friend Dushyant Singh, who has worked with Grofers, Triton Group, and TCS. Sumit in turn got his college friend Sudhanshu Saxena, who has worked for Tata Technologies, Safran MBD, and Tata HAL, to take care of the technology aspects.
The biggest challenge was to organise a highly fragmented market and to track vehicle availability in real-time remotely for all their partners and update the same on the website. “Unlike hotels that have their own online booking system, which in turn gets linked to hotel rooms aggregators to track real-time availability of room inventory, our partners don’t use any online reservation system,” says 26-year-old Ankit.
“So if customer walks in and picks a vehicle, the same information like the vehicle model, registration number, name and address of the user are manually entered into a register, which left the team with no real tracking system to update the inventory on our website,” adds Ankit. The team overcame this challenge by building a partner app that enables them to display and check the current availability status of vehicles on the website without any manual intervention.
The power of choice
Simply put, as soon as a customer picks a vehicle from the vendor’s shop, the vendor blocks that vehicle on the partner app and the same gets synced to the website instantly. The team believes that the common platform for all partners to update their vehicle, works as a big differentiator in the market. On every transaction, the team charges a commission from their partner. The team aims to increase the revenue streams by addition options to rent jackets, head-gear, and storage compartments.
The user has to choose the city and the kind of vehicle (car or bike) he/she wishes to hire. Then, all the user has to do is to choose her trip’s from-to date and time and hit the Book button. A list of vehicles is displayed along with the pick-up location and terms and conditions of the vendor. The user can filter his/her choices based on the location or vehicle.
Once the vehicle has been finalised, the user can choose to get the vehicle delivered by checking the delivery option and entering the delivery address before check-out. If there is a group of friends travelling and they require multiple vehicles, there is an option to add the vehicles to cart, thus saving time for the user.
Post this, the user makes the payment and gets a confirmation SMS and email with the booking details. Parallelly, the concerned vendor also gets an SMS and email with the customer and booking details. For international customers, there is an option to make the payment through PayPal as well.
Numbers and additions
“Currently, we have tie-ups with about 20 partners in six cities with more than 900 bikes and 100 cars listed on our platform,” adds Ankit. The team claims that close to 300 new visitors log on to their website every day, and have had more than 250 bookings with more than 800 booking days. Growing week-on-week at 20 per cent, the team claims that their revenue exceeds over Rs 4 lakh.
Currently bootstrapped, the team aims to consolidate their presence in the existing cities. The team also intends to add bicycles soon.
The self-drive vehicles market caters to the segment of people who don’t own a car but enjoy the experience of having one; and this is a big value proposition in India. Companies like Zoomcar, JustRide, Revv, Voler Cars and Myles from Carzonrent, Cartisan and Let me Drive have emerged till now. The concept of self-drive car rentals is already very popular in countries like the US and China, where fairly large companies like Hertz, Zipcar, eHi, etc., have been created.
Last year, the online automobile market witnessed large amount of investments from various quarters. From used cars to self-drive car rentals to automobile service providers, they have all secured funds.
During June 2015, used car marketplace Truebil raised $500K funding from Kae Capital and Anupam Mittal. This month, automobile-focussed classifieds marketplace Droom secured $16 million. Early this month, self-drive car rental company Zoomcar raised $11 million from Sequoia Capital, Empire Angels, and NGP.