How ixigo-backed startup gogoBus organised intercity bus travel clocking 14 lakh km across 35 cities

gogoBus has built a transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) platform that streamlines intercity bus travel from demand visibility to seat bookings to route tracking to in-bus services and more. The startup has served 30,000 passengers in 6,500 trips since January 2020.
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If you’ve grown up in India, you’re likely to have taken a long-distance bus ride. According to industry estimates, Indians take — under normal circumstances — over five billion intercity bus trips a year, making the country one of the largest bus travel markets in the world.

The founder of a smart bus startup told YourStory in an earlier conversation, “The number of intercity travellers by road and rail is estimated to be over 50 million daily. There are more than 5,000 nationwide bus operators today. But the market is unorganised and there is a trust deficit."

Several tech-led mobility startups are trying to solve this “trust deficit” and organise the fragmented intercity bus travel market estimated to be worth $20 billion.

gogoBus is one such player, and among the newer entrants in the ecosystem. 

Amit Gupta, Co-founder & CEO, gogoBus

The transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) startup was founded in late 2019 by Amit Gupta (who led the enterprise division at Shuttl) and Avinash Singh Bagri (ex-Director of TripScanners). Both armed with their prior experience in the travel and transportation sector knew that long-distance travel was broken in India. 

Co-founder and CEO Amit tells YourStory,

“India is predominantly a bus country. Buses are the lifeline because trains cannot reach every nook and corner. However, the bus ecosystem hasn’t kept up with international standards. Considering the purchasing power of the average Indian, there is no reliable solution at a price people are comfortable paying. Players like redBus, Paytm, ixigo, and others are solving the booking side of things, but it is just one part of the bus ecosystem.” 

Solving bus travel with TaaS 

Gurugram-based gogoBus identified a gap on the inventory side. With approximately 4-4.5 lakh intercity buses running across the country every year, the lack of visibility in demand and supply was a major pain point for operators. 

Amit explains, “The key challenges are in how the inventory is connected to the frontend, how consumer feedback is reaching the operator at the backend on a real-time basis, and how the information asymmetry is being solved in a clean and seamless manner to offer the best intercity travel experience.”

“You need technology for that, but only 30-40 percent of the market uses tech,” he says.

gogoBus built a full-stack tech platform to streamline the entire value chain, from ticket bookings, intelligent and real-time route identifications, pick-ups and contactless passenger onboarding to in-bus experience management, P&L, and operations guidance for bus operators. 

gogoBus has completed 6,500 trips across 14 lakh km since January 2020

The startup launched in January 2020 with a maiden trip from Kanpur to Delhi.

Two months later, gogoBus raised a seed round of $317,000 from IPO-bound ixigo and prominent angels, including Rajesh Sawhney (Co-founder & CEO, Innerchef) and Abhishek Sharma (COO, Dineout), Magehold (Singapore-based micro VC), Anil P Gupta (ex-Country Head Honeywell), and Anil Atri (Co-founder, Ecom Express).

At the time, Aloke Bajpai, Co-founder & CEO, ixigo, had said,

“Despite buses being the most popular means of intercity transport in the country, the market is highly fragmented and non-standardised, with many pain points worth solving. Generally, travellers end up planning a last-minute intercity bus trip due to the lack of availability of trains and high flight fares. gogoBus allows people to do so in a smart and affordable manner.”

Soon after the fundraise, its operations reached a standstill as intercity travel came to a screeching halt due to the nationwide lockdown.

Pandemic-led halts and product iterations

For a nascent startup, especially one in travel and transportation, the pandemic-induced lockdown spelt disaster. 

Amit shares, “COVID-19 hit us at the time when we were just starting. It was bad and unexpected. To be honest, there was no strategy in our minds to deal with a situation like that. It took us a while to figure out the way forward, but it was during this phase that we realigned our product to build connectivity for Bharat.”

Riding on the data and insights gogoBus had accumulated in two months of operations, it “changed tracks quickly” to launch the Swami app.

“It was the outcome of COVID-19,” Amit reveals, “Even though we saw ourselves as a consumer platform initially, the lockdown showed us that bus operators needed a platform to manage bookings, understand occupancy rates, and track their P&L in real-time.”

gogoBus has 100+ buses from 30-odd operators listed on its platform now

The startup spent the period between March and October 2020 reiterating its product and rearranging the tech stack to meet the requirements of a new contactless world. It also acqui-hired Ranchi-based travel aggregator BusYar in August to expand into Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha.

Amit says, “Eastern India is a blue ocean territory where connectivity is totally broken. But the dependency on buses is very high, especially for distances over 100 km. BusYar, which had a similar product, was a strategic acquisition.”

Post the lockdown relaxations, gogoBus resumed bookings in October, growing its GMV by 20-25 percent month-on-month. However, the deadly second wave in April 2021 halted operations yet again. And once again, the startup reiterated its product. 

 

The co-founder elaborates,

“We broad-based our network and went beyond being a service provider. We started offering data advisory on routes, time slots, and food and seat options, etc. Our intelligent engines can predict alternative routes in real-time based on demographics and weather conditions.”

 As the second wave plateaued and intercity travel started picking up, gogoBus launched its data advisory services in July 2021. 

gogoBus co-founders Amit Gupta (R) and Avinash Singh Bagri

Business model and growth plans

 Since July, gogoBus claims to be growing at 100 percent month-on-month. It currently has 30 operators and 100 connected buses on the platform, and wants to scale up its fleet by 5X before the end of the year. 

 

“We’re targeting a reach of 100 cities in the next 4-5 months. We also plan to enter South India soon [after operating in the north and east],” claims the co-founder.

 

Since its inception, the platform has clocked 6,500 bus trips spanning 14 lakh kilometres across 35 cities in India. gogoBus has served 30,000 passengers, and has over 4,000 daily live seats available for booking. 

 

Amit shares,

“Intercity travel came back strongly in July-August because it is a need as opposed to leisure travel that can be postponed. We served 60+ trips per day in the last two months, and will reach 100+ daily trips by September-end. The average distance per trip has also gone up to 550 km [from 250 km] post the second wave.”

By 2023, gogoBus plans to connect 5,000 buses and hit a GMV of Rs 50 crore

By March 2022, gogoBus expects to serve 60,000 passengers. Its three-year goal is to connect 5,000 buses, of which 20 percent would be EVs. It also intends to clock a GMV of Rs 50 crore and revenues of Rs 25 crore by the end of 2023.

 

On the consumer side, the startup charges a commission on every ticket booked through its platform. On the B2B side, bus operators can list their inventory on gogoBus (as well as on ixigo). “Once the operators grow, we can do digital marketing and have a larger business relationship with them,” Amit states.

Rajnish Kumar, Co-founder and CTO, ixigo, says,

“The bus market is quite attractive with over five billion trips a year. The gogoBus team’s prior operating experience with buses, domain knowledge of travel and transportation, coupled with ixigo’s demand-side scale will help disrupt the bus travel market in a big way.”

While the intercity bus travel space is large, gogoBus completes with a plethora of players, including Travelyaari, Zingbus, IntrCity SmartBus (owned by RailYatri), Yolobus, redBus, AbhiBus (acquired by ixigo in August), and bus booking marketplaces run by Paytm, MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Yatra, etc.

 

Amit, however, believes there’s a sweet spot. 

 

“Real bus travel happens in Tier II and III cities. Connecting those places to Tier I cities is where most of the business lies,” he says, “And that is our focus.” 

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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