Pooling along

Anurag Rathor, founder and CEO of Zify

Anurag Rathor, founder and CEO of Zify

What you pay for sharing an AC car is less than what you pay for a threewheeler.

What you pay for sharing an AC car is less than what you pay for a threewheeler.

In it together: Lastmile connectivity, finding people who share a route and comfort level with co-passengers are among the prime concerns of those willing to carpool. Photo: R. Ragu

In it together: Lastmile connectivity, finding people who share a route and comfort level with co-passengers are among the prime concerns of those willing to carpool. Photo: R. Ragu

A company that offers to iron out creases and make the shared-ride concept work in India

A year ago in Hyderabad, Anurag Rathor was spending a lot of time at autorickshaw and taxi stands. Each day, he would arrive at the stands and offer prospective passengers, mostly IT professionals, the option of commuting with his friends and him. The charge: a nominal amount and feedback on the ride-sharing. After weeks of this exercise, he was convinced that people were not averse to sharing a vehicle. The challenge was in bringing together car owners and passengers in a sprawling city.

“Carpooling is an old concept, but it has never worked in India. We decided to first understand the psychology of people who travel and then address the difficulties they faced,” says Rathor.

After talking to several people, he discovered the problems centred around last-mile connectivity, finding people who share a route, comfort level with co-passengers and cost sharing. Once these were tackled, he was sure the shared-ride concept would find takers. “What you pay for sharing an AC car is less than what you pay for a three-wheeler,” he says.

Rathor invested his savings as well as money borrowed from friends to set up his dream venture. In May last year, he raised ₹10 lakh at an event organised by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) in Hyderabad. By June, he was ready with Zify, describing it as a company that is making carpooling work in India by charging just ₹5 per km for a shared AC car.

The business model is simple. Car owners register with the company with proof of a valid driving licence, car ownership and insurance papers, and other documents. Zify inspects the vehicle for its road-worthiness and other safety parameters. Its four-member team also verifies the owner’s credentials through social profiling. “It filters out a lot of unwanted people. A few of these processes are automated and some are done manually,” Rathor says.

The same rigour is applied to passengers, too, who have to upload a government-issued ID proof such as Aadhar card or passport before they can request a ride. On the company website, car owners can upload their ride or commute plan on a daily or weekly basis. Other members who share the route can use the Zify app to request a ride. The co-travellers will get an SMS once the ride starts. There are designated pick-up and drop-off points.

Women members have the flexibility to insist on a female co-passenger; car owners can specify other such preferences online. IT professional Vishakha Bharadwaj has been using Zify for five months. “Earlier, I was a little unsure about my co-passengers. I began by asking other verified community members about them. Now, I am not only comfortable with carpooling but have made new friends as well,” she says.

Of the ₹5 per km paid by each passenger, Zify gets a commission of 20 per cent or ₹1 per km, and the car owner keeps the rest. “We are trying to reduce the charges to ₹3.5 per km. But our commission will remain the same,” says Rathor.

The company focuses on the city’s office-goers, a bulk of whom work in the booming IT sector. The company relies on several ‘Nos’ to ensure safe shared-rides.

“We are not carpooling in the middle of night. At any given time, there are thousands of people on the roads, and we don’t allow vehicles with tinted glass,” says Rathor.

Within eight months of launching, Zify has over 5,000 registered users and the numbers are growing.

The team is working to make the app more user-friendly and less data-consuming. As users on the move can ill-afford to waste their phone battery or data plan in searching for nearby cars, the app will attempt to work without GPS. A yet-to-be-patented algorithm that relies on location matching will be used instead. Rathor is, in fact, currently in Ireland to tap that market.

“We are in talks with Ireland authorities to launch the app in that country, as it has a huge market of commuters as well as car owners,” he says.

Published on March 13, 2015

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