Logistics

Carpooling start-ups pivot to e-commerce, job search and social networking

Debangana Ghosh Mumbai | Updated on July 15, 2021

Commute services remain as core offering

With over 80 per cent of their businesses wiped off since the pandemic hit, popular carpooling start-ups like SRide and Quick Ride have found greener pastures in allied services.

Having formed a community of working professionals who were travelling together daily for the past few years, these start-ups are now leveraging the network to offer e-commerce, job search, community socialising apps and end-to-end enterprise commute services.

Commute service

Enterprise commute services have been a core offering for both Quick Ride and SRide. These start-ups partner with major technology companies and IT parks in the metro cities, creating a network of ride- givers and ride-takers. A key differentiation maintained has been ensuring affordability over Uber and Ola carpools and in some cases, public transport commutes. The cost of rides, which are decided by the ride-givers, are capped at lower rates as compared to the cab aggregators’ rates and further, the ride- takers get to negotiate on the same too.

“We work with enterprise clients, observing the number of ride- takers and givers and then create our marketing campaign around it, giving personalised promotional offers for joining and using the service. This also reduced their commuting cost significantly. As per our internal study between 2018 and 2019, Wipro saved 11-13% of their parking lot space,” Vishal Lavti, Vice-President, Engineering, Quick Ride told BusinessLine.

Quick Ride

Quick Ride’s business fell by 80% when the lockdown started. Although, contracts with clients including IBM, Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Amazon to name a few, continue to be valid, the start-up doesn’t want to rely on the hybrid work model of IT companies entirely and are exploring other ways until things normalise.

Going a step ahead, Quick Ride will be soon introducing an end-to-end enterprise commute offering to its clients, which will include offering taxi and cab services too. “We are going to start an end-to-end enterprise commute offering, handling their (the clients) entire commute system. The users will be first offered carpool, if that is not available, they can find a scheduled taxi or a taxi pool too. We have also started our taxi services,” Lavti said.

SRide, on the other hand, continues to strongly believe in the recovery of the carpool business. Co-Founder Lakshna Jha said that despite the business falling nearly 95% when the pandemic started, currently SRide is witnessing a slow but steady recovery at 20-25%.

“It’s just a matter of weeks or months when people go back to offices, for at least three to four days a week,” Jha said. SRide has over 2 million users across 10 cities. Jha did not share the name of her IT clients.

Pivoting

When business was down Jha started SNeighbour to bring her user base together in the time of need. “During the second wave of Covid-19, people were facing problems with buying medicines, groceries and even finding vaccines, beds and injections; we decided to bring them together. We used our platform and userbase of 2 million users to launch the SNeighbour feature during the pandemic. Post- pandemic, we plan to continue the feature, which will help like-minded people in the community get information on any requirement; be it jobs, needing professional help, finding mentors, connecting with people based on their skills and interests,” Jha said.

She added, “In the long term, SRide and SNeighbour will help people with commute, social and professional needs.”

Backed by venture capital firms like Nexus Ventures (now Prosus), Sequoia Capital and Venture Highway, Quick Ride, which has over 4 million users, made a similar move with a new jobs feature and a section called Bazaary.

Lavti said, “We saw an opportunity in outstation travelling when during the lockdown, people were trying to go back home. We have launched two more services, jobs and a section called Bazaary. The jobs feature works on a referral system. We have seen many co-commuters get jobs through this networking and daily travelling feature. Bazaary is a peer-to-peer buying and selling platform. You can share anything; from looking for house rentals, to selling furniture. All this is happening in a safe environment as all of the users are verified profiles.”

Not All

Mumbai-based bus service provider Cityflo had a different take on handling the pandemic. Operating mainly in Mumbai with a present fleet of 110-115 Mercedes Benz buses and over 4,500 passengers commuting daily and a dedicated staff for driving and maintaining the buses, Co-Founder and CEO Jerin Venad, decided to stick to his core offering.

“It’s been a really tough time for us, but we have been a bit fortunate. A few investors we have been speaking to believe that this is going to go away in the long term. Beyond the pandemic too, comfort transport will be a real issue, especially in cities like Mumbai. There are a lot of us who are not eager to drive, but not comfortable with public transport either,” Venad told BusinessLine. Cityflo is backed by Lightbox Ventures and India Quotient.

Until the second wave in April-May, Cityflo had recovered 75-77% of its business as compared to pre-pandemic.

Earlier, they were operating at 50% of the capacity of the buses. Now, Cityflo is letting commuters choose their seats while booking and scheduling a ride. They are even allowed to book twin seats to maintain social distance with the other commuter while riding.

Published on July 14, 2021

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