Shared mobility is steadily gaining prominence across the globe, especially in cities that are witnessing a growing reluctance among vehicle owners to own a vehicle
In fact, the growing congestion across city roads that leads to driver fatigue is prompting many to avail shared mobility services. In the Indian context, consumers have warmed up to the concept of shared mobility services offered by cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber.
But these service providers, who run ICE-equipped vehicles, haven’t significantly helped in reducing pollution in the country. This is precisely where Gurugram-based Blu Smart Mobility – part of the Gensol Group – brings a difference to the table, offering the country’s first electric ride-hailing mobility platform. Founded in January 2019 by Punit Goyal, Anmol Jaggi and Puneet Jaggi, Blu Smart Mobility has created a new shared mobility ecosystem among alternate fuel technologies. Auto Tech Review caught up with Punit Goyal, Co-Founder, Blu Smart Mobility to understand how it intends to carve out its niche with its electric ride-hailing services.
Given the penetration Ola and Uber has in the Indian ride-hailing sector, it will be exceedingly challenging for any third player to foray into this space. But Blu Smart Mobility appears to have done its homework well before hopping onto the ride-hailing bandwagon. The company’s electric ride hailing platform has covered 4.5 mn km and has completed over 175,000 all-electric trips in and around the Delhi-NCR region. The ride-booking process is a seamless one, wherein customers can book their rides through the Blu Smart iOS and Android App or can also call the booking number.
Blu Smart Mobility has essentially focussed on three key areas – zero emission mobility, zero surge mobility and zero denial mobility and believes these are strong differentiators that will not only enable it to be on a firm footing in the market but also help beat off competition. “Our electric ride-hailing platform is aimed at reducing traffic volumes and pollution and making cities healthier and livable. We are contributing our bit towards the environment through our zero emission urban mobility solutions,” said Goyal.
Surge pricing among ride-hailing service providers has been a big pain point for customers in the country – something that has been suitably addressed by Blu Smart Mobility. “Cab aggregators resorting to surge pricing during peak hours or during festive occasions is a common practice in India. At Blu Smart Mobility, we ensure our EVs are free from surge pricing irrespective of whether they are operating during early morning hours, during day time, or even in late evenings. We offer the same price at all times even if it is a festive occasion,” observed Goyal.
Ride denial is another common frustrating point for Indian consumers availing ride-hailing services. “This is our big customer-centric initiative, wherein we don’t encourage drivers to cancel a ride. In fact, our driver app does not have the ride cancellation functionality nor will our drivers have the audacity to refuse a ride – it is only our customers that can cancel a ride,” he pointed out.
Blu Smart Mobility’s electric ride-hailing platform offers significant cost benefits as compared to the existing ride-hailing service providers. “Ola and Uber are priced at ₹ 12-13 per km to start with, but if you factor in surge pricing, their average annual bills for an average customer is ₹ 22 per km in Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. Blu Smart Mobility’s vehicles are priced at ₹ 13 per km and are cheaper by 30-35% as compared to Ola and Uber,” claims Goyal with a tinge of confidence.
The company is focussed on building an asset-based platform, wherein they do not own any car in its fleet. The vehicles deployed on this platform are procured from leasing companies or individuals, wherein the company takes ownership of operating the vehicles and investors are offered a leased-based ROI, explained Goyal. Under such a working arrangement, the company does not directly employ drivers, which is the case among existing ride-hailing companies. The drivers at Blu Smart Mobility are contracted by third party vendors. “We are paying drivers a fixed monthly salary of ₹ 19,000 plus variables, which is much more than what our competitors are paying,” claimed Goyal.
The feel and look of vehicles hold the key in offering an attractive proposition for customers – an area where Blu Smart Mobility has accorded high priority. “Our vehicles are cleaner and better maintained than any of our competitors – they are cleaned daily and not after two or three weeks. We score high on driver behaviour and safety and our vehicles offer a premium feeling,” claimed Goyal.
There is an increasing reluctance among vehicle owners to own a vehicle, especially in cities and Goyal insists time has indeed come for the country to learn from cities like Singapore, Paris, New York and London that have evolved into transportation hubs. These cities are designed in such a way that their parking cost is far more expensive than a per day EMI, which itself is a negative reason to buy cars, explained Goyal.
The company places high focus on drivers’ peace of mind, which is so critical for optimum driver performance. They aren’t burdened with the pressure of having to pay an EMI as well as earn by virtue of the number of trips done. The company currently operates 321 cars across the Delhi-NCR region – its fleet comprises a large chunk of Mahindra eVeritos and Tata Tigors. It has lined up plans to scale up its fleet to 521 cars by mid-2020, and reach a vehicle count of 850 by 2020-end, aiming to cover 4.8 mn clean km and complete 240,000 all-electric trips by 2020-end. In the long term, Blu Smart Mobility aims to build a fleet of 5,000 cars.
The company is not limiting itself to deploying Mahindra eVeritos and Tata Tigors, and is open to inducting the newly-introduced EVs such as Hyundai Kona, Tata Nexon and MG ZS EV in its fleet. “We are keen to work with any OEM as our platform can be a launchpad for EV start-ups. If any EV player is finding it difficult to sell their vehicles they can always partner with us by deploying their vehicles on our platform,” he said.
EV charging infrastructure is seen as a big roadblock in the country and the company has forged partnerships with various charging infrastructure companies setting-up charging stations in Blu Smart Mobility hubs. “We don’t own these charging stations and only use them – in this manner we are creating demand for charging infrastructure companies,” he noted.
The company raised a seed round of $ 3 mn in September 2019 from Mayfield, JITO Angel Network, Ka Enterprises (family firm of Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone), Kalpavriksh Trust (Centrum VC Fund), Survam Partners (Suman Kant Munjal Family Office), Rajesh Agarwal (Micromax Co-Founder), Sanjiv Bajaj (MD, Bajaj Capital), Rajat Gupta (Former Global MD, Mckinsey), and Rohit Chanana (Sarcha Advisors), among others. Blu Smart Mobility will be soon raising Pre-Series A funding.
According to Goyal, Blu Smart Mobility’s electric ride-hailing platform will enable future generations their right to breathe and live in a cleaner and more responsible society. “Our time on this planet is finite, but the damage caused by us is infinite. We must act fast and now to curb the hazardous air pollution levels,” noted Goyal.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua