Sameer Khanna’s commuting woes knew no bounds while stuck in the regular bottlenecks between Delhi and Gurgaon, as a management executive with Ericsson. With Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore topping the country’s most gridlocked cities surveys, this wasn’t surprising. Reports estimate that Delhi, with over six million vehicles plying on its roads, adds another 1,200 daily. Gas prices have been rising steadily, and Delhi was recently ranked the world’s most polluted city by a global survey. Khanna finally decided that an alternative to such increasingly apocalyptic scenarios is to encourage a carpooling-friendly society, an economical as well as eco-friendly godsend to feel good about diminishing your carbon print. He started Folksvagn, a networking service designed to provide a hassle-free medium for carpooling within one to three sq km of a person’s location and destination.
Launched in 2012, Folksvagn is open to people working in the corporate sector. It finds and filters people travelling in the same direction and relies on a mandatory three-tier verification system for new users. And, it offers the option of women-only carpool groups. Folksvagn’s prepaid system also ensures that you won’t be awkwardly jingling change at the end of each journey. The fare for the journey automatically gets deducted from your online carpool account. You can recharge your account online or on the company’s mobile app through a secure payment getaway. And, you can opt to choose a different ride if you are not comfortable with your current co-travellers. One of the carpoolers actually did, because the car-owner insisted on playing Honey Singh hits only.
Vaibhav Bansal, a chartered accountant, used to make the dreary three-hour commute from his residence in Hari Nagar in Delhi to his office in Gurgaon five days a week till he discovered Folksvagn in March 2014. “It took a few weeks to find a system that worked for me, but now I travel with three co-passengers, and I’m saving Rs 4,000 a month in fuel costs (or an average of Rs 50,000 per year). Plus, I enjoy the company; travelling alone is such a bore.”
The rates are Rs 3.5 per km, of which Rs 3 go to the driver and 50 paise to Folksvagn. With around 15,000 registered members in Delhi NCR, Folksvagn is now in the process of launching a new app for iOS and Android.
Pool My Ride, a mobile app developed by Delhi-based Abhishek Talwar, allows car-owners to create carpools by checking out the users via their Facebook profiles, phone or email. This app is free and can be used to create carpools worldwide.
Other cities have also hopped on to the carpooling bandwagon. Raxit Sheth established Smart Mumbaikar last year, a ride-sharing service that is just a missed call away. After a one-time signup on its website, commuters can hitch a ride with others by sharing not just cars but autos, taxis and bikes with a missed call to Smart Mumbaikar’s hotline number. With 20,000 members under its belt, this service also works on the basis of a “flexi-time”, connecting people travelling on the same route in real-time via SMS.
Different business models and commuter incentives are driving up the interest in carpooling. Bangalore has RidingO, a flexi-service for carpoolers, which comes with a unique coin system for online cost distribution. Every time you share your car, you earn some RidingO coins. Having partnered with petroleum companies, the car-owner can redeem these RidingO coins in the form of fuel. HopOn, a mobile carpooling app for Bangloreans, boasts of another cool feature — to enhance the reliability of the app, users can rate their ride partners, which, in turn, helps future users to make informed choices. HopOn’s popularity also rides on the fact that in case of any last-minute changes in travel plans, parties concerned can be transported to their destination on time using its partnered radio taxis.