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France's BlaBlaCar drives into India to facilitate intercity rides

Initially, it would be focused in the northern part of India

Sounak Mitra  |  New Delhi 

Not getting a confirmed train ticket for an inter-city journey at short notice? Irritated of being kept on the wait list? Soon, you could share a ride with someone driving his car to your destination. All you need to do is to share a part of the cost of travel.

France-based BlaBlaCar is starting its journey on Wednesday. Initially, it will focus on north India and then branch out to other parts. “We connect people looking for a city-to-city travel solution with car-owners going in the same direction so that they can travel together and share the cost of journey,” said Nicholas Brusson, co-founder of BlaBlaCar.

BlaBlaCar, which raised about $100 million from Accel Partners and Index Ventures about six months back, operates in France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Germany, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. India will be the 13th country for BlaBlaCar.

“India has a lot to gain from community ridesharing. Smart, sustainable and social, it is win-win for both car-owners and co-travellers. Initially, we’ll not charge anything from users. This will remain be a free service until we reach a scale and educate people about our service,” said Brusson. It has offered the service in France for free for about four years.

Eventually, Brusson said travelers who availed the service would have to pay a fee. While the usual transaction fee is about 10 per cent of the ridesharing cost, BlaBlaCar will take a call in India at a later stage.

The cost of sharing a ride is determined by BlaBlaCar depending on the route and type of vehicle. Routes like Mumbai-Pune, Delhi-Chandigarh, Bangalore-Chennai could be the focus primarily. However, there could be as many routes that users could generate.

“We are people-powered network and community based. The riders takes an informed decision on who to travel with, and both sides have the option to call off a ride if they do not like the fellow traveler. To use the app, you need a Facebook profile, and a phone number which is the first step of authentication,” said Raghav Gupta, India country manager.

The service is built on trust, and as it is community driven, people actually get to know social details of the person they will be traveling with. Price per co-traveler is limited to a partial contribution towards the cost of the journey and does not allow the car-owner to make a profit. Gupta said the app-based car-pooling service would not clash with existing car-pool services in India which were mostly operated commercially.

“India, with its young, highly connected population, and multiple major urban hubs separated by long distances, has great potential for ridesharing. Chronically overcrowded transport infrastructure forces travellers to book their train or bus tickets weeks in advance, while the high price of fuel makes long-distance car travel often unaffordable. BlaBlaCar will make last-minute city-to-city travel both available and affordable. Car-owners will be able to offer seats to co-travelers, so they can travel together and share fuel costs,” said Brusson.

To ensure security, Gupta said, the company would follow its global practice, but would adopt new mechanisms if need be. “We already had detailed discussions with the regulatory authorities and lawmakers. Our model is robust and different,” he added.

Over a period of time, it may introduce India-specific products and services depending on how the market evolves. As 100 per cent foreign direct investment is permitted in the marketplace model automatically, BlaBlaCar will not require any Indian partner. However, it will set up a wholly owned subsidiary in India for smooth operations.

Brusson did not want to give out any investment projections. “We’ll go with the flow,” he added.

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First Published: Wed, January 14 2015. 05:20 IST