Q&A with COO of Zoomcar: Covid-19’s impact & trends in India’s urban mobility sector

By May 6, 2020 India, Mobility

With a large surge in population and income levels, India now demands 8x more transportation facilities than compared to 1980, according to the World Bank database. To manage India’s next wave of growth, the emphasis is on ramping up and making shared mobility solutions and public transportation systems easily accessible and safe, with a focus on cleaner and greener mobility.

We speak with Sudhindra Reddy, COO of Zoomcar, India’s largest self-drive urban mobility platform, to understand the drivers behind this growing sector, opportunities for startups and the impact of COVID-19 on current mobility solutions:

Tell us more about the mobility sector in which you are operating and what you think German startups should know about it. What do you think are the biggest opportunities for German startups to add value in this field?

India’s mobility sector is ripe for disruption. We currently have the lowest car ownership, and very high usage of two wheelers on the roads which creates a demand for public infrastructure and transport to keep up with India’s rapid urban growth, including a potential billion more users in the coming decade.

As public infrastructure improves, the potential for micro mobility is immense and is already spawning soonicorns and that’s a field for at least two to three big players. Assisted driving and in-car services are just seeing the light of the day now and has the potential for immediate adoption. Electric vehicles is another area to look out for, as it is right there for disruption by companies with a long term vision.

What is the impact of Covid-19 on the mobility sector in India? Has there been a shift in business models to address the issues?

With the extended lockdown in India, the mobility sector as we speak is at a complete standstill right from grounding of all assets and fleet of mobility players like Uber, Ola and Zoomcar included, to heavily declined sales for Automotive OEMs.

We are utilizing select cars in our fleet only to meet the needs of essential service providers and workers performing essential tasks amid the lockdown. We are partnering with hospitals like Columbia Asia and Tata Memorial to provide safe staff commuting. With online retailers like Big Basket, Grofers, Milk Basket and Apollo Pharmacy, we are working with them for last mile delivery to ensure consumers can still access food and medical necessities.

Preventing infection and spread is top-of-mind for us, and we undertake strict measures to ensure every car is sanitized properly. We also have a keyless entry system to avoid any physical contact.

 

To address the emergent trends of remote working, home deliveries of essential services in food and grocery, health and education, any startup working in these sectors will see immediate interest and demand for their solutions.

Post-lockdown, we do expect a wider number of use cases to emerge for car-based personal mobility. This is due to a growth in the demand for very short term use cases and self-drive vehicle rental services, given that consumers would prefer personal vehicles over public transport, as they keep social distancing and hygiene safety in mind. With guaranteed sanitization of our cars after every use, we are confident to cover the current growing demand via our subscription program and are preparing for three to four times jump in demand for personal mobility as we emerge from this lockdown. 

For OEMs, we see that the need for alternative mobility solutions is becoming even greater and the business and scope for collaboration of new-age vehicle subscriptions is very likely to grow. Flexible subscriptions through a white labelled offering will allow providers to reboot their overall sales engine much faster. Over and above the historical use cases, we see more demand for very short term use cases given the hygiene and safety factor. 

What challenges do you foresee foreign startups may face when entering this field, and what are your tips to help them overcome these challenges? 

With the current business uncertainty situation all around us there’s a big boom and bust cycle that’s visible. Especially for shared mobility, the safety and hygiene against any possible infection is going to be a big focus amongst providers this year. I would suggest to foreign players to partner with local players which is far more forthcoming now and move ahead with a clear business model in place.

Indian regulations can be daunting at times, but there are always ways to work around the same and move forward. Indian “Jugaad” is a well-known term when it comes to innovation and the use cases would never cease to amaze you when it comes to Indian consumers. In order to cater and keep up with India’s value-conscious consumers, you need to constantly innovate and work on a world class product or service which can easily subsist anywhere in the world.

What is one piece of advice you would have for German founders and startups wanting to expand their business to India?

Start with thorough understanding of the local nuances and never underestimate the power of a local partner and talent which is pivotal to your success here. Get the right resources in with you at the start, who share your overall vision to help you move into the country with your best foot forward.

About Zoomcar 

Zoomcar holds the distinction of being India’s first self-drive mobility platform, with the introduction of car sharing services in 2013 and is today India’s market leader in the self-drive space with over 10,000 cars in its fleet. With a strong focus on the mobile experience, Zoomcar allows users to rent cars by the hour, day, week, or month. Headquartered in Bangalore, Zoomcar is over 250 people strong and operates in 45 cities across India. Zoomcar currently has 75% of market share and are looking at growing to a market share of 80-85% over the next 18th months with one lakh cars. In 2018, Zoomcar introduced India’s first peer2peer based marketplace for cars with the launch of its shared subscription mobility model and currently commands over 90% market share in this space.

Our 2nd #NextStepIndia virtual program in July will feature India’s logistics and urban mobility sectors. If you are a German startup keen to find out more, read about our program details here!

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