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NEW DELHI: Since its launch in India in January 2015, over three million seats have been put up on ride-sharing startup BlaBlaCar’s application. To put that in context, 145 million km of shared rides have been offered — a tad less that the distance between the earth and the sun.

“Most of the traction has come in the past nine months, since Dushera,” said Raghav Gupta, the France-based hitchhiking firm’s India head. The odd-even ban in Delhi also helped it get attention.

So far, the fill-up rate has been 30-70% depending on the route — the highest being on high-frequency routes like Delhi to Chandigarh. The fill-up rates drops on unconventional routes, such as Delhi to Saharanpur.

As the app gets more users, Gupta will look at ways to earn money. “We do not make money in India,” he said. “But as we get more users, we will look at different ways to generate revenue.”

Of the 22 countries it is present in, BlaBlaCar makes money in only seven. Its business model is simple — 10-15% commission from each rider. So a ride from Delhi to Chandigarh, which costs Rs 500, will cost Rs 550-560. BlaBlaCar will keep Rs 50-60, and will control the overall pricing.

A train ticket in Shatabdi for the same route costs Rs 600, a state-transport bus charges Rs 250, and a Volvo takes Rs 600-900.

The Indian market already has many players, including Uber, Ola, Meru and a number of car-pooling startups coming up in the last two years, mostly doing intra-city ride shares.

Gupta is betting on price, comfort and better company of travellers. BlaBlaCar connects the driver and the co-rider in advance. Once the car is full, the new “booking” feature takes it off the app. User rating helps, and there is proper verification done by the firm.

It has also launched women-only ride share, and is looking at a bunch of new features, including tie-ups with insurance companies and partnerships with roadside-assistance firms and restaurants.
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