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France’s BlaBlaCar drives into India to facilitate intercity rides

Not getting a confirmed train ticket for inter-city journey in a short notice? Irritated of staying in the waiting list?

Your problem is set to get a reasonable solution. Soon, you can actually share a ride with a co-traveler who would be driving his own car to the same destination. All you need to do is to share part of the cost of travel with the person you choose to share the ride.

France-based BlaBlaCar, which is the world’s largest city-to-city ridesharing service provider that operate under the marketplace model, is starting its journey on Wednesday. Initially, it would be focused in the northern part of India, and would spread wings across India over a period of time.

BlaBlaCar operates as a marketplace for ridesharing providing a platform for travellers to share a ride through its web application. “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 their journey. The service allows users to choose co-travellers in a member community with declared identities and peer-to-peer ratings,” said Nicholas Brusson, co-founder.

BlaBlaCar, which raised about $ 100 million from Accel Partners and Index Ventures about six months back, already operates in France, the United-Kingdom, 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 the 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 the travelers who will avail the service will have to pay a fee. While the usual transaction fee is about 10% of the ridesharing cost, it will take a call in India at a later stage.

The cost of sharing a ride is determined by BlaBlaCar depending on the route, type of vehicle, etc. Routes like Mumbai-Pune, Delhi-Chandigarh, Bangalore-Chennai could be 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 would 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, adding that the app-based car-pooling service will not clash with the existing car-pool services in India which are 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 travelers to book their train or bus ticket 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 in their car to co-travelers, so they can travel together and share fuel costs,” said Brusson.

To ensure security, Gupta said, the company will follow its global practice, but will adopt new mechanisms if need be. “We already had detailed discussions with the regulatory authorities and law makers. 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 marketplace model automatically, it 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 any investment projections. “We’ll go with the flow,” he added.

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