BlaBlaCars hits a million seat shares; travel experience makes it a unique offering

Having registered over a million users on their platform, BlaBlacars has made quite a debut in India. Raghav Gupta, India Country Manager stresses that with a cheaper and safer mode to undertake inter-city and state travel, their service will transform into an alternate means of transportation. An excerpt of an exclusive interaction:


Booking a confirm rail ticket during peak seasons and for last moment travel, despite ongoing improvements to facilitate easier transaction, is a hard task to accomplish. These passengers – who often have to travel motorable distances – seek an alternate medium of transportation which is reasonably priced and safe.

Raghav Gupta, India Country Head, BlaBlaCars, to his own admission, intended to tap this massive segment. “There are many instances when you will not get a Delhi-Chandigarh Shatabdi train ticket while buses are uncomfortable. So, our service can help the consumer reach their destination at lower prices in the comfort of a car,” he said. 

A seat sharing model meant to tap passengers and car owners looking to chip together a ride, BlaBlaCars is growing in popularity since its debut in India. “We launched in January 2016 in India. Till now, we have had around one million seats offered on our platform,” he said. “This traffic has, primarily, come not only from big cities but also from some small cities. To use this service, one has to become a member of BlaBlaCars, either as a car-owner or a co-traveller, or both,” Raghav added.

Explaining how the model of seat-sharing worked, he said “When a person is moving from one city to another, or to a longer distance from say Gurgaon to Noida, and if I am going to the same place with my car where I have a few unoccupied seats, I can offer those seats to like-minded travellers by becoming a member of BlaBlaCars.” As per the model, the cost of the trip which includes fuel and toll tax etc. is shared with co-passengers.

Raghav added that if a member posted a trip from Delhi to Chandigarh on the website, the person intending to travel could find the driver’s profile; where was he getting picked up from, and at what time. “Minute details like the car make and model, music and smoking preference, and maximum size of luggage allowed by the owner are explicitly mentioned. Therefore, the process is very detailed,” he explained. 

Noting that the co-passenger or the driver, essentially, would have two questions in their minds which were whether it was safe and would lead to a pleasant experience, he said “to address security concerns, we undertake KYC (know your customer) to verify the details submitted by him. We ask them to connect their Facebook account to BlaBlaCars; we verify e-mail, mobile number, and a government issued identity card. We ask members to add a picture; so there is a bunch of KYC processes put in place.”

He added that they also received a lot of details from members wherein they described themselves; their jobs and other details. “There is a rating system wherein the driver and co-passengers rate each other on the basis of different parameters, and this is useful for future seat seekers. So, this is how trust and safety works, and this is how one million seats have been shared in India since our inception,” he elaborated. 

Having made a promising debut in India, the company is headquartered out of Paris, and operates, presently, in twenty-two countries globally. “We have some investors; the company has raised three hundred million dollars from different investors from Europe and the USA which is funding our global expansion. We have launched our service in India, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and Brazil in the last one and a half years,” he informed. 

Since its inception, the company has a database of twenty-five million members internationally. “Globally, over forty million people travelled by BlaBlaCars last year. To keep things in perspective, our focus is to go the long distance in India,” Raghav said. Comparing BlaBlaCars to a mode of transportation, he pointed out that the global aviation major – Delta Airlines – transported around 130 million passengers last year. “When we compare ourselves to the figure, we are growing at a rate of around one hundred percent each year. Going by our current rate of growth, in a couple of years, we may be able to surpass those numbers. Therefore, we are already carrying a large number of people,” he justified his assertion. 

Sharing that the service was available for free for now, he revealed that the company was going to levy a small usage charge in the near future. “In the future when a lot more people know about it, we will start charging a small usage fee – which will be levied each time a trip is undertaken. We may roll this out later this year or early next year; we will see how the market understands and uses the service,” he said. 

Adding that the company charged a service usage fee in seven out of the twenty-two countries they operated in, he said “In France, for instance, we provide road side assistance in case of a car breakdown. A mechanic or a tow truck would assist stranded passengers at no additional cost. So, we do add more value when we charge a usage fee.”

He called the BlaBlaCars a unique way of meeting new people. “I know a young college student who uses travelling to connect with senior executives to grab a good summer internship. So, it the overall experience of meeting new people and striking a conversation,” he shared. 

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