Bangalore, we have a traffic problem and it’s high time we did something about it. You have heard of it, you have seen humorous Twitter accounts dedicated to infamous traffic junctions, and if you’re from the city you experience it on an everyday basis. It has unsurprisingly turned the erstwhile pensioners’ paradise into a traffic nightmare. So much so that in a recent survey Bangalore was downgraded from its position as The Most Desirable City In India spot it had earned last year. More vehicles pile on the road everyday than the city’s infrastructure can handle. The problem doesn’t just restrict itself to creating a traffic congestion which makes commuting short distances take hours, but has become a serious pollution problem.
Fortunately, all’s not lost yet. As the traffic situation is worsening in the city, the awareness about the issue is rising.
There’s been, if not a sizeable, but a commendable effort to encourage public transport and pool vehicles. Cab hailing apps like Uber and Ola are experimenting with a cab-pool model, and many organizations are now actively encouraging commute-pooling, flexible work hours and work from home options among employees, that can go a some way in easing the traffic problem.
And while the efforts to mitigate the problem begin shaping up in a city that’s most receptive to innovation, here’s a startup that’s quietly started working to solve Bangalore’s biggest problem.
Enter Zipgo, a startup by Jitender Sharma, Gaurav Agarwal, Neeraj Paliwal and Pritesh Gupta that provides point-to-point AC shuttle services from more than 50 locations in the city. The cabs are usually AC tempo travelers, and can be easily booked and tracked through a very user-friendly app.
We met the men behind the app in their Koramangala office and understand the genesis of the startup and its plan for the way forward.
Jitender and Gaurav had started TaxiPixi which later got acquired by a Saudi Arabia based company. Determine to work within the transport industry – challenging and complex as it is – the idea of ZipGo started with the thought of solving the daily commute for the remaining 99% of the population which still finds taxis too expensive for everyday use.
“One of the best ways to deal with the traffic and resulting congestion and pollution is to have an efficient mass transit system, and that is exactly what we are building”, Jitender elucidates. Is there a stigma attached to using transport in a certain economic status in India, I ask. “Not really. People are not averse to using a shared or public transportation option. A clear proof is the success of Delhi Metro. But the experience of using a bus is so bad that it puts people off from using the buses. We badly need an efficient mass transit system in every city in India but for it to succeed it has to be clean, comfortable, reliable, convenient and economical. With ZipGo, our goal to build a world-class mass transit system like the ones that exist in Singapore or London. We are just at the first step in that long journey”. This quote immediately jumps to mind.
“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation”
Started in August 2015 with 11 buses, the app already boasts of around 100k downloads and is ferrying over 1000 commuters everyday. Zipgo is currently connecting all major residential areas with IT hubs of Bangalore. The worst problem zones like the Koramangla to Old Madras road, and the ORR road leading to Whitefields is covered too. (Yes, and the infamous Silk Board junction is enroute both!) The user adoption has been encouraging, and people seem to be gushing about the service on social media.
Zipgo is growing fast, adding more routes and running at better occupancy rates with every consecutive ride, sometimes even unable to serve incoming requests, and the founders are not complaining. “This is a good problem to have”, Jitender laughs. “We are constantly looking at adding more routes depending on requests that we get. Having said that, we’re focussing a lot more on improving quality and making the experience a much better one, than just maximizing the routes.” Receptive to user feedback they get post every ride, there are plans to introduce some engagement activities to the commuters to make the ride a smooth experience. “The opportunities are endless. If these mean user adoption and stickiness, we will be more than happy to provide them.” Zipgo also recently launched a woman’s only bus service in the Delhi NCR region.
Introduced at a very reasonable Rs. 29 for a ride for any distance, Zipgo now offers rides starting from Rs. 59 apart from generously rewarding referrals. “Running on discounts isn’t be sustainable in the long run in any business. People need a good quality service rather than save a small amount of money. Hence, we went ahead with a decision to increase our fares. But even with increased fares, ZipGo is way cheaper than almost every other option. Autos cost Rs. 13 per KM – so a 5 KM distance will cost Rs. 65 at least. Cabs cost Rs. 15 per KM on average and with surge pricing as high as Rs. 50 per KM during peak hours! Driving your own car, and even riding a bike, are also more expensive if you take into account all the costs. BMTC AC Volvo may cost slightly less than ZipGo but we believe that the overall experience we provide is much better specially since we try to take the shortest, non-stop route between 2 points. Also a seat is always guaranteed and there is no overcrowding”, Jitender reasons. I couldn’t agree more as the need of the hour in Bangalore is getting fewer vehicles on the road and encouraging a true sharing economy in its most helpful manifestation.
While Zipgo’s future expansion plans look promising, especially with a recent round of funding, this humble, but important startup could potentially revolutionise the transport industry in Bangalore, and be well on its way to becoming a startup we all need and probably don’t deserve.