Most of us fancy autonomous cars because we actually like to drive, yet we are wary of buying electric vehicles (EVs) because we don’t understand how the car works or the technology behind the vehicles.
That's where the self-drive rental platform Zoomcar comes in, aiming to make the future of mobility more connected, shared and powered by zero-emission technologies.
Greg Moran, the co-founder and CEO of Zoomcar, lauded the
government’s vision for converting all vehicles in India to EVs by 2030, but believes more needs to be done to create EV awareness and shift the long-standing consumption patterns of the users.
The Bengaluru-based firm has a presence in 45 cities across the country and has tie-ups with the likes of Mahindra & Mahindra, Ford, Tata Motors and Volkswagen.
Here are the excerpts of Moran's interview with CNBCTV18.com:
How did you come up with the idea of starting a car-rental company in India?
I have always been passionate about sustainability and shared model for sustainable economic development. While working in the clean technology and infrastructure disciplines for an investment bank, I witnessed first-hand the opportunities that existed in working for environmentally sustainable solutions in India. Further exploration revealed the challenges in urban transportation, namely lack of infrastructure that can cushion the hike in personal vehicles. Realizing the toll it was taking on India’s environment and a complete lack of self-drive model– and not chauffeur-driven car rentals or cab aggregators– led me to spearhead the launch of a car-rental company, Zoomcar. The business model of Zoomcar not only revolves around sustainability but also caters to the market need for convenient self-drive mobility.
What's your view on the government's all-electric vision by 2030? What role does Zoomcar play in extending this vision?
It is an aspirational and well-rounded approach that paves the way for India to venture into EVs in a big way. However, bolstering the manufacturing capabilities alone is not going to shift the long-standing consumption patterns of the users. That is where shared and subscription platforms by Zoomcar come into play. Without the hassle of complete ownership, users can utilise Zoomcar to give EVs a shot by short-term rentals or subscriptions for a comparatively longer period.
How do you look at the rise of online automobile marketplaces in India?
There is a phenomenal rise in the online automobile marketplaces. The shift is only natural, given the evolution of present-day users into a digitally and tech-savvy audience. While the yesteryear’s users would depend on the salesperson for addressing their queries before purchasing a vehicle, at present, users are armed with the internet and often have all the relevant information before entering the showroom. Thus, it only makes business sense to bring the ‘showrooms’ to them online and expedite the process of access to or ownership of vehicles. In the years to come, I expect the online marketplaces to play a more prominent role in providing mobility solutions.
How has been the growth in the subscription mobility market? Any word on demand...
We are a 100% marketplace and we already command 100% of the shared subscription mobility market in India with about 10,000 cars on our platform and counting. We are aiming to substantially increase this and aim to have about 25,000 vehicles on our platform by early next year.
On the demand side, we envision to scale the demand business by a factor of 2X by the end of this fiscal with a laser focus on profitable self-drive bookings. The platform’s exponential growth is being triggered by both first-time user acquisition and increasing the repeat user frequency across trip duration cohorts.
How are you using the IoT to make the driving experience better? Are technology concepts like Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning leveraged in products and services offered by Zoomcar?
We have an intelligent tool called Cadabra that tracks important data about the car in real-time. Leveraging the Internet of Moving Things, Cadabra tracks the distance travelled, fuel used, clutch performance, etc. and helps car owners or drivers keep tabs on important performance metrics like clutch position, harsh braking, inconsistent acceleration, seat belt usage, and engine health, among others. Equipped with Bluetooth and 4G connectivity, Cadabara receives OTA updates and also connects with emergency services in case of on-road accidents.
Why do you think that the cab aggregators, such as Ola and Uber, will make no profits as they have a driver?
Fundamentally speaking, a rideshare driver-based mobility can only become profitable if you eliminate the driver. That will happen in the US and China with autonomous vehicles. Whenever you try to become profitable with the driver, there will be tension. You need to build a consumer-facing service platforms along with mobility.
You recently announced a partnership with Volkswagen. Could you take us through the deal and what it's all about?
Volkswagen had partnered with us to drive into shared mobility ecosystem. As part of the association, we hosted their marquee hatchback, the Volkswagen Polo on our shared-subscription platform to begin with. The association was met with a raving response. All cars were subscribed within only 48 hours of the announcement.
How does the initial model of ZAP work, and why the shift to ZAP?
ZAP follows a simple subscription-based model that is aligned with the changing priorities of the present day users that prefer access to mobility services over ownership. The model removes several impediments to owning cars, albeit for shorter hauls. By only paying a monthly subscription fee, users can have a car of their choice, without the hassle of securing a loan, EMIs, spending on servicing, maintenance, insurance and more. Furthermore, when not using the subscribed vehicles, users can simply put it on Zoomcar to offset the monthly subscription costs.
Are you planning to raise funds this year?
We are looking at closing the Series D round by the second half of this year.
We are definitely eyeing at a deeper penetration in the Indian market. At the same time, several emerging markets like Southeast Asia and Africa share the same characteristics as India. In the near future, we are looking at venturing into these markets, which will be followed by other international expansions.
Could you elaborate on the future plans of Zoomcar? Are you planning to go international?