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New York’s Times Square was recently lit up with an interesting piece of news – India’s largest EV ride-hailing service, BluSmart, had successfully raised $25 million in Series A funding. In a short while, even during the worst of the global pandemic, the company managed to significantly scale up its business and build a loyal following.
Auto Futures wanted to know more about BluSmart’s rise to fame, and caught up with Chief Business Officer, Tushar Garg, to find out more.
BluSmart started out in June 2019 with just 70 EVs on the platform.
“Back in 2018-19, people were still not very comfortable with EVs, there were a lot of questions in everyone’s mind and we wanted to test these hypotheses out. Between June and December 2019, we learnt a lot more about EVs – how they need to be run, how the back-end operations need to be managed, what kind of electric charging capabilities do we need to build to support such an aggressive and rigorous mobility operation and so on. This is also the time that we used to build the complete in-house tech to support our operations,” says Garg.
By December 2019, the fleet had expanded to 140+ cars, and the app in its full form finally went live.
“From that day onwards, we’ve been building the brand BluSmart and bringing this unique experience to customers in Delhi-NCR. We started out with Gurgaon and as we’ve been able to scale up our fleet, we’ve also been expanding our geography. As of today, our fleet comprises 600+ cars and we’re able to serve a good part of the Delhi-NCR region, which comprises 45+ million people. This is a huge market that we’re hoping to capture as we aggressively keep expanding over the next few quarters.”
BluSmart’s fund utilisation plan is directed towards growth and carrying on with the “aggressive expansion” in the Delhi-NCR market. bp Ventures was the lead investor in their Series A round, where it raised a total $25 million. In fact, bp Ventures is currently BluSmart’s largest investor.
“bp Ventures is a brilliant partner for multiple reasons,” says Garg. “The biggest reason is the fact that they are massive when it comes to energy dispensation and have been around for decades now, and thus so much to learn from in the space of EV charging. The other great part is the fact that it’s a global enterprise and there is so much learning that they bring to the table like good governance practices.”
“bp is looking to ‘decarbonise’ mobility. What is decarbonisation of mobility? It is, essentially, gravitating towards cleaner and more sustainable fuel for mobility. And that’s just what BluSmart is doing. Because of this, there is a lot of synergy between bp Ventures and BluSmart in our aspirations, business plans and organisational goals as organisations. This was evident right from the first discussion that we had with them. A lot of people bring in capital, but what bp Ventures brings to the table for us is invaluable,” he adds.
“We give our customers reliability, the promise of non-volatility of prices and pristine cars.”
In India, if there is one mobility trend that has seen massive market penetration like no other, it is undoubtedly ride-hailing. That said, there are just three major movers. On one hand you have global ride-hailing giant Uber and its Indian competitor Ola, and on the other you have a slew of private vehicles comprising taxis, autos, bikes and others.
And so, if a person steps out of their home today, the chances are that they’d choose one of these three alternatives if it’s ride-hailing that they’re after.
In a market like this, BluSmart’s success in the Delhi-NCR market, especially given the fact that it operates exclusively with EVs, is phenomenal. And it’s all down to the team ensuring that customer experience comes first.
“Almost every BluSmart customer tells us that this was their first experience of being in an electric vehicle. It makes us feel so good about the fact that we are helping the country move in the right direction. Because of us, EVs are no longer conceptual for people. This is especially true for people who don’t own EVs, which is the vast majority of the Indian population. It becomes something that they can touch, sit in, experience the noiselessness and cherish the feeling of having made a difference to the environment,” explains Garg.
At the end of each ride, the customer is sent a notification showing how much they’ve spent and how much CO2 they’ve saved because of that one ride.
BluSmart is also attempting to solve a number of problems associated with ride-hailing in India including driver cancellations, longer wait times, surge pricing, dirty cars, and passenger health and safety.
“We give our customers reliability, the promise of non-volatility of prices and pristine cars that, along with their drivers, have been sanitised less than 6 hours ago, for which they can even see a time-stamp,” he says.
An Algorithm That’s Constantly Improving
Whenever the topic of electrification in India comes up, the lack of charging infrastructure is the one challenge that doesn’t fail to appear too. BluSmart, however, was quick to realise that this could be a major deal breaker for its EV ride-hailing operations, which is why it set up an EV charging network from day one as a part of its business model.
The company also plans to open up its network to other private fleet owners. Today, BluSmart has the largest EV charging network in Delhi-NCR with 200+ fast and 300+ slow charging points, making it a total of 500+ charging points supporting the need of their 600+ vehicles. And with 25-30% daily utilisation, the company claims that its charging network also has the highest utilisation in the world.
But being a full-stack operations company comes with its own set of technological complications, especially when it comes to algorithms.
“In a traditional ride-hailing ecosystem, when a customer books a ride, there are two mobile phones talking to one another. The customer’s phone sends a ping and the driver’s phone picks it up. But when it comes to EV and the way that the BluSmart algorithm works, there is the whole ecosystem at play – the customer, the driver, the car and the city’s EV charging network,” says Garg.
“The BluSmart tech stack reads into the state of charge of the battery in the EV, the car’s location, the driver’s shift data, the EV charging network and the customer requests before making the ride. But that said, two years, 700,000+ trips and 25+ million kilometres later, our algorithm has had tremendous learning and has only improved over time and continues to improve with every passing second,” he adds.
How this David takes on the ride-hailing Goliaths, like Uber and Ola, as it begins to expand into other Indian cities remains to be seen. But BluSmart’s journey over the next few years will definitely be an interesting one to follow.