Startup Mantra: Drivers on hire service to meet your commuting needs - Hindustan Times
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Startup Mantra: Drivers on hire service to meet your commuting needs

ByNamita Shibad
May 18, 2024 08:30 AM IST

Indian Drivers app has served 35,000 on-demand customers, 12,000 individual customers and 65 corporates till date

PUNE Success has a price and time to pay that Indian Drivers (A Unit of ID Car Drivers P Ltd ) knows only too well. Fifteen years ago, three friends Parag Palsokar, Krishna Badwane and Dinesh Rahane realised that getting a driver for a car was not easy. “And so, we came up with a rudimentary idea of providing car drivers”, says Dinesh. Like all ideas that people come up with, what seems simple can be rather tedious. And long, as Dinesh says. “We were all working professionals (with banks) and knew we had to have more than an idea to do business. So, we conducted a survey to find out if the need existed in the market or only in our minds.” To do that they went into areas of Pune where it is believed that drivers lived –Janata Vasahat, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Parvati and so on. They met and asked more than 500 drivers if they needed jobs and what were their expectations and challenges. “Similarly, they asked about 200 car owners about their driver needs and requirements. The answer was yes, there was a need for drivers who met up with the expectations of car owners.”

Indian Drivers app has served 35,000 on-demand customers, 12,000 individual customers and 65 corporates till date. (Shutterstock (PIC FOR REPRESENTATION))
Indian Drivers app has served 35,000 on-demand customers, 12,000 individual customers and 65 corporates till date. (Shutterstock (PIC FOR REPRESENTATION))

Initial steps

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Initially, Parag devoted all his time to a small cubicle from where they met and interviewed drivers. However, getting the drivers for an interview was not easy. “We tried by inserting flyers in local newspapers,” he said.

It worked. In the first year itself, Indian Drivers interviewed more than 1,000 drivers. “We categorised them as standard, classic, gold and platinum by the years of experience, the kind of cars they could drive, their grooming and manners. So, a standard category driver could drive hatchbacks or small cars and have five years of experience. Classic drivers were those who could drive sedan cars and had experience of more than five years, gold was one who had 7.5 years’ experience and could drive SUVs or semi-automatic cars. Platinum drivers were those who could drive luxury cars like BMW, Land Rover etc. In two years, we aggregated 2,500 drivers in Pune.”

Demand in market

With the supply side ready, they now needed to get a grip on the demand. Says Parag, “We spoke to a lot of people of our service and were getting calls for drivers on demand. This demand was met manually by us. We’d call the driver and he would do the job. This way we had some growth but it was slow. By 2015 we had 15,000 drivers on our database and had served 20,000 customers.” So far, so good.

In 2015 the arrival of Ola and Uber in Pune drove home some truths. Says Dinesh, “We understand the value of technology for our business. Ola and Uber used an app and that could bring about great change in our business. Also, instead of focusing only on on-demand customers, we felt we could expand our market by catering to the corporate sector too.”

It took them two years to get their app developed. Says Dinesh, “We were and are to date bootstrapped. Whatever money was spent, initially 5 lakh, was done by the three of us. And whatever money we made we put it back in the business after being very frugal in our spending. So, we met a software engineer Munnawar who was kind enough to develop our app but allowed us to pay him in instalments.” The app was ready to roll in the market in 2017. What this did was help us reach out to more drivers. Even today we have about 55,000 downloads by drivers across the country.” Meanwhile, they added corporates and individuals to their client pool. By 2019 they saw a revenue of 25 lakh.

Covid learnings

Says Dinesh, “Covid started around 2019 and luckily for us, our corporate clients like M&M, TACO, Faurecia, Bosch, Total Oil, Emerson, ISMT Ltd etc. continued to pay the salaries of our drivers despite them not reporting to work. Our offering to large companies was unlike what we offered to placements and on-demand customers. Here, we had to manage the payroll to meet all statutory compliances (GST, PF, ESIS, etc) and the company paid us on a monthly basis. We managed to avoid a loss and provide our drivers with income in those hard days.”

But what they realised was that their network was not good at all. “Growth had stagnated and while we were busy with developing our service we did not look at networking which can be a big boost to any business. This business goes far and wide with personal recommendations. So, we joined all such networking groups, TiE Pune, BNI, Saturday Club, MCCI, DCCI etc. This helped us big time. Our revenues that were stagnant before Covid now grew to 2.10 crore,” he said.

Growth is the only way forward

“So far, we have generated employment for 20,000 drivers through our platform. Every week we organise training for drivers where we train them in communication skills, hygiene, speed behaviour on highways, grooming, etc. In training any driver can join although it is free of cost training, after the driver training, they are given a certificate. Every week about 50 to 60 drivers are benefiting from training,” says Dinesh.

“Since we started with the vision of providing car drivers to all car owners and corporates all over India, we expanded our services to Mumbai and Bengaluru. Our growth doubled from 2.10 crore in FY 21-22, 4.1 crore in FY 22-23 to 9.20 crore in 23-24. Tapping the potential in other cities helped. Earlier we were not serving commercial cars like Ola and Uber, now we are providing them, drivers,” he said.

Services

To date, we have served 35,000 on-demand customers, 12,000 individual customers, have 65 corporates many of whom are Fortune 500 companies. We started with an investment of 5 lakh in the early days and so far, have invested 70 lakh in our business. Last year our business grew to 9.2 crore and we will hit 20 crore in the next financial year in ‘25-26 we will see revenues 60 crore.

We are deeply penetrating Mumbai, Bangalore and now Delhi where there is huge demand. Already companies are approaching us with driver outsourcing requests. In addition to this, we are working on our other venture – ID Mobility Pvt Ltd, that aims to provide EV vehicles for staff transportation services to large corporates. We are planning to start with a fleet of 50 EV cars. Plus, our app has become more user-friendly now.

“Earlier we had a software professional who had developed the app for us. Now we have bought that company and outsourced the running of this company to another software company. This way they can keep developing our app adding, and deleting features as we need them and at a viable cost.”

Risk factor

While the picture is rosy, they have had to put some uncertainties like a collection of commission from drivers under control. Says Dinesh, “We have developed an e-wallet for all on-demand drivers this arrangement ensures that our commission is deducted from the driver’s wallet and credited to our account well before the customer trip starts. For example, a driver gets an demand trip assignment for four hours which will cost to customer 500. From this amount, our 20% commission ( 100) will be deducted from the driver’s before he starts the trip and he gets compensated with 500 on completion of the trip. Every time a driver wants a trip, he has to recharge his e-wallet.”

“For individuals who want to hire drivers on a monthly or permanent basis then we charge one month’s driver salary as our commission. In this service, we do an annual contract with the customer, where we provide replacement of the driver in case the owner wants to replace the driver or the driver leaves the job, background check, and police verification in addition to the training programme that is mandatory for such drivers.

“In corporate clients, we raise monthly bills including all statutory compliances and we charge 15% commission on a monthly bill,” he said.

Competition

Well, there is DrivU that caters to only on-demand customers. We cater to all categories of customers. Besides they have raised huge funding rounds and have had a revenue of around 80+ crore last year. We have been bootstrapped so far and are doing great!”

With their understanding of this business and a grip on several variables, looks like the 80 crore turnover will surely be a reality for these three musketeers!

Voices

Indian Drivers is one of the most professionally managed organisations that we have worked with. They not only understand the business needs but work very closely with our clients which makes it a win-win for all the stakeholders concerned. We recommend them highly.

Kuldeep Ghosh, CEO & Co-Founder of Cab-Eez Infra Tech Pvt Ltd

I have been availing monthly driver services from Indian Drivers for more than three years now, the best thing about them is they keep on sending you drivers until you are perfectly satisfied. Also, when one driver leaves, you get multiple options to choose a driver.

Parikshit Dhopadkar, customer permanent driver

I am a regular user of Indian Drivers. I’m grateful to my friend who recommended them. Their drivers are well mannered, and professional and more than that they are very punctual!

Jamadar, on-demand service

I have been associated with Indian Drivers for nine years now and am very satisfied. The company does not charge me anything to get the job whether it is a badali or permanent job. Even their staff is very helpful and always ready to solve our issues. I am proud and happy to be associated with Indian Drivers.

Sunny Salvi, driver

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