SmartMumbaikar is revamping its website to let users in Mumbai share cars, auto, bikes or any other ride if they are headed in the same direction. To find a ride, all one has to do is give a missed call to a number, following which, all details regarding co-passengers will be sent as an SMS to the user.
The service is targeting those who commute to work and back. Due to this approach, those interested will need to fill in their home and office locations while signing up. SmartMumbaikar founder Raxit Sheth says that the service will go live only after Diwali, by when they are hoping to get enough people to register. They don’t have any plans to launch a mobile app as of now and are focused on missed call triggered service.
This is interesting because most vehicle sharing startups in India currently focus only on carpooling until now, but this new approach gives those who commute by auto or taxi also, an option to share rides and save money. Sheth says that they started working on the concept after the auto fares in Mumbai were hiked recently.
Monetization: Unlike the earlier version which was free, users will now have to pay a monthly fee of Rs 400 to use the service, which according to Sheth, is small compared to the amount people will save by sharing rides. What’s worth noting here is that all payments between users happen offline and the site does not get any share of it.
Sheth said when they launched SmartMumbaikar launched last year, their main goal was to reduce anonymity and increase trust among those sharing ride. To this end, the company had used Facebook Connect to show relevant details like common friends between those sharing a ride, to increase their trust. With the new version however, they are going with an email-based verification system.
Users will not be able to sign up for the service without an official email id, i.e. one cannot register with a Gmail or Yahoo email address. If the user signs up with an email address that’s associated with a personal domain, SmartMumbaikar will verify the domain before allowing the user to start using the service.
While a good feature, we feel this user restriction will drastically reduces the number of users who can use the service. Not many common people have an official id and many of those who do rarely use it. So, on one hand SmartMumbaikar is trying to make it easy to get a ride, but manages to alienate a lot of potential customers with email verification.
We feel the company also probably re-introduce the Facebook login mechanism for users who are interested in using the service but don’t have an official address. Alternatively, they could also roll out an invite system, which allows existing users to invite their friends who don’t have an official address but are interested to use the service.