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French ride-sharing service BlaBlaCar looks to enter India

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French ride-sharing startup BlaBlaCar which raised $100 million investment from Index Ventures & others last week, is looking to enter the Indian market.

BlaBlaCar founder Nicolas Brusson has told in an interview to The New York Times that they plan to use the investment to expand to emerging markets like India, Brazil and Turkey where the “transport infrastructure is poor”. This is besides expanding its existing operations in 12 European countries.

Interestingly, Brusson had told The Economic Times that he believes that these countries could eventually become bigger markets for them than Western Europe, where BlaBlaCar debuted.

BlaBlaCar, which is run by the Paris-based company ComutoSA, allows travellers to find drivers who are heading to the same destination, and then connects them via mobile phone or email in order to arrange a shared ride. Through this, drivers gets a chance to offset the trip cost, while users pay lesser for the ride, in comparison to what they would’ve paid for public transportation.

It’s worth noting that while there are several players in the online cab booking services like the San Francisco-based Uber, TaxiForSure and Olacabs in the country, there aren’t much players who focus on ride-sharing segment in the country.  There is only GSF-backed RidingO and SmartMumbaikar among others who currently offer such services.

While Uber does offer ride sharing in select markets, the service is not available in India. It will be interesting to see whether Uber also now rolls out ride-sharing in the country. Last month, it had rolled out its affordable cab service Uber X in India.

Trust Factor? The biggest challenge that BlaBlaCar will probably face in the country will be gaining the trust factor of consumers, so that they feel comfortable enough to hitch a ride with a stranger and there are enough security precautions in place to avoid any untoward incidents. Note that the ride sharing model works out only when there are significant participants on the service.

That being said, BlaBlaCar seems to have some sort of experience with this issue. Despite the geopolitical tensions in Russia, the company claims to have a member base of 250,000 in less than 6 months.

Long-distance ride sharing? BlaBlaCar currently focuses on long-distance ride sharing in the European markets. We are however a bit skeptical whether this model would work in India, since there aren’t many people who travel between cities in their cars on a regular basis in India, unlike in European countries.

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