India is a growing market in the automobile sector and is laying the foundation to many startups. One interesting concept that is taking shape is car rentals and self-drive, which for now is a very competitive market since people prefer renting cars and driving it themselves.
When more people want to rent cars and drive, it encourages a business opportunity, which in turn leads to new companies entering the market and competition. One such new company is Voler, a Delhi-based self-drive car rental company that has high ambitions.
We got a chance to speak with Vikas Parasrampuria, CEO, Voler Cars, and this is what he had to say to a few questions.
What gave you the idea of starting a self-drive car business?
India is a very big market for self-drive car rentals, and people are increasingly adapting to the western culture. Also, India is a place where people have a high disposable income, and many want to drive luxury cars, which makes starting a self-drive car rental business a good idea.
Why do you think self-drive cars will work when more people preferred to be chauffeur driven, especially in big cities?
It would seem like many are preferring to be chauffeur driven, but people in the age group between 18 to 40 prefer driving cars themselves, which Voler mainly targets. Places like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore have people who are keen to drive in spite of the growing traffic.
Who are your potential customers?
As mentioned before, people in the age group of 18 to 40 who hold a valid driver's licence (Indian or international) are potential customers. Also, customers with credit or debit cards are preferred.
What are some of the major risks involved with renting out self-drive cars?
As it is with any business, self-drive car rentals to have a few drawbacks. One major factor is the customer is liable only for the security deposit, which is much lower than the value of the car. Chances are there for customers to drive the car in an arrogant manner leading to damage and accidents. There is also always a risk of theft or damage, even if the cars are insured.
So what would you do to avoid or such a situation?
To minimize these risks, Voler has a sophisticated vehicle technology called the 'Black Box technology', which is at par with the international standards. The Black Box technology tracks and records in real time the car's speed, location, and several other important parameters, and is also capable of reading a customer's driving style, in turn helping Voler rate customers.
What if a customer has a fake licence, or the licence is not valid?
We at Voler have a team that verifies the legitimacy of a customer's driving licence with the help of authorities, and also, we have a Know Your Customer (KYC) database that will further help us.
What are the challenges faced by the company with local authorities while setting up the company?
Since the self-drive car rental space is relatively new in India, a few regulatory challenges were faced while setting up the company. The licensing requirement is very complicated which needs to be revamped.
Which city in India is the biggest market for self-driving cars according to you?
Delhi, where Voler is based out of is the biggest market for self-driving cars, but that does not rule out other potential markets, which are Agra, Jaipur, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Leh-Ladakh.
How many cities are you looking to expand over the coming years and by when?
Voler has recently launched its self-drive operations in Delhi. The company is expanding rapidly and is looking at a Pan-India expansion in major metropolitan cities within the next six months.
What is Voler's USP compared to other self-drive car rentals?
To start with, Voler is the first car rental enterprise to provide doorstep pickup and drop service. Apart from that, other unique features that set Voler apart from other companies are:
- All Voler cars are brand new and serviced from time to time
- Voler cars have no branding on them
- 24/7 professional roadside assistance
- Customer only pays for what he uses
- Black Box vehicle technology
- Highly competitive pricing
How would you deal with a driver/ customer who has no experience; for example, a person who is driving an automatic car for the first time?
For first time users, who are still unaware of how automatics work, Voler ensures they call the customers and guide them with the car controls and the related processes.