The last couple of years have seen a surge of on-demand services. Food, ecommerce, delivery of goods, transportation, and services, almost every activity has taken the on-demand route. So why not make drivers and chauffeur available on demand?
Computer science engineers Rajarshi Nag (22) and Paramarthe Saha (23) gave up on their campus placements to take the entrepreneurial plunge and solve the problem of on-demand professional driver service. Drivers4Me was incorporated to address the need for reliable, professional and standard on-demand drivers.
The Kolkata-based startup was founded in December 2018 and is recognised by Startup India (DPIIT) and Startup Bengal.
On-demand driver services
“Transport systems have become an indispensable facet of our lives, so much so that efficiency and reliability are a must-have combination in such systems,” Rajarshi tells YourStory.
This led him and Paramarthe to explore the existing system of car driver hiring. On interacting with local driver centres in Kolkata, the founders realised that the system was flawed in terms of reliability and professionalism, and did not have a standard pricing model.
“The driver centres were not big on customer experience, could not be scaled and made little or no use of common-place technology – smartphones and the internet,” Rajarshi says.
Booking a driver with local centres was a tedious task – one had to make several phone calls before confirming a booking and to get the best deals.
The founders decided to bet on cheap internet data and increasing smartphone usage to digitise on-demand driver services. Rajarshi and Paramarthe flagged off their venture in South Kolkata, where the head office is located. The proof of concept began in mid-2017. By the end of 2018, it had launched its B2B services and crossed 5,000 trips.
Co-founder and CEO Rajarshi leads Business and Marketing, while Paramartha, the COO, is responsible for app design and operations. The founding team also includes Prachator Mitra (23), Ronit Ray (25), and Rajarshi Basu (23). Their college friend Hillol Barman was a former founding member. Besides this, the team has another nine key employees.
How does it work?
Drivers4Me offers both B2B and B2C solutions. Individuals or businesses that own a car, can request for the services of a driver either through the startup’s mobile app or website. Once the booking is raised, the closest and most suitable drivers are matched with the trip, and the user is notified of the allotment.
After the driver arrives at the user’s address, the trip begins. Throughout, the user has access to the driver’s vital information, and they can track in real-time. Once the trip ends, payments can be made in cash or through auto-deduction from the startup’s online wallet system – D4M Credits.
The startup uses technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to make the process more efficient.
Drivers4Me has a pool of more than 900 full-time and part-time drivers. “All the drivers go through rigorous background verifications before being listed on the platform,” Rajarshi says.
The startup also provides insurance and feedback to its driver-partners. Drivers4Me has tied up with insurance company Acko for the customer, driver, and car accident/ damage coverage.
It extends its services to provide package-based bookings for regular trips, monthly trips and service contracts for business clients.
“In the B2B space, we provide a web-based panel that allows affiliates to track and maintain data for all trips, including documents and pictures of cars. For business customers, we take responsibility for all of the logistics, which simplifies the process at their end,” Rajarshi explains.
Dynamic revenue model
Drivers4Me targets individual customers with cars, car rental services, hotels, and corporates.
It claims that its pricing model is competitive with offline solutions. “We employ AI and ML models to generate dynamic fare rates for our trips, making our pricing very reasonable without compromising on either party,” Rajarshi explains.
For B2C clients, Drivers4Me charges a dynamically calculated fee. A typical four-hour trip within the city can cost around Rs 250. A one-day outstation trip is priced roughly at Rs. 1,200. The customer can view the exact estimate before booking the trip.
For B2B, trips are charged either on an hourly, trip, or monthly basis. Typically, there are extra charges for night or outstation trips. “We deliver cars to different cities, which are charged on a per-trip basis,” Rajarshi explains.
On the drivers’ front, the startup charges a portion of the B2C trip fare as commission from the part-time drivers. Full-time drivers are usually engaged in B2B trips and receive a fixed monthly salary, besides other allowances. For B2B trips, the delta between the mean amount paid to the driver and the actual earnings for the startup is around 30 percent.
Focusing initially in Kolkata, Drivers4Me provides services to a couple of B2B clients in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad as well.
Its first B2B client was Cars24. Gradually, Drivers4Me extended its services to bigger players including Zoomcar, Revv, ITC, JW Marriott, Orix, and SBI, among others. It now has over 20,000 customers.
“We have completed 80,000 trips so far and our app has been downloaded more than 25,000 times,” Rajarshi says.
Keeping seasonal variations aside, the startup’s revenue doubles every quarter. Its current annual run rate (ARR) is Rs 2.5 crore. Drivers4Me generated profits (EBIDTA) of Rs 6.2 lakh in FY20. The startup is targeting Rs 8.23 crore next year, and Rs 204 crore by FY23.
Bootstrapped with Rs 1.5 lakh, Drivers4Me plans to raise its pre-Series A round of investment in FY22.
On-demand service market
Drivers4Me’s use case scales as the automobile and transportation industry grows. “Our market comprises over 3.6 crore registered motor vehicles across India, with 16 percent of the volume concentrated in 12 key cities (according to Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, as on 2016-17),” says Rajarshi.
The startup directly competes with DriveU, traditional offline driver centres, cab-services such as Ola and Uber, and other players such as Saaarthi, WhistleDrive, and Hire4Drive.
However, Rajarshi believes that Drivers4Me has a USP. “We provide verified, trained professional drivers through an intuitive easy-to-use app or web-based platform with real-time tracking at reasonable rates,” he says.
Drivers4Me expects its business to grow rapidly in the next five to 10 years. Given the growth, it is expecting to add around 5,000 drivers by the end of next year.
Going ahead, Drivers4Me aims to establish B2C services in Delhi. Eventually, the startup plans to become a one-stop app solution for all transportation and car-related problems.
“We have also thought of integrating more services into our app such as shuttle, carpooling, cab service, car servicing, car documents management, among others,” Rajarshi quips.