My best memories of holidays to Goa are zipping around on its coastal roads on an Activa with the wind in my hair. Of course I cannot ride a bike so this was the sheer, responsibility-free joy of a pillion rider! However, the ride is no less pleasurable for the riders themselves. Unfortunately, quite a few times tourists are unable to rent a bike or car and left at the mercy of hotels, who rent out these vehicles at exorbitant rates and cars with drivers. This dilutes the holiday cheer quite a bit.
ZipHop, a barely three-month old startup is disrupting this space by aggregating these local vehicle renters across popular tourist destinations in the country. Ankit Chaturvedi, one of the young co-founders of ZipHop spoke to NetworkedIndia’s Chrisanta Dias about the fun but challenging ride they have had thus far and the bright road ahead.
Chrisanta Dias: Share with us the genesis of ZipHop
Ankit Chaturvedi: It all started in the month of August when Apoorv Agarwal (another co-founder) who had recently come to Mumbai from Jalandhar for work tried with little success to get an auto from his home to his office. As he saw people whizzing past by him on bikes, it immediately dawned on him that wouldn’t it be great if there was a service that rented out two-wheelers to people who had come to work in a different city and were in a transferable job. It made perfect sense to hire a two-wheeler not just for office-goers but also for people planning weekend getaways.
He told me about it in of our many tea-sessions at work and I immediately liked the concept. I had actually tried it out in Thailand and found it rather convenient to explore a place at one’s own pace and choice. One thing led to another and within a couple of months, both of us were serving our notice period! But it was in those couple of months that the ZipHop team took shape. I contacted Sumit Hablani, my childhood friend and he was immediately glued to the idea. Parallelly, Apoorv got in touch with his childhood friend Dushyant Singh and the response was positive. The only missing link was a guy who could take care of the technology bit. That is where Sudhanshu Saxena (Sumit’s college friend) stepped in and voila!, we had a fairly rounded team (or in other words, 5 people who were now suddenly unemployed!). After talking to our respective families and with some bit of convincing, ZipHop was on.
CD: What value proposition does ZipHop offer holiday-makers who prefer to drive themselves around compared to hiring a car with a driver?
AC: The biggest advantage of self-drive is that you enjoy complete freedom and flexibility, it’s like you are driving your own vehicle. You are free to explore a place your way without the presence of a driver (not to forget it frees one more seat in the car). Also, it works out to be much more economical than a chauffeur driven cab. And all this taken together equates into a more fun-filled trip!
CD: Do users prefer brand (you offer Harleys, Enfields and Bullets alongside Pulsars and Vespas) over utility in creating a unique self-driving holiday experience?
AC: Not really. In a city like Bangalore, we get a lot of bookings for Activas. It depends on the use-case actually. If a person is going out of the city, they prefer Harleys and Bullets. On the other hand, if they have to commute within the city (for work etc.) they prefer the convenience of an ungeared vehicle.
CD: What has been the user response since you started? What are the challenges you have faced and how have they helped your company grow?
AC: The user response has been very encouraging thus far, the data below substantiates that:
In 80 days from our inception, we have hit the following milestones:
- We are in 7 places – Goa, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Cochin and Munnar
- We have more than 900 bikes and 120 cars listed on our platform (www.ziphop.in)
- More than 350 new visitors log on to our website daily
- We have had more than 300 bookings with more than 1100 booking days so far
- Our revenue has exceeded 6 lakh INR
- Week on week, we are growing by 20%
Quite clearly, there was a need for such kind of a service in the market that we have been able to tap into. The biggest challenge in our journey has been to organize this highly fragmented market and to track vehicle inventory and availability in real-time remotely for all our partners and update the same on our website.
We have been able to overcome this challenge by creating a partner app which enables us to display the current availability status of vehicles on our website without any manual intervention. Put simply, as soon as a walk-in customer picks a vehicle from the vendor’s shop, the vendor blocks that vehicle on the partner app and the same gets synced to our website instantly. Thus, if a vehicle is showing as available on the website, it is available, no questions asked.
CD: Do you lease the vehicles from owners? How is the risk of reckless drivers managed?
AC: No, we don’t lease their vehicles. We empower them with an online presence so that they can market their service to more people. As for the risk of reckless drivers, that is taken care of by the vendors themselves. You see, they are local experts who have been running their business for many years and hence know how best to resolve issues such as a customer returning with a damaged vehicle. In many cases, if the damage is small, they don’t charge the customer anything.
That being said, we are working on providing a trip insurance option for our customers so that even in case of any accident, the customer doesn’t have to pay anything extra with the trip insurance providing adequate cover.
CD: Tell us about your team. Was the idea for ZipHop a collaborative idea?
AC: For sure, it was a collective idea which got refined multiple times to its present form. The core team (Co-Founders) is introduced below:
Ankit Chaturvedi, 26 years is a MBA from FMS, Delhi University in Marketing and looks after business development and content strategy for ZipHop.
Dushyant Singh, 28 years, an MBA in Supply Chain Management from Symbiosis, Pune looks after business development and operations for ZipHop.
Sudhanshu Saxena, 26 years, is a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Guwahati and is head of technology for ZipHop.
Apoorv Agarwal, 28 years, has an MBA from IIM Calcutta and B. Tech from IIT BHU Varanasi, and takes care of marketing and finance at ZipHop.
Sumit Hablani, 26 years. With a B.Tech in Chemical Engineering from IIT Guwahati, Sumit looks after business development and design for ZipHop.
CD: Is there an app around the corner?
AC: Yes, it should be launched sometime this week.
CD: How do you see the future of self-driving tourism shaping up? Where do you see yourself in this future?
AC: I think self-drive industry is poised to grow from strength to strength in India. To give you an example, India has close to 5000 cars available for rent. On the other hand, USA has 20 million! That is the difference we are talking about. There is no reason to believe that self-drive industry in India can’t reach that mark.
At ZipHop, we want to be the largest online booking platform for self-drive vehicles in India and want to be the go-to option for people wanting to hire vehicles on rent. We are quietly confident that we will achieve our aim.
CD: How do you see the PM’s visionary startup initiatives assisting a growing startup environment?
AC: The biggest hurdles for startups in our country is the time it takes to set up a company (it can take anywhere between 30-45 days to start your own company), unavailability of capital early on and a total lack of clarity on taxes.
I believe our PM has taken solid steps to mitigate these problems through his Startup India Action Plan. The idea to roll out an app which would help a startup to set-up just by filling up a small form is commendable and would certainly help foster entrepreneurship by encouraging people to turn ideas into actions. Also, the tax break on profits given to startups for 3 years from inception can be a game-changer as it would give startups a huge fillip to grow at a time when they are most vulnerable. This truly is a visionary plan which brings the policy makers and startups very close to each other and virtually on the same page thus helping the latter to focus on growth and creating jobs.