Tech Startup Of The Month – HIPPO CABS
It all started when Sahil Agrawal got frustrated after waiting for a total of 90 minutes for the traffic to clear up and the bus to arrive, and he could not help but wonder why he didn’t just book a cab. Sahil had landed in Delhi from Germany, where he was pursuing Mechanical Engineering at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. While he was headed to Mumbai to meet his friends, he decided to take a detour and surprise his parents in Jaipur instead.
Assuming taking a Volvo bus would be the best option, Sahil planned his trip accordingly. However, after the entire ordeal of waiting, and then the bumpy ride, he decided to look at the problem more closely. After speaking to several people, Sahil realised that his predicament was a common one, as people were hesitant to opt for a cab because of the cost. That’s when he decided to start HippoCabs after creating a team in 2015 summer.
HippoCabs is an intercity shared cab service that was launched on the Delhi-Jaipur route last year. And Sahil Agrawal is one of the co-founders of HippoCabs. HippoCabs is a cab aggregator, and the company itself does not own any cabs. It pays the driver a fixed amount on per-trip basis and charges customers for their seat. With Ola and Uber becoming a part of the mix, people look for convenience of booking their cabs through an app. While, those companies focus on intracity travel, HippoCabs focuses on intercity rides.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT IN HIPPO CABS?
HippoCabs which was established in July 2015 is currently market leader in intercity one way cab services. Usually travel agents charge their customers for return journey even if they just want to travel from one city to another but HippoCabs is disrupting the market by providing cabs at one way fares. Currently HippoCabs is operational in cities like Jaipur, Delhi NCR, Ajmer, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai and Pune and very soon they would be adding many more cities in their network.
GROWTH AND CHALLENGES AND THE SUCCESS STORY
The company started working on this concept mid-June and launched its services on July 10. Till date, the team has had over 1,000 registered users and has served 120 paid customers with Rs 80,000 in gross revenue, all in last 18 days.
Within such a small time frame of one year, they have gained such huge popularity among their customers that 50% of their customer base is repeat customer base. This was possible only due high demand of one way cabs and quality services which they are offering to their customers by leveraging technology. Currently, they are completely bootstrapped and are doing 20 lakhs + in revenue on monthly basis with 40% MOM growth.
In next couple of months, the company plans on expanding to major cities like Agra, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Nasik, Shirdi, Chandigarh, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and also launch outstation cabs for their direct customers and for their B2B clients.
– Sahil Agrawal (Co-Founder, CEO): Sahil took off from college to work full on time his venture. Before this he was studying Mechanical Engineering from KIT, Germany (Germany’s leading college in Mechanical engineering) and has 4 years of experience of working with startups. Before starting HippoCabs, he has worked on various ventures of his own in US and Germany and has got very diverse experience. For HippoCabs he is taking care of Marketing, Growth, strategy, business development and product development.
– Sagar Agrawal (Co-Founder, COO): Sagar has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and dropped out of the Final year of Chartered Accountancy to work fulltime on his venture. Sagar also has 3 years of experience of working with startups and 1 year of experience in real estate development. For HippoCabs, he is taking care of complete operations, Financial and Legal matters.
EXHIBIT: Hello Sahil, HippoCabs is a great initiative, but is Indian crowd ready to shift from public transports like bus and trains to private cabs for intercity travels?
Sahil: Shift has already happened and is still happening. People want to travel more comfortably at economical price and since we are offering one way fares to our customers, it becomes highly economical for them. If there are 2-3 people then taking a cab makes more sense than taking a bus/ train as price turns out to be almost same and a bus/ train can’t beat the convenience of a cab.
EXHIBIT: HippoCabs kicked off in two weeks and that’s exceptional for a startup. What were your biggest challenges and how did you handle them?
SA: For every startup, biggest challenge is to get initial customers. To get our initial customers in our early days, we use to go to bus stand every day and talk to people over there waiting for their buses and tell them about our services and how our services are better and more convenient than bus/train.
EXHIBIT: What advantages does HippoCabs have over other carpooling companies?
SA: Carpooling is altogether a different concept. In carpooling, you do not know anything about the co passengers, driver, and vehicle. There are no background checks, no quality control and definitely no reliability. Whereas in our case, we take care of safety, security, reliability and quality of the service and since passenger is booking the complete cab, he/she doesn’t have to worry about the co-passengers.
EXHIBIT: Where do you see HippoCabs from five years since now?
SA: HippoCabs has got a completely different business model from other players. Apart from B2C side, we also have a B2B business model. Considering our strong hold in B2B side, we see HippoCabs as market leaders in outstation car rental services in India in the next 5 years.
EXHIBIT: What’s the longest route covered by HippoCabs as of now? When are you expanding it and what plans for upgrading more facilities?
SA: Delhi to Udaipur is the longest route covered by HippoCabs so far. Usually people do not prefer cab for distances of over 600kms and hence we keep our focus on smaller routes. Currently we are present in complete Rajasthan, Delhi NCR and parts of Maharashtra, very soon we would be expanding to parts of UP and Gujarat.
EXHIBIT: Do you remember who took the first ride via Hippocabs? And what was his route?
SA: Of course I do. So when we got started, we started as a shared cab service. It was only on Dec 15th when we decided to pivot to complete one way cabs. To validate our idea, we went to bus stand with a cab and were talking to people standing over there and asking them if they would to board a shared cab instead of a bus and group of 4 said they would prefer a cab over bus and became our first customers and then 2 more people joined and our cab was full and we were successfully able to validate our idea.
EXHIBIT: HippoCabs success story can be summed up as.
SA: A journey full of ups and downs, highs and lows. A journey full of hard work, dedication and sleepless nights. A journey full of errors and mistakes. A journey full of learning. A journey which has just started.