Conversation With Sunil Chaula (Founder, CEO) And Nilesh Pawaskar (Co-founder, CMO), Wiwigo
We offer one-way drop or pickup service at half or even lower prices than others.
Founded in 2014, Wiwigo was started by Sunil Chaula and later joined by Nilesh Pawaskar. The online platform facilitates one-way and round-trip cabs for inter-city travel. Wiwigo is playing an important role in bringing down fares of such services and providing easy travel options to the users. Currently, local cab services levy a round-trip charge on its one-way customers saying they don’t get a return fare. Here comes Wiwigo that automatically finds a fare for both sides via its online platform, so that the customer doesn’t unnecessarily pay the fare for both ways.
Startup Buzz Media recently had a chat with Sunil Chaula (Founder, CEO) and Nilesh Pawaskar (Co-founder, CMO). Here is what they had to say.
Today, Wiwigo is operating in 40+ cities. But take us through the initial days of your struggle and difficulties.
When we started talking about Wiwigo with taxi vendors, we noticed the vendors were not very technology savvy. Secondly, the issue was of reliability. The vendors were not used to hold to their words. They would promise something, that ok we’ll do this, but at the last moment, they would cancel the duties. And from the customer side also, it was an online platform. They always had the question: whether they should book it, and if they do book it, would it be worth their money or not. Those were the initial challenges. But we were very quick to overcome these challenges. Soon we started to see bookings coming through. In the initial 6 months, we could collect 20% as advance and we actually were very happy to see people put in their credit card details and doing the transaction. Soon we started to gain trust from the vendor side as well. By October 2015 we were present in around 20 cities. By December we were present in around 40 cities. And now we have the presence in more than 40 cities.
Tell us about Wiwigo’s USP; it’s affordable pricing.
The main driver of our business is the one-way cab. So what we do is we sell the one-way drop or pickup at half or even lower prices. For example, if someone is going from Delhi to Chandigarh, any other vendor would charge him a two-way fare stating that getting a fare back from Chandigarh is difficult; just like the auto drivers tell you. So a customer would end up paying for a round-trip even if he is actually going one-way. On an average that comes to around Rs.7000/-. Whereas with us, Wiwigo offers taxi from Delhi to Chandigarh at only Rs.2300. We don’t charge the two-way trip fare for one-way trips.
That’s great. So what are the payment options one can use on Wiwigo?
The customer can choose to pay to the driver at the end of the journey or could even choose to pay 20% as advance or even full. Corporate Clients prefer to pay in full as advance. People can pay using both credit and debit cards as well.
You have even included Rolls Royce to your taxi fleet which seems like a very attractive option. How did it happen?
We met one vendor who had this beautiful Rolls-Royce but the asset utilization was the problem for him. Like once in a blue moon, they would get paid bookings for Rolls-Royce. So we requested them whether we can get the details of their car and put it on our platform. And they were quite happy with the idea. We did put their cab on our platform and that is how it all began.
So how many other such high-end cars do you have in your fleet right now?
So we have a couple of Rolls-Royce. Apart from this, we are seeing demand for other high-end cars like BMW E-Series, Honda A 6, Mercedes, and Fortuner. Apart from them, we have a lower category like Honda City and Corolla as well. But the masses actually look for cars like Tata Indigo, Swift Desire, Toyota Dios, and on the SUV side, people ask more for Innova and Xylo. Those are the main categories of vehicles that we provide. But we have other wide range of vehicles to choose from as well.
You provide series of services like car selection, car tracking, journey alerts among other features on your website. How do you manage such a large operations? Are you using some kind of Artificial Intelligence or machine learning to facilitate such processes?
For the vehicle tracking, asset tracking, fleet management, we utilize GPS monitoring. As far as machine learning is concerned, we are developing algorithms. Machine learning is basically for traffic management and for the pricing part.
Ola has recently launched a similar inter-city service for their customers. Then there’s Meru as well. So how does Wiwigo handle such competition and what leverage do have over all these competitors?
There is no competition as such because Ola and Meru charge around rate like the corner shop. And we are the differentiator with one-way services.
There have been some recent debates regarding the calculation of fares based on GPS v/s traditional taxi meter. Both measures distance a bit differently. Some believe that by using GPS to calculate distance, taxi aggregators are violating the Motor Vehicles Act. What are your thoughts on this?
GPS, I believe, is far more convenient and trustworthy to our customers than the auto-meter reading. GPS can accurately show the exact distance covered. There is no scope of tampering with it. Also, using GPS is much safer for our customers as they can track their route and ETA.
One more point is that Ola and Uber and other such services keep facing a lot of resistance from the local auto vendors. Do you also face such issues from inter-city independent taxi-services?
Not exactly! In our case, we are helping our vendors in asset utilization. For example, a vendor was able to use vehicles around 60%. But when they started to work with us, their asset utilization went high up till 90%. So we are actually benefiting and bringing profits to our vendor partners. So far, they are quite happy with our service and we continue to get more and more vendors willing to work with us.
Sunil, you actually started Wiwigo with a very small amount of seed capital; it was somewhere around 5 lakhs. By 2016 you have raised funds to the tune of 4 crores. How did you attract the investors?
Initially, obviously, it was very important for us to choose the concept. We were working on it. We were good to pull in Nilesh who is a long term friend of me. We both started scaling the business. And as it scaled, we started getting enquiries from investors and thus saw a lot of inbound interest from them. Then we shortlisted some and finally raised funds of 4 crores.
What kind of experience has it all been?
Obviously, it has been a very rocky and roller coaster ride. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs. But in summary, what I will say is, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.
What are your future plans after this 2016 round-up investment?
If we see the future of Wiwigo in next 6 months, right now we are having around 5000 bookings per month. In the next 4-6 months’ time, we see this number going up to 10,000 rides per month. At the same time, we’re going to expand into other geographies also. Probably, in two years time, we would be looking at international expansion, targeting the taxi markets which are similar in nature in South-east Asia, Middle-east, Africa and Latin American countries.
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