Indian cab, rental firms set luxury in motion

Written by Anirudh Vohra | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 31 2014, 06:36am hrs
CabSan Francisco-based luxury cab service provider was rocked by a series of complaints from Indian operators.
WHEN Uber launched its luxury cab services in India last year, everyone from the consumers to the car rental companies took note. With a reliable, technology-driven transportation service that had the monetary backing of Google, among others, it was seen as an idea whose time has come.

Soon, however, the San Francisco-based company was rocked by a series of complaints from Indian operators, who said Uber was storing card details in its server and deducting fares without the two-step authentication. These complaints were followed by an RBI diktat on cashless transactions.

That niggling noise notwithstanding, some Indian operators are now taking a leaf straight out of Ubers book. Looking at the phenomenal response to the luxury cab service business, Indian companies are scaling up their fleets to give customers a taste of luxury.

Carzonrent recently acquired 120 Mercedes Benz C-class sedans to add to its existing fleet of luxury cars. The acquisition, as per MD & CEO Rajiv Vij, was to keep up with the current times as the demand for high-end cabs had increased significantly over the last few years.

With its roots in 39 cities across the country, Carzonrent has a fleet size of 800 cars in the luxury segment and plans to further increase it by spending R100 crore for it (of this, R40 crore was spent on the recent acquisition of the Mercedes Benz C-class sedans).

Being a thoroughly customer-focused brand and the leader in the segment, we want to continue our growth momentum and create an unsurpassable luxury experience for our exclusive clients, explains Vij.

Taxi aggregator Olacabs, too, is said to launch its premium business-car service in a couple of cities this year, in a bid to capture the rising demand for luxury in Indias market for car-rental services. We have a fleet of 15,000 cars and have recently been experimenting with the luxury car segment in Mumbai and Delhi. The response has convinced us that the luxury segment holds equal potential, thus we are planning to increase the aggregation of such high-end cars. Unlike other cab companies, we dont buy cars, said Anand Subramanian, the corporate communication head of Olacabs.

Gaurav Aggarwal, founder & CEO of Savaari Car Rentals, adds: Our business model is different as we do not own cars and operate only as aggregator, but we have been witnessing a growing demand for luxury cars, be it for corporate purposes, leisure travel or for weddings. As the demand increases, our vendors identify the same and increase the fleet size.

With a presence in 60 cities, Bangalore-based Savaari currently operates in all the three segments luxury, mid-range and economy.

Currently, the Indian taxi market is valued to be between R34,000 crore and R54,000 crore and several companies like TaxiForSure, EasyCabs, Meru and Olacabs have raised further capital to cater to this massive and growing market.

Uber, the trend setter in the space, has recently launched services in Jaipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Kolkata and will be completing a year in India. In order to celebrate the stint, it has slashed prices in Bangalore, where it started its services in India, by as much as 25%.