Electrification of vehicles is a step-by-step process that could happen segment-by-segment. Cab fleets have a great potential to employ all-electric cars as the passenger can contribute to lowering carbon emissions without dealing with range anxiety, along with the driver-partner who also benefits from a low-cost of running. There are, however, certain challenges that a 100 percent electric cab faces today, including lack of charging infrastructure. We got in touch with Anmol Singh Jaggi, co-founder, Blu Smart Mobility to learn more about overcoming these concerns and what can we expect from the Indian electric vehicle market in the near future.
Brief background on BluSmart. What does BluSmart’s electric mobility ecosystem include?
BluSmart is India’s first all-electric shared mobility platform to provide a responsible mobility solution to the people. It was started in October 2018 by Anmol Singh Jaggi and Punit K Goyal. The firm operates a fleet of 320+ electric cars in Delhi NCR and Mumbai. The company ensures no denial and no surge pricing for the rider. So far BluSmart has completed 1,75,000 all-electric trips and has covered 4.75 million clean km since launch. The company aims to provide reliable, affordable, and sustainable mobility to consumers and improve the quality of life in megacities of India.
BluSmart has been funded by Survam Partners (Suman Kant Munjal family office), Kalpavriksh Fund, Mayfield VC, Sanjiv Bajaj (Bajaj Capital), Deepika Padukone’s Family Office, Rajesh Agarwal (Micromax), Rajat Gupta (Ex Global MD, McKinsey), JITO Angels and Rohit Chanana (Sarcha Advisors).
Which vehicles make up the fleet currently? Are there any new collaborations, tie-ups or investments coming up?
The current BluSmart fleet consists of 320+ all-electric cars ranging from the e-Verito of Mahindra Electric, e-Tigor of Tata Motors and Kona of Hyundai Motors. BluSmart has tied up with EESL (Govt. of India enterprise) and other businesses for the leasing of cars and electric car chargers. The company has previously raised $3M in its seed round and in talks for pre-series A round of investment.
What are the challenges of having a 100% electric cab fleet? How does BluSmart overcome them?
The current challenge of operating an all-electric fleet is that there is not enough charging infrastructure in the country and especially the cities we operate, so we are having to set up charging hubs to suffice our own requirements.
To ensure this constraint does not result in any cars-running-out-of-charge, we have built an in-house driver and rider matching algorithm which plays a very critical role. This technology helps us balance the supply and demand very intricately by taking parameters like the state of charge of the battery, distance to the nearest charging station etc. into consideration.
We are also keeping enough spare capacity in our charging infrastructure to cater to others, as and when needed. With this 50% spare capacity, we will soon be dispensing electric fuel for other EV fleets and users, very similar to how petrol stations operate.
Considering that the automotive industry has been slowed down further by the pandemic, do you expect a steeper slump upcoming in electric mobility? Or will the coming months see a positive trend for electric vehicle adaptation?
We have seen a greater focus on cleaner and more hygienic environment due to the pandemic. Everyone is more aware of personal hygiene and sanitization now and it is bound to become a habit, for the good. People are also becoming aware of the environment and reducing the overall carbon footprint more than ever. We have already seen a sudden surge of EV launches by almost every car manufacturer in the country. So, we believe that the coming times are going to be positive and propelling for EVs. We also believe that in about 4-6 quarters, the prices of EVs will also start to become comparable to Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) i.e. petrol and diesel vehicles, post which there will be exponential growth in the EV market.
Did BluSmart operate during the lockdown period? Were there services available for frontline workers? What were the challenges?
BluSmart operations stayed suspended for regular ride-sharing from 24th March until 13th May, during the lockdown. During this time, we focused on serving a very specific audience and use cases and played our role in helping the ones in need. One such constituency was the US embassy, which wanted to have a few of their people moved to the airport in the safest possible fashion and we ensured BluSmart catered to them.
With unlock 1, we resumed our services from 14th May with a special offer for our COVID warriors i.e. doctors, healthcare workers, power sector people, banking sector employees, and others as a gesture of gratitude and helping them to commute better and safer.
How does opting for BluSmart over other mobility services improve the experience for the customer?
BluSmart provides many advantages to its customers as well as the environment, over other mobility services. Firstly, we have ‘No-Surge Pricing’, prior scheduling, zero cancellation and on-time arrivals to provide a better consumer experience. Secondly, we are an asset-light model, thus it does not require the driver to worry about the initial investments, interest rates and depreciation. By not having to own the cars, there is no financial burden on the drivers, which helps keep them relaxed and thus happier. We also guarantee them a minimum income to reduce risks of underpayment. The driver is not affected by factors like a short trip or long trip or mode of payment like cash or digital payment. This increases the driver stickiness with BluSmart as well.
Thirdly, our Zero Emission vehicles contribute to improving the air quality of Delhi NCR, which has an alarmingly high Air Quality Index (AQI). Also, in the new pandemic COVID impacted the world, BluSmart is ensuring a heightened focus on sanitization and hygiene, which we believe is our responsibility as a mobility player to help bring consumer trust back.
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Does BluSmart plan to expand its business to more cities in the near future?
BluSmart is focused on the Delhi NCR market, with the current focus on Gurgaon micro-market up till the Delhi International Airport. We plan to expand to the entire Delhi NCR over the course of 2020 and 2021. Our second market of focus is Mumbai, where we have started piloting with 26 cars and intend to go deep from 2021 onwards.
How can BluSmart help in educating and spreading awareness about the benefits and ease of using electric mobility?
Responsible Mobility is the DNA of BluSmart platform, and every action ensures responsibility towards people (riders and drivers) and the planet (environment). We take pride in the fact that 1+ lac people have utilized an EV via BluSmart in India. We believe that is the first step towards helping people understand the significance of EV commute by having them touch and feel an EV in real-world circumstances. We have also partnered with EESL (Govt. of India enterprise) to help bring Electric vehicles to the masses by ensuring a service which a common man can book and contribute to the environment by reducing 65gms of CO2 for every KM that they ride in a BluSmart electric vehicle.
We have also in the past, conducted workshops at our charging hubs for our customers to showcase EV charging operations and help answer their queries around electric cars and mobility. We also plan to conduct sessions in the schools (once they reopen) for the kids to bring them closer to EV technology and give these kids science projects to help them also become responsible towards the environment.