Electric, connected, and dynamic will be the way forward for intercity bus travel space — Prashant Kumar, zingbus

Speaking to Prashant Kumar, the CEO and Co-Founder, Zingbus, we understand more about the intercity bus travel space, which direction the industry is headed, discuss the recent funds raised by the company, and Zingbus’ plans for India.

prashant kumar, ceo, zingbus

Intercity bus travel is a major business, and in recent times, there have been several companies trying to become the leaders with the help of technology. One such company looking to be at the helm of intercity bus travel is zingbus, headquartered in Gurugram and founded in 2019. zingbus was Co-founded by IIT Kharagpur graduates Prashant Kumar and Mratunjay, and GGV alumni, Ravi Kumar Verma.

In recent times, there were several developments with the company, one of them being raising ₹44.6 crores from Infoedge ventures and marquee groups of Silicon Valley investors. zingbus also secured an undisclosed pre-Series A investment from Venture Catalysts, Titan Capital, AdvantEdge founders, and Arora Ventures, and has expanded operations in West India, Maharashtra, Gujarat and briefly connecting parts of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. To get a better understanding of intercity bus travel, its future, and the company’s aim, Express Mobility spoke to Prashant Kumar, the CEO and Co-Founder, zingbus.

Can you tell us more about zingbus and how the business operates?

zingbus aspires to provide access to safe, reliable and affordable travel to everyone. With the mission of building India’s most trusted brand in intercity travel, we are aggregating a fleet of smart buses delivering standardized travel experiences at an affordable price. Since its inception, the platform has facilitated 1 Mn+ journeys and covered more than 300Mn travel miles. Through our unique route designs and dynamic pricing algorithms, we increase the utilization and cater to more travelers per bus. We believe that the right to affordable and dignified travel is fundamental to human existence and social development. We, at zingbus, are determined to build a loved and trusted mobility brand.

How is zingbus different compared to competitors?

zingbus has built tools for audits, boarding and demand management. With comprehensive trip designs, hub and spoke models, zingbus model offers a much higher number of connections with a smaller number of fleets. As this network expands, the customer gets varied options and flexibility which in turn drives direct sales and builds a strong differentiator for an operator looking for a wider network and connections. 

What will be the role of EVs in the intercity bus travel space in the coming years?

The role of EVs is very bright, especially in the bus segment. Not only the zero-emission mobility solution provides an eco-friendly manner to commute for travelers but it furthermore reduces and cuts down the noise pollution which arise due to loud noise of the vehicles in service. The government, along with other bodies will be supporting EV segments for buses in order to have a safer and better travel experience in near future. EV’s contribution brings a huge scope in the intercity bus services providing the zero-emission mobility solution helping us to ebb away from the crisis of rising fuel prices. 

How did the pandemic affect zingbus?

The pandemic has had its impact across various industries including the travel industry. Pandemic came across to be like a black swan event for the entire intercity bus industry. The whole situation not only put the unorganized, highly fragmented, and mainly unbranded market out of order, but also it further led to higher demands from customers. The pandemic has pushed customers’ expectations of hygiene and safety to the next level. 

Contactless, hassle-free boarding process, amongst other technology tools, helped us to stay afloat and it is there to stay in the long run. Furthermore, by building tools for audits, boarding, and demand management, we were able to help the struggling traditional fleet owners to cope up with the operational challenges with minimum manpower investment in a post lockdown world. This strategy towards standardization and increasing digital reach proved to be favorable as it permitted us to witness almost expected growth of 20% month over month since we started our services post-pandemic.

What is the future of intercity bus travel space?

The future of intercity bus travel looks promising. Electric, connected and dynamic will be the way forward for space. Keeping the same in mind, startups and aggregators will be adapting more customer friendly and technology driven approaches thereby assuring that travelers get safe, reliable and an affordable journey. The coming few years will witness a heavy consolidation of demand and supply in the industry. This phenomenon is becoming a hit across the globe and India being the biggest market for buses, won’t be left behind.

zingbus received ₹44.6 crores funding in 2021, what will this be used for?

The funds raised are being utilized to build and develop robust technology that will further aid in the next leap of improvement in traveler experience and thereby expand the service to new geographies. In addition to this, zingbus also plans to invest in hiring talent across fields such as engineering, product, business, and operations. Recently, zingbus launched India’s biggest ever lounge for travelers in Manali and another in Ahmedabad!

What technologies does zingbus use for travelers/employees/safety?

 To design the network of routes dynamically and intelligently and generate useful customer insights, we are investing heavily in creating data platforms that will help us in the future. Furthermore, feedback closure technology tools are enabling us to convert customer reviews into solid actionable on per trip, per seat basis to become the highest rated bus service across all OTA platforms. Our repeat numbers are increasing and are more than 50% which is highly unusual for this industry. 

We are using machine learning and predictive algorithms to ensure maximum yield for our operator partners while remaining affordable for our travelers. The engine optimizes for seat miles being sold per bus per day which then showcases a major jump in earnings per week for a bus as a unit. For example, during the farmer protests, we witnessed a heavy down-surge in demand and in such a scenario; we extensively used our inventory management module to assure that most of our bus fleet was active. 

“Safety” while traveling was a huge concern post-pandemic. We arranged multiple tool kits for the bus crew which made sure that every trip was sanitized and all safety protocols were followed to the end every time. Apart from delivering advanced travel experience and increasing the yield of buses, technology tools proved to be very helpful to the fleet operators for running the buses with maximum transparency and minimum overheads. 

What is your presence in India?

Connecting more than 250+ cities and towns across the country, zingbus operates across the states of Delhi (UT), Punjab, Haryana, Jammu (UT), HP, UP, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat through hundreds of daily connections.

What are your plans going forward in terms of business, expansion, and funding?

We are looking forward to building seamless technology while promoting safety and affordability of services, primarily. Also, we will be creating sustainable mobility infrastructure at a different level. Currently, we are running projects that would make bus travel more exciting and attractive for customers with the help of door-to-door connections, value-added services among others. Apart from this, we are aiming to deploy more than 250 buses towards the end first quarter of 2022 and 1000+ buses by the end of this year.

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