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Planning to Go Beyond Delhi, NCR in 2018: Shuttl

Shuttl has close to 450 buses on our platform, which are doing close to 20,000 rides a day at 70+ routes in Delhi, NCR.

Shuttl, India’s largest bus-aggregating platform, aims to make daily commute more convenient for urban intra-city travellers across the country. On the sidelines of rolling out S.A.F.E.’ (Secure Anxiety Free Experience) project, Amit Singh and Deepanshu Malviya tells BW Businessworld that the company is planning to go beyond Delhi, NCR by next year.

Please run me through the genesis of the company.

Amit Singh: I am a civil engineer and was in the transportation space for a very long time. Although the commute problem is usually tackled by building wider roads and new flyovers (by the government), the traffic condition somewhat doesn’t improve. The answer is not in (building) bigger roads but in moving demand away from cars. It is that underlying thought that has driven us to float ‘Shuttl’ in 2015.

What was the rationale behind rolling out ‘S.A.F.E’ initiative in your existing fleet of vehicles?

Deepanshu Malviya: Imagine that you are travelling with a stranger in an unknown place and you don’t know where the vehicle will take you. That is the scariest thought that can come to you. That is the concern we are trying to address by authenticating every passenger through tracking and other means. For example, if a CCTV is installed (in the bus), the passengers will be very careful of their actions. The essence of whatever we are trying to build is exactly that and is in the form authentication and face recognition.

Would you be open to license this technology to other bus operators in the future?

DM: Yes, we are open to it. Currently, this concept is at a prototype stage and we have to work a lot on it to make it more robust. But anything which increases its adoption, we are more than open to try it out.

Will this new technology make your ticket rates a bit pricier or will you be absorbing the additional costs involved?

DM: No, the rates will not be hiked. The costs incurred are mostly on software development which is very negligible. If I don’t count the TV installed, the device cost is Rs. 5,000-6,000 (per vehicle) which is equivalent to the cost of a mobile phone.

How many buses are there on your platform and how many trips are you doing on a daily basis? How do you plan to ramp up that count to move beyond Delhi and NCR?

DM: We have close to 450 buses on our platform, which are doing close to 20,000 rides a day at 70+ routes in Delhi, NCR. Since commencing operations in 2015, we have done one million rides until now. Rather than increasing the rides or routes, we are more interested in streamlining the whole process of staff transportation.

AJ: The number of routes and rides are purely demand driven and is totally market driven. We would like to go beyond Delhi and NCR in 2018.  Even though we are yet to earmark the cities for expanding our operations, we would like to restrict ourselves to top 7 tier-1 cities.

What are your future plans to actually disrupt urban mobility in the country?

DM: This is the industry which is yet not been penetrated by technology and is largely low-tech in nature How we can use tech and data further to disrupt it big time is certainly we can look at. For example, we are bringing in ‘Face Recognition’ feature as a tool which you have not seen elsewhere.

AJ: We are happy to tell you that 57% of the (registered) users who take our rides have been car owners earlier. We have been able to attract them because we are offering a guaranteed seat to them. We are not targeting a typical DTC customer who is commuting at a very different price point. We are not selling a single ticket but say 10 rides.  So it is somewhat supplementing state transport undertakings.

As the govt. is propagating e-mobility, do you have plans to toe a similar line?

DM: We welcome that decision by the government. The fundamental goal that we are chasing is somewhere linked with pollution, congestion, etc. and EVs are a step in that direction. Having said that, we are only aggregators and our role is based on the assets (buses) that are already there in the market. We really don’t know how much we will be able to influence. But if electric buses come in, we will be more than very happy to have them on our platform.

AJ: We keep engaging with our OEMs which are into electric vehicles but the technology has not yet evolved (in India). Our structures are very different and the cost viability (for EVs) is still not there. But if the government takes up certain steps to make it mandatory for DTC or BMTC fleets to convert (from CNG/Diesel) to full-electric, then the economies of scale will come in as cheaper batteries will make e-buses inexpensive.

Has there been any impact of demonetization and GST on your company? 

DM: The demonetization (in Nov’16) didn’t result in people restricting themselves from commuting to their offices.  What actually happened was due to cash crunch, people started relying more on digital payments. This is a platform where you can digitally pay to use a commute. So we saw more non-cash transactions during those times. As far as GST is concerned, we are not really affected and are still evaluating the consequences.

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