Zoom cars, a good way to commute in these modern times ..
Whenever I walk to Koramangala Sony Signal bus stop, I inevitably have to pass through a vacant plot of almost 20 cents of land, prime location, but lying vacant for the past six years, as I know. After the BMTC bus depot on the way to Sony signal junction, on the left hand side is this plot of land.
About two years back when a group of students from Alliance University hostel in Anekal campus came home as they were about to leave the University having finished their course, they all came in a Zoom car. Naturally out of curiosity I asked them whose Ford car it was. I also saw the emblem of Zoom cars by the side. I was really surprised when the students told me that it was a self-driving rented car first time in the country being implemented in Bangalore and spreading like hot fire.
Let me tell you I am talking about the car waiting yard at Sony signal junction in Koramanagala, Bangalore- the new kid in town, the new car renting concept of Zoom cars. Zoom cars was founded by David Back and Greg Morgan in Bangalore in 2012 and spread across the country in the 14 cities of Bangalore, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Mysore, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Pune, Mangalore and Vizag. The firm now has 2600 cars of all types, from small sedans to SUVs. At a basic rental charge of Rs 70 an hour, it is convenience for people. Click here to go to their website
The Sony Centre junction, Bangalore facility has been fenced by barbed wire and one can see lot of cars, mostly Ford and Honda Cities, Mahindra and occasionally a Mercedes or Toyota, parked there. There is a gate for entry and a security cabin where there used to be no activity except during morning times when customers come to check and take out the vehicles.
The model works like this, you go to a car parking area, spread across the city of Bangalore , now spread to almost 28 cities in the country. You pick a model of car you want, make sure it has no dents etc , if so report and after completing formalities of the paperwork and a caution deposit, take the car and return it after use to the nearest car parking shed near to your destination and pay up. Thus we find for the customers, it is convenience as he does not have to come to the original place from where he has rented the car to return it, saving him time and money. The concept has picked up fast in the city of Bangalore and now has an average of almost 3000 rides happening in a day across the country.
The company now has about 15% of 2600 cars owned by outside parties and rented to the company. Called the Associate Ownership model, the owner will maintain the vehicles but Zoom cars has the resources of waiting space and networking the client or customer with the company, helping the customer choose whichever car they want. As per the new model the company plans to put in place, they are moving out from the car ownership model to the 100% associate ownership model, or effectively moving from a B-C model to a C-C model.
The company plans to have 10,000 cars through this model thereby spreading the reach of the company to more towns, cities and geographies.
All this co-ordination happens with the help of great IT infrastructure and software. Cadabra is a new tool whereby the associate owners can trace the customer who is driving their car, the condition of the vehicle, where is it at any point of time and the manner of driving by the customer. If the owner is not satisfied with the manner the car is handled by the customer, the owner can even remotely lock the car through the app. The driver is not expected to drive above a speed of 125 kmph. After one violation, the second violation will entail a heavy fine taken from the caution deposit and forfeiture to use the company cars in future.
As how one sees it, the Zoom cars concept has many advantages.
1. it helps to separate car ownership from car driving.
2. it helps to reduce congestion on the road as the cars need not come to the point of origin from the drop off point as in earlier models and instead can be dropped at the destination waiting place, saving fuel, time and congestion on the roads.
3. in the associate ownership model, which the company is aggressively pushing through, car owners can make extra money in case the cars are not used for a fixed period of time by renting out to Zoom cars
4. the car maintenance , under the associate ownership model completely shifts from the Zoom cars company to the original owner (similar model also exists for the Ola and Uber models of taxi services in the country)
5. it reduces the overhead expenses for Zoom cars, thus reducing their renting charges on customers as they are acting just as mediators in the network of customers and car owners.
6. Customers get to feel and experience new cars before they plan to buy a new car. This can result in automobile manufacturing companies offering new and latest models to the company at attractive rates and terms
7. If the car meets with an accident, the customer-driver is penalised with not more than the amount of caution deposit. This makes it attractive and less risky for customer-drivers
Some innovations that can be brought to the system include :-
1. door to door delivery for loyal and safe customers for an acceptable period of time
2. no caution deposit for premium customers
3. corporate tie-up resulting in attractive and low fares, doing away witth caution deposit in some cases
4. with longer mileage driven in Zoom Cars vehicles, customers should get cars at lower fares
5. customers can avail of Zoom points which can be redeemed by them later
6. the present free kilometres for each driving plan can be relaxed to unlimited distance to attract more customers, as is given by the competitor Voler.
7. expand marketing efforts to more corporates and bring flexible mobile apps
8. offering complimentary destination stay for Zoom Prime customers can attarct more customers
These can ensure that more customers are attracted and the existing customers do not go to new competitors .
Since the present customer base are the youngsters and members from corporate offices, often in the less than 40 years age group, marketing should be directed to attract more of this age group.
Witnessing the growth of this model in Bangalore, one can say with conviction that this model of car ownership and driving is here to stay in the country. We will see many new entrants in this area in the coming years, even car manufacturers eking out to this area to spruce up their sales. This is a very good model for electric cars to be rolled out to the public to have an initial feel, before actually buying those new models.
George.. (with inputs from students of MBA sem IV Alliance Ascent College, Bangalore, Operations stream)