Blu Smart is a Delhi based startup aiming to electrify and revolutionize ride-hailing and sharing in India. Electrification of ride hailing and sharing services are good for the country. Think about all the oil saved and lack of emissions during every ride. Mr Tushar Garg is the Chief Business Officer at Blu Smart and we are delighted to have this opportunity to speak to him on what the company is upto and what are the goals for 2020 and beyond.
The PluginIndia team visited Delhi back in July 2019 and we used Blu Smart electric cab and we loved the experience. We travelled all over NCR from the airport to Greater Noida, Faridabad etc.
- Can you give us an update on what has been happening with Blu Smart in the NCR area?
Sure Raphae, Thank you so much. I think July 2019 was the first time when you touched base with us and experienced Blu Smart Cab and that was pretty much the start of our journey. So July 2019 also happens to be the time when we started operations in Delhi NCR as Blu Smart. That was the time when there were about 70 odd cars on the platform and we wanted to test the waters and figure out how electric vehicles on ride-hailing mobility can work.
This was the time Raphae, when we put all those 70 Cars on the Uber Platform in Delhi NCR region and kind of subject them to an infinite demand scenario to see what the capabilities of the car are. Thus the charging infrastructure that we are setting up for our own operations suffices and does justice to the same set of cars running and in a definite kind of a fashion. Also at the same time learn a lot more about mobility, technology and our own backend operations. This is what we did from July 2019 till Dec of 2019. Now in Dec 2019 is when we transitioned from the Uber platform into our own eco-system. The Blu Smart App, you can download the same on an android or an iOS phone, this is from where the Blu Smart journey on its own eco-system its own apps began and experience that an owner was getting in an electric vehicle via Blu Smart eco-system right from the app to the car to your destination you experience Blu Smart all in.
We just wanted to know how many cars were operational in Gurgaon right now and are you not on the Uber platform anymore?
Sure, we have upward of 300+ cars that are operational on the Blu Smart Ecosystem as a business strategy we have restricted our geography of operations to only micro-market of Gurgaon. This is essentially by virtue of us wanting to only serve where we can serve well and not do injustice to a lot of other consumers who might love us but might not find us every time they want a car to be travelling around. By this virtue, we decided, yes! its only fair to be serving only a small micro-market while we kind of grow our footprint as we go along. To do so, Yes! it's 300+ cars that we have today in the market of Gurgaon serving upwards of 10,000 odd customers on a monthly basis and only as of Feb end, is when we have started our operation at Delhi International Airport T3 terminal by which virtue now geographical footprint expand all the way from Gurgaon to the T3 terminal serving all the consumers at Aerocity as well in Delhi.
Many people in our EV community live in Delhi / NCR but cannot use Blu Smart as you are restricted to Gurgoan. When can we expect total coverage of NCR?
Sure Raphae, that's one of the most top-rated wishes we have for our business as well. we intend to expand our footprint further and reach the entirety of Delhi and NCR very soon.
I will be fair and honest, in the correct situation, in a non-COVID-19 impacted world it would have been pretty much the Dec of 2020 bye when we would have been in the entirety of Delhi NCR, but truth to be told, that's probably seeming a little unlikely now but having said that, in the second quarter of 2021 is now when the new plans of operations look to be bringing us to every customer in the Delhi NCR region.
Regarding the T3 Terminal airport, Do you have a Blu Smart kiosk there? How does one book a ride at the Kiosk?
Sure Raphae so, as you must be aware, we are one of the only 3 App-based ride-hailing platforms that are available at the T3 terminal of Delhi International Airport. It's Uber, OLA and the Blu Smart. we also have a parking lot in the same MLCP which is the multi-level car parking. you can go to the 2nd floor of the T3 terminal car parking and you will find a Blu Smart kiosk there. You could either book using your Blu Smart App which just generates a pin, the first car in the queue is yours, sit in the car, put in the 6 digit code and your car is on its way to your destination. The other way is to obviously walk all the way to the kiosk even if you don't have the Blu Smart App, just go, put in a request, a ride will be generated for you, use the car, go all the way to .
Tell us about the operations in Mumbai?
Fair Enough. So Mumbai for us Raphae has been a test case, we jsut wanted to test some waters, test the market, test the demand patterns, kind of also subject the electric vehicles that are available to us to ply on fleets in the country, in a different kind of an environment. The atmosphere of Bombay is different from Delhi, the landscape is different, the way the traffic patterns are, the way the cars are subjected to the harsh conditions of plying on the roads are different, only to ensure the cars, the business that we are building is not being a slave to Gurgaon or Delhi NCR. So that is where in Oct 2019 we started a very small pilot in Bombay, with about 26 odd cars, the same 26 number of cars just ply on the Uber platform out there. This helps us to learn much more about the cars themselves, the geography, our expansion replication plans.
Does Blu Smart own these cars and how does your business model work?
So, we as a Blu Smart, Raphae, we have run a very asset like a model. None of the cars or even the chargers for that matter are owned by Blu Smart. These as assets are kind of leased to us by Third part players. when I talk about 3rd party I refer to entities like EESL which is the government of India enterprise, there are leasing companies and then there are high net worth individuals who lease out these cars against a yield that they make on a yearly basis. Thats how these cars come to us, fully maintained and controlled by us but not on our books, then we have similar leasing on the driver's side. Drivers don't bring the asset with them. Rather they come to pick the car on a daily lease from us against which they make money by plying the car on the platform.
We know that you have Mahindra eVerito and Tata Tigor EV electric cars. How has the experience been? And are you getting the range of 150 km per charge?
I think Raphae, in all honestly, these cars are not bad. Also, having said that these are the only 2 electric vehicles available in the country apart from couple of other more premium electric vehicles which come from Hyundai and MG If you are talking about plying the car on the fleets .
So we do have a Hyundai Kona in Bombay but that doesn't match the commercial aspect of running an asset on fleet businesses. Having said that, the Mahindra e-verito and Tata Tigor is what comprises of our current fleet as well. These cars do a decently fine job. At the same time the OEMs are also doing a good job at improving their technology and the cost. The technology curve is in favour of electric vehicles. the prices are dropping with every passing quarter. The range of the battery is becoming longer. So the cars with the same amount of charge are able to do more Kms. So, the technology wave kind of supports a lot of electric vehicles development in the country and at the same time these OEMS are also geared up to follow that wave and ensure the right set of assets hit the roads when the eco-system kind of progress.
Regarding range, it's mostly at par. We have 3 sets of cars now, the Mahindra e-verito gives about 150 km on a single charge, For Tata e-Tigor; there are 2 sets of cars, there is old generation car which used to give about a 110 and new generation cars are now starting to give 200-210. The cars are becoming better and the ranges are going up.
It's a positive looking outlook that we have towards this industry.
The Community is interested to know about how Blu Smart is financed? Are you at the Series A phase?
Happy to share that Raphae with you. So we had raised a seed round back in Sept 2019 that was a 3 million dollar round. Few of the Marki names had participated in that round The Mayfield India Fund, The Survam Partners, The Kalpavriksh Fund, even the Dipika Padukone family office participated in that round amongst others. In our current round which is a Pre-Series A round, It's is a 5 Million Dollar round, its a convertible round which we are currently made live. A lot of our previous round partners, investors are participating in this round. Jeto angels which is also an investor in our seed round is coming in a bigger fashion along with the Chattisgard investment community. Lot of action that we see on the industrial front that we see when it comes to e-mobility at the same time a lot of excitement in the investment community for Blu Smart is building
What are milestones, Blu Smart is expected to hit in 2020?
So, Raphae, again as I shared, my comments, my plans 15 days back would have been very different, having said that we are fully aware of the condition and fully in tune with how the society is shaping up and how environment is changing. by which virtue, ours are a bit conservative plan as compared to what they were 15 days back.having said that we still have more growth look, towards growth looking plans that we are today having. For our business today we are looking to expand our car base from current 300+ to about 800-1000 by the end of this year we should be in larger geography than what we are currently in because we will by the virtue of supply density that we will be able to generate with that many cars be able to serve a larger set of audience. Thats what I can tell you.
That's what we are looking at. Having said that in 2021, we are looking at a more aggressive growth and I am hopeful at the same time have all the reasons to believe that the world will start to come to more normalcy and growth will soon revive for all the business in the community.
Yeh, so I just wanted to quickly make a comment. So 2021, Raphae is going to be our year of real growth where we are going to see entire Delhi NCR getting served touching upwards of 10,000 odd cars on our platform which will be distributed across Delhi NCR and Mumbai. we do intend to expand and extend our base in Mumbai as well. So, all of the action that was supposed to happen in the last half of 2020 essentially has been moved to first half of 2021.
- AMuzic our Youtube channel follower asks the following
Why the cab fare is still higher than normal cabs. Take advantage of EVs having less operating cost. Don't just attract conscious people, attract everybody by offering lower prices. Can you comment on that?
For sure, I think it's a fair sentiment and I probably, also see where that question is coming in from. The way we are building Blu Smart is where this is positioned as a more premium service than what we are used to in the mobility scheme of things, we are talking of a service which is reliable to the extent that there are zero denials on Blu Smart. If you have booked a car it will come to you there will be zero cancellations driver doesn't even have an option of cancelling a ride on you. Also by virtue of Blu Smart business model the driver does not bring an asset to the platform and hence this person need not take the call of figuring out which trip or which ride the person wants to do or deny. At the same time the prices are not volatile, there are fixed pricing and as a consumer, you get a much cleaner car much better experience in totality. It's the premium-ness that we are bringing today to the eco-system and the pricing that you see today on the Blu Smart App is kind of inline with that. so we are not in this play to bring a 3rd mobility player who can undercut on prices and provide a cheaper service but we want to be that mobility option for you which gives you the best and most reliable and the most comfortable and safe service. Having said that we are not really very premium on the pricing for the customers who have chosen us a ride with us are very happy with our pricing. We keep talking to them a lot on a very personal basis we see the very positive feedback from them. Apparently the world is happy to pay for good service, more reliable on a comfortable service and that is pretty much what we are here to build.
- Ravi, our Patreon supporter has sent this question
After having Blu Smart EVs travel 3 million + km. How much have they saved vs. ice? What was their maintenance experience?
I think they are a good resource on comparing total cost of ownership between ICE and EV.
So, thats a very valid comment and question as well so yes having run upwards of 4 million clean kms now in electric vehiclesin the last 10 months that we have been operational there is multiple tons of CO2 that we have saved for the world. Having said that we are still scratching the surface. It's nothing in front of what the immense potential our business currently holds and what we will projecting the world to by the time we hit 2021 2022. we are about 12-18 months away is how I see before we get a car which is priced very similar to what a current ICE engine car looks like or costs like at the same time has a range which kind of also matches what a humanly possible kms to be done in a day looks like. let me put that as about 250-300 kms a day.So the day you have that car with you is about 18 months away. 18 months to may be 24.
- Sujoy Bhattacharya, our Youtube channel follower asks the following
Considering that there are a very few electric cars in India, how does Blu Smart manage with the limited competition and limited warranties offered? Also, in their opinion, will conversion of existing vehicles to electric (like Etrio.in) help them explore more options.
Sure, I would not say that there is a limited number of EVS in the country today. I think there is enough much less number of EVs that are visible. Also by virtue of private consumption not yet stepping into electric vehicle purchases and hence its players like us who are buying cars, electric vehicle cars and hence is where consumers are able to experience electric vehicles. Also very happy to share with you a fact that lot of our customers literally upwards of 90-95% of our customers tell us that its the first time they have sat in an EV is when they sit in a Blu Smart right. Which is also kind of goes with the question here which creates the sense that there are not many EVs in the country. Having said that we are tasked with that job and it kind of becomes our responsibility how I would put it to ensure that every person in this country has experienced an electric vehicle and would really love if all of that happens on Blu Smart that's my plan that my target and that's how I would love to grow. Is how I would look at this world.
Having said that, in the second part of the question I don't think there is an immediate need of converting the current vehicles to electric vehicles. Not having enough electric vehicle is not by virtue of manufacturers not manufacturing enough of those it's kind It's kind of a chicken-egg where consumption has not crossed critical mass for enough of those to be produced by the manufacturers and hence enough to be seen and experienced by each one of us on the roads today. All of this is passing through a gestation cycle. 12 months from now, you will start to see a lot more EVs not just by us but by virtue of we as individuals also buying them for our personal consumption. Yes, 18-24 months. A much bigger player we hopefully would have served a lot many consumers out there. Not only in Dehli NCR but across many cities across the country as well and EVs will start to become a more common thing to look around and experience.
For many people, Blu Smart may be the first time that they actually experience electric vehicles and many of your customers would be agnostic to the fact that you are using electric vehicles only they would just enjoy the experience and want to come back for more.
- Anubhab Kundu, our Youtube channel follower asks the following
I think we have touched base on this, but Anubhab wants to know - What is their future expansion plan into other metro cities?
Also I want to let them know that EV chargers in Kolkata are currently available at many places.
He is from Kolkatta and I suppose he wants to know specifically there and other cities. That's a very good much in line with how we think and wish for expansion to happen for ourselves. To the 1st part of the question again as I shared with you Delhi NCR becomes our obvious focus territory in the near term future we wish to be expanding in the entire Delhi NCR, Having said that we have already stepped into Bombay and hopefully in about 12 months from now we will have a bigger footprint in Mumbai as well and in the latter half, I would say towards the end of 2021 we will start stepping into our 3rd- 4th and 5th city and to Mr. Kundu I can very happily share that Kolkatta is one of the cities on the road map and we will very soon be there. Just hold on to your thoughts and feelings. Very very soon be serving all of you in Kolkatta as well.
Thank you, Tushar for coming on to our channel and speaking to us.
Other Blu Smart Links
Blu Smart Startup Showcase Video
Team PluginIndia uses Blu Smart Taxi in Delhi NCR