By Anu Thomas & Ashutosh Bhattacharya
Self-drive car rental company Zoomcar has been steadily making in-roads in India with its fleet of self-drive cars. The startup does over 1200 rides every day, has over 150,000 users, traveled over 20 million kms and visited over 26,000 destinations. The going, however, has not been easy. In a chat with Economictimes.com, co-founder & CEO Greg Moran talks about his startup journey and the challenges he faced being an American entrepreneur in India. Excerpts:
ET: How did the idea of starting a car rental company come about and when? Also, why did you choose India as your startup destination? What opportunity did you see for this kind of service in a country like India?
Greg Moran (GM): Prior to our launch in 2013, no player was offering a 100% pure play, self-drive car rental service in India. Zoomcar is fundamentally very different from the Olas and Ubers of the world in that sense. Neither are we a taxi company nor do we offer chauffer-based services. That by itself, was a huge departure in India. When we came to India, we instantly understood that there would be demand for this kind of service here and that, it had the potential to blow up the market if it took off.
ET: How different or challenging can starting a company be in a foreign country? Have you ever felt being at a disadvantage when compared to your Indian contemporaries in the startup space in India?
GM: It had certainly been a little more challenging for both David Back - the other co-founder - and I compared to some of the other Indian entrepreneurs because we are not from India. Even if it wasn't directly communicated to us, we believe it is possible that at least in the first year or two it may have been at the back of investor's minds whether or not we will jump ship and take off when it becomes more challenging. But it has been three years since our launch and the fact that we are still here making business speaks volumes about the attitude of investors.
Watch: My Big Plunge Feat. Zoomcar.com
ET: Walk me through the progress Zoomcar has made over the years. The company has been operating only out of 7 cities in India. What is the strategy around your expansion plans?
GM: Our fleet size currently is quite large - we have over a 1,000 cars in our system. But the reason we have restricted ourselves to only major tier-1 metros in India is because we see better opportunity in this segment in tier 1 and 2 cities as opposed to tier-3 cities. We want to get some degree of scale in these cities for our business to thrive. Rather than going far and wide, we like the approach of maintaining a very hyperlocal and dense network in existing cities we operate out of. It is more about enhancing customer experience than simply expanding to other places.
ET: Have you achieved what you set out to with Zoomcar? Has your family been supportive of your entrepreneurial jump from a cushy job at Wall Street?
GM: As with most other entrepreneurs, my parents too were not thrilled about my decision initially. David and I were batchmates when we were in the UK. From there, he had gone to teach at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and I went to Wall Street to work as a banker. So naturally there is a certain expectation when you are going down that path. It is not easy to explain to your family why you would want to forfeit all that comfort but they saw that I was extremely passionate about this and have been supportive of my choices.
What we promote internally with Zoomcar and the message that we send out through our service has always been around freedom, convenience, flexibility and privacy. We have come a long way since we started out 3 years ago and we continue to work towards breaking new ground in this segment.
ET: Lastly, what advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs in India?
GM: I would only like to say that in the startup world, once you get a little bit of traction and you've secured a couple of early believers, you only need to consistently focus on two things: executing at an efficient pace and making sure that customer experience is rock-solid. If you get these two things right, you can go far in your business.