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Many entrepreneurs clone successful Western products and tweak them such that they fit the cultural and social facets of domestic markets. Some of these products sell like hot cakes, while others go up in smoke. Products that can add value to the existing ones will always get noticed.

Zupp can be called a clone, but with some value added to it. A mobile-based car pooling platform, Zupp is capable of posing threats to global players Tripda and BlaBlaCar, and ibiboGroup’s newly-launched car pooling app Ryde, with its GPS-based real-time tracking feature. Zupp is slated to launch on the World Environment Day (June 5).

Is it duck ‘Zupp’?
Although car pooling has been happening for decades, tech-based car pooling is new to India. Sniffing lucrative opportunities in this space, global car-pooling startups Tripda and BlaBlaCar forayed into the country recently. Experts feel that car pooling is going to be one of the major industries in India, given the poor infrastructure and massive road traffic in cities. In an interaction with e27, Tripda Asia Manager Nitish Bhushan said that the Indian business unit is growing twice as fast as Tripda Global, which highlights the significance of the sector.

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Zupp’s Co-founder Parth Patel, however, feels India’s needs are different compared to Europe or Latin America — two markets dominated by Tripda and BlaBlaCar. “These two companies are operating only in the inter-city travel space, which works well in Europe where the city sizes are small and intra-city car pooling isn’t required as such,” says Patel P, who co-founded the startup with two of his former colleagues at Ernst & Young.

“In India, it is just the opposite. Intra-city carpooling is the need of the hour, as India has many satellite cities with sizeable commute happening among them. For example, Mumbai-Thane-Navi Mumbai, Delhi-Noida-Gurgaon, Hyderabad-Hitech City, Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar. They wouldn’t mind car pooling if they can travel cheaper, greener and in A/C, along with keeping the car parking issues at bay,” adds Patel, who holds an engineering degree from IIT Delhi.

Track driver/passenger in real-time
The USP of Zupp is that it works for both inter-city and intra-city travel. In addition, the app’s interface is based on GPS so that the driver and rider can track each other on Google Map in real-time. So, there’s no need to call and co-ordinate.

1“Another differentiator is Zupp’s unique route-matching algorithm. Even if there is an 80 per cent route match, the rider can opt to carpool for 80 per cent of the distance and take a rickshaw/taxi or walk for the remaining 20 per cent,” explains Patel.

Go green
In Mumbai, there are around 60,000 taxis and 700,000-plus private cars. Even if 10 per cent of the car owners start to carpool, it can make a huge difference in the whole dynamics. Also, the fact that Tripda has made inroads into 14 countries in one year and raised around US$11 million is remarkable, and suggests the huge opportunity in this space globally.

“I used to buy books online via Flipkart when I was a kid even before e-commerce was in its infancy. Gradually the apprehension of buying online faded away, and people started buying more stuff from Flipkart and other e-commerce portals. And today you see the e-commerce market in India is huge. Similarly car pooling may take one-two or five years, but I think it is the next big thing in the travel space,” Patel observes.

He also feels that the issues related to parking, traffic, pollution, fuel costs, etc. make car pooling a lucrative option. The key is to remove the psychological barrier of travelling with strangers. If we are able to do it, there is a huge scope for the concept per se, Patel feels.

The app, currently available only on Android, will be free of charge in India for the foreseeable future. The startup, however, has various monetisation options like annual subscription fee, location-based advertising and transaction-based fee. “But our first target is to build a sizeable user base,” Patel concludes.