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Business News/ Auto News / BluSmart plans EV route to take over Uber and Ola
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BluSmart plans EV route to take over Uber and Ola

BluSmart is backed by BP's venture unit. It started operations in 2020 by offering airport rides in Delhi, and later scheduled bookings.

BluSmart has expanded its services to Bengaluru. (REUTERS)Premium
BluSmart has expanded its services to Bengaluru. (REUTERS)

Indian ride-hailing startup BluSmart has a new strategy to challenge Ola and Uber. The company, as per a Reuters report, is betting on an all-electric taxi fleet and an aggressive bid to lure disgruntled passengers and drivers from the incumbents.

"BluSmart has cracked quality of service with clean cars which are on time. Having your own fleet allows you to do that," said Jasmeet Khurana who leads a mobility decarbonisation initiative at the World Economic Forum (WEF). "It used the transition to electric to get its foot in the door," he added.

BluSmart is reportedly using Uber's struggles to drum up investor support. Reuters, in its report says that it has reviewed a confidential BluSmart investor deck from March, which stated that "Uber is losing drivers, riders and market share in India", and its growth model of driver-owners is "crashing" amid soaring fuel prices.

The report says that a full shift to electric vehicles (EVs) is likely to be a massive undertaking for dominant players Uber and Ola. As a new entrant, BluSmart is looking to seize the moment by beating its combustion engine-powered rivals on electrification, cleanliness and reliability through direct management of its fleet and drivers. For starters, drivers cannot cancel bookings received on their BluSmart app.

Uber started its India operations in 2013. Home-grown rival Ola started in 2010. Both brands boomed across India but have more recently struggled as riders faced high cancellations and drivers got upset with reduced financial incentives, forcing many to quit. 

BluSmart is backed by BP's venture unit. It started operations in 2020 by offering airport rides in Delhi, and later scheduled bookings. It has also expanded to Bengaluru.

In Delhi, 80% of the 2,750 new electric taxis registered between January and October 2022 belonged to BluSmart. EVs accounted for 25% of city's new taxis, from just 3% in 2019, data from consultancy Redseer showed.

BluSmart has 22 charging and parking hubs in the capital - one of them on the top floor of a multi-level car park, guarded by private security, in a posh neighbourhood where more than 100 cars undergo extensive cleaning each night.

BluSmart is planning to grow its fleet to 14,000 taxis next year and 100,000 in five years, expanding to four more cities, and offer more immediate bookings, like Uber, its CEO Anmol Singh Jaggi told Reuters.

By June its fleet will include customised, small EVs built by Indian company Gensol Engineering that will allow it to slash fares.

"The mass market can only be captured with a small EV," Jaggi said.

However, BluSmart's fleet includes pricier EVs from MG Motor and BYD but it faces constraints in the number of cars it gets from Tata Motors - the only affordable EV maker in India right now.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Published: 19 Apr 2023, 10:45 AM IST
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