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Rising trend: Indians embrace carpooling to slash office commute costs

Carpool refers to a group of car owners who take turns to drive everyone in the group to work, so that only one car is used at a time. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Carpool refers to a group of car owners who take turns to drive everyone in the group to work, so that only one car is used at a time. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Summary

Carpooling helps you cut fuel costs, unwanted spending on cabs and avoid hassles of unreliable public transport.

The covid pandemic is over and it’s now business as usual. Cities have sprung back to life as people return to office. And, so have the huge traffic snarls, as people travel from home to office and back during rush hour. Meanwhile, young professionals are looking for cost-efficient and convenient ways to commute to their offices. Many of them are carpooling to hitch a more comfortable ride.

Carpool refers to a group of car owners who take turns to drive everyone in the group to work, so that only one car is used at a time. To be sure, the advent of carpool apps now allows strangers to join such groups as long as they are travelling in the same direction. Mint spoke with a few office-goers who are carpooling to save on fuel costs, hefty taxi fares and travel time. Besides, it gives them the opportunity to interact with co-passengers and improve their networking.

Carpooling apps

Hridika Roy, 26, who hails from Kolkata and works in Bengaluru, has been using the carpooling app Quick Ride for the last 10-11 months. Roy, a techie employed at Microsoft as user-experience (UX) researcher, is required to work from office twice a week.

Graphic: Mint
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Graphic: Mint

Roy, whose office is 14km away from her residence, says carpooling is a blessing because of the heavy traffic on Bengaluru roads and the long journey. Buses could take more than two hours and she has to change three buses to reach her destination. Cabs are very costly. She says it costs anywhere between 350-500 for each leg of the journey by cabs.

With the car-pooling app, Roy needs to pay just 65-70 in one direction. Since she works from office only twice a week, it costs her 1,080- 1,120 every month. Using cabs both ways would have cost her 5,600-8,000.

But is travelling with strangers a big risk? Roy says her experience has been good so far. She is familiar with some of her co-passengers and when they see her request on the app, they accept it promptly. “I have not had any issues travelling in Bengaluru either by carpooling or using public transport. You can also check whether the profile of the ride-giver is verified or not. To get a verified profile, ride-givers need to share their government identity card and office Id. Also, you can check the ratings of the ride-givers," Roy says.

Alternating cars

For Mumbai-based Pritesh Upadhyay, 29, who works as a senior executive in a foreign bank, the experience of using carpooling apps has not been pleasant. He cites instances where the car owners or ride-givers are not accommodative. “They don’t like it if we request them to lower the air-conditioning or roll down the windows. Their behaviour can even be rude at times," he says.

Upadhyay then teamed with four others living nearby, including one person from his own apartment, and formed a whatsApp group to share rides. It has been more than three years now that he has been part of the car-pooling group. Upadhyay offers his car thrice a week and two others give their cars one day each. He says his fuel costs come to 21,000 per month. If it was not for car-pooling, he would have had to spend 36,000 every month on fuel.

The offices of all members of this carpooling group are in close proximity and around 18 kms away from the common pick-up point. It is usually 45 minutes of commute to office.

Adityanarayanan P. Iyer, 36, who is based out of Faridabad and works in Noida, says he has been using carpooling since ride-hailing cabs, Ola and Uber, have been unreliable. “Post-Covid, it is a struggle getting cabs in our area. There are a lot of cancellations," he says.

“Taking a direct cab would cost 650-700 one-way. As Faridabad is in Haryana and Noida is in Uttar Pradesh, the costs are on the higher side. The drivers don’t prefer this since they have to cross Delhi and there are tolls to be paid in three states," Iyer points out.

Iyer, who works in the oil & gas sector (engineering department), says he had initially used cabs for 1,300-1,400 daily. That came up to 26,000-28,000 per month. Then he met a couple of colleagues who resided in his housing society and “we decided to take turns in bringing our cars to office and share the rides. Each week, we alternate between our cars. Each of us spends 7,000 per month," he says.

Depending on the traffic, it takes about one hour for Iyer to reach his office, about 26km away.

Community-based car-pools

Akshat Sharma, 24, a finance professional who stays in Noida and works in Delhi, is part of a Whatsapp carpooling group with 744 participants, “There are around six-seven housing societies next to mine and I heard about this group through an acquaintance," he says.

For Sharma, taking the metro was not a convenient option. “Reaching the nearest metro station 14-18km away would cost 150-180 by Uber auto. The metro fare was 45 and then on reaching the destination, I had to spend another 50 on an auto to get to office. And, it was the same on the return journey. This was not only inconvenient but also costly," Sharma says. Direct cabs were out of the question as the office is 33km away. A one-way trip by taxi costs 700.

Carpooling has helped Sharma in make huge savings. “I usually pay 150 to reach office," he says. But, he still takes the metro on his way back home. “Matching rides is difficult in the evenings as people leave offices at different times. I don’t mind taking the metro in the evenings. In the mornings though, I want to reach my office comfortably and on time," he says. It still takes about one-and-a-half hours for Sharma to reach his office. “If there are no matching rides in the mornings, we co-ordinate with others in the group and share an Ola or Uber cab. We split the 700 fare equally," he says.

Ride-givers

Hyderabad-based Kishore Marodia, 40, who works as a programme manager in IT (information technology) sector, says he initially started using car-pooling app sRide. “Soon, we figured out that 15-20 people were using the app. We stopped using the app and created a Whatsapp group that now has 200-300 members. All of them have similar office routes. and we gradually kept adding people to this group," Marodia adds.

The group has decided on a fixed base rate of 85 per ride per passenger. “Most of them travel from the same location in Hyderabad and work in the IT district (Gachibowli)," he says.

Marodia adds that while the experience with sRide was good, the reason for moving to a Whatsapp group was to open a more real-time channel for communication.

“Sometimes there were payment issues for co-riders on apps. Once the ride is accepted by a ride-giver, the payment has to happen immediately. If the ride doesn’t happen due to a glitch, getting back the payment can be difficult. On this community-based set-up, you don’t have to pay immediately. The passenger can pay after the ride," he says.

Marodia also notes that it is difficult to get passengers on a car-pooling app to follow certain etiquettes. “On our Whatsapp group, we have two-three guidelines for co-riders. One is to pay immediately after your ride. Ensure the seat next to the driver’s seat is occupied and don’t just be completely immersed in your phone. Passengers should not make the ride-giver feel that he is a car driver," Marodia adds.

Marodia is himself a ride-giver. He says he usually takes in one person as a passenger while going to office and returning. My fuel cost per day is around 300. With car-pooling, I am saving about half of the costs as the passenger pays 170," he adds. So, his monthly savings work out to 2,600.

He says he wanted to help office-goers in his area who were struggling because of inadequate public transport. “There is lack of proper connectivity in the area where I stay. But we have access to a good highway. So, even though our offices are 18-20km away, it just takes half-an-hour to reach there. Ola or Uber cabs charge anywhere between 400-600 for that distance.," Marodia says.

Anush Raj, 30, who is based out of Chennai, was looking for a cheaper option to reach office. “I joined as an intern in a fintech firm and didn’t want to spend a lot of time commuting to office," he says.

Raj lives in Anna Nagar West, a residential colony in Chennai and his office is in Old Mahabalipuram Road, 21.5km away. He asked a couple of colleagues living nearby if they would like to travel together.

Raj maintains a google spreadsheet, where he maintains the fuel costs. The distance is fixed at 43km. His car has a mileage of 9km/litre of fuel. The rides are split based on the fuel consumption per month. As Raj’s office has allowed employees to work in hybrid mode, the commute is only twice a week or eight times a month. So, the monthly cost for each rider is around 1,300. If Raj was travelling on his own, his fuel cost would have been around 4,000.

Raj has been following this travel arrangement since December 2020. He had considered other modes of transport as well, but says his office is in a slightly remote location and there is no direct connectivity via public transport.

“So, to reach the office, people would take the metro half the way and then hail an auto or cab. Taxis charge 700 from my home to office. And it is not easy to ride a two-wheeler to office. My office is near a junction, where there is a huge traffic congestion due to work on a flyover," he points out.

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