Interview with Tushar Garg, Chief Business Officer, BluSmart Mobility
Q1. Why did BluSmart enter the mobility service space with EVs?
Our vision for mobility in India is responsible mobility. For us, responsible mobility is three-fold — towards our customers, driver-partners, and the planet. This vision is driven by our founders, Anmol Jaggi and Puneet Goyal, both of whom have over two decades of experience and success between them, in creating and pioneering businesses based on renewable energy. There is a definite focus in our company on building businesses that respect and return to the environment. We began with an understanding of mobility not being a product, but a service which is dependent on user/customer experience. Starting BluSmart with EVs came from the desire to plug three critical gaps in the mobility services space:
- Ease of customer experience: More often than not, the customer on a mobility service platform did not have a seamless experience and were inundated with questions of trip destination, payment mode, navigating driver partner to location and the long waiting period.
- Quality standard and benchmark for service: Essentially, condition and upkeep of the vehicle. Often, the car that arrives for the customer was found to be unhygienic and unsanitary.
- Environmental co-benefits: For every km that our customers ride with us, they are saving 68gms of CO2 as compared to taking an ICE vehicle.
Q2. What does being a full stack operator of EVs mean?
A full stack operator means that we are responsible for setting up our charging infrastructure, managing the operations of the cars including its cleanliness, disinfection, and charging. We are responsible for the technology i.e., the matching engine for the consumer and the drivers who go and service them. Being a full stack operator in the EV space has helped us succeed. Given the current electric mobility ecosystem, we are very optimistic about this space with the tailwinds picking up stream in a post pandemic world, where there is increased consciousness about health, sanitisation and reliable safety.
Q3. To what extent has BluSmart used an ecological perspective in its business model?
Ecological perspective was critical to building our business. BluSmart recognised that the unit economics in mobility are very sensitive and with high costs of running ICE vehicles, it will always be a question. This is where we found that EVs have the biggest advantage of low running cost, in addition to keeping the planet clean. To illustrate with an example, CNG vehicles have a running cost of INR 3-3.5/km. In comparison, running an EV costs less than INR 1/km, that is where we find the real delta in margin. Thus, our green logic also allows us to have better margins making the business viable. We are responsible to our stakeholders and investors with our eco-logic to be business positive and are not taking years and decades to make a return on investments.
Q4. Are there any challenges of having an ecological perspective while building a business?
Yes, there are, however, we do not see them as challenges, as much as the flipside to being ecologically conscious. Our stakeholders (investors, partners and even our vendors) tend to over-index the ecological part of the conversation which we do appreciate. However, in the macro-picture as businesses are set up and in the way the ecosystem consumes BluSmart, it may not do justice to your achievements as being considered a niche ecological endeavour instead of a thriving viable business model. BluSmart’s unit economics are far better than ICE driven platforms. EVs on account of running on electric charge does bring down our running cost, which also helps us to pass on that benefit to the consumers without having to artificially offer subsidies.
Q5. How did you start? What were your first key considerations?
Entering the mobility service sector with EVs, our key consideration was business volumes i.e., places which would have market readiness/appreciation for EVs. Delhi turned out to be the clear winner as the largest mobility market amongst the top tier cities in the country. Coupled with the perennial problem Delhi contends with being the most polluted city in the country, the Delhi-NCR cluster was in dire need of proactive actions that would allow every resident citizen to be a part of the solution to the problem of pollution. Moreover, Delhi government’s progressive will and resolution to promote electric mobility through its policies solidified our plans to enter the mobility service industry with Delhi.
Q6. How is BluSmart green?
There are two critical aspects to this, the core business model (the kind of cars we operate and their management and its environmental impact) and service delivery, i.e., what we consider on the consumer side of the equation. BluSmart embodies green practices when building supply, consumer base and also while setting up the charging infrastructure. Our idea of building mobility comes from answering the fundamental question ‘are the consumer’s basic (mobility) need being met of going from point A to point B?’ In this movement from point A to point B, we are embedding our solutions for reliability in consumer experience. Once you have taken a BluSmart cab, the experience itself will draw the consumer into a green conversation. We also ensure that the consumers understand their impact on the environment every time they ride a BluSmart cab, by sending them a notification stating amount of CO2 saved on the trip taken. We believe by taking a BluSmart every consumer can do their one good deed of the day.
Q7. What has been the reception to BluSmart? What has been the change in narrative that BluSmart has brought to the electric mobility conversation?
We take pride in the fact that we are the front runners in creating the first EV experience for most of our customers. More often than not, our customers touch and feel an EV for the first time when they ride in a BluSmart. The path to EV adoption, i.e., the case of private EV ownership as opposed to a run-of-the-mill ICE vehicle, happens when one is able to experience an EV. We have taken EVs from the realm of theory and made it a practical part of the everyday life of the cities we operate in . Experiencing EVs in a real life setting, where a lot of questions people might have regarding the feasibility and functionality – does the car really function, does it have a regular pick up, will the car be able to drive at the normal speeds, can this car survive the extremities of weather – are now being answered by the BluSmart experience.
BluSmart has shown that with technological solutions in the way we are building our algorithms can help to efficiently manage operational aspects of running EVs. BluSmart cars have driven upwards of 80 lakh kilometres till now coming from close to 3 lakh trips, that were done without a single car ever breaking down on account of it running out of charge.