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Startup Watch: BlaBlaCar

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Have you ever left it last minute to book your train to go home for Christmas or to an important event, only to find that there are no seats left? Well BlaBlaCar, a startup founded in 2006 in Paris has a plan B for you. Their ridesharing platform connects people who need to travel with drivers who have empty seats – essentially it’s the Airbnb of car hire.

A cheap, social and efficient solution to long journeys BlaBlaCar has already attracted 30 million members across 22 countries. Last year they’ve saved an estimated 1,000 tons of CO2 alone. An online calculator suggests a price to help cover the cost of the journey – passengers therefore only contribute to fuel costs and no profits are made by drivers. The flexible business model means that only when BlaBlaCar becomes established in a market will it begin to charge a small fee to the passengers.

Of course, security concerns do come to mind when you think of ridesharing, but BlaBlaCar have taken measures to put both passengers and drivers minds at rest. When you visit another member’s’ profile you can see how many Facebook friends they have, or LinkedIn connections they have and through a secure messaging system drivers and passengers can chat and get to know each other before their journey together. Ladies can also opt for all-female rideshares.

Globally the sharing economy is worth $15 billion, and this substantial figure is projected to hit $335 billion by 2025. Interestingly India has proved to be one of the most lucrative markets for BlaBlaCar, and is likely to remain so due to the need for support across public transport. Train tickets in India often involve a waiting list, plus carriages are packed and uncomfortable. So not only does BlaBlaCar allow travellers or commuters to book last minute, it’s also cheaper and more comfortable than travelling by trains. Most Indian BlaBlaCar users travel more than 100km one way and the platform is connecting smaller cities that existing train routes don’t cover. Over 3 million seats have been offered across 700 cities in India so far.

Today BlaBlaCar has 550 employees spread over 16 international offices and is growing. The average cost if a ride is 20-50 times cheaper than taxis, but the average journey is city to city and a distance of 200km, so there isn’t a serious threat to taxi drivers. The platform is making use of an otherwise unused resource, giving travellers a viable choice of transport.

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