Commuter buses might not be the most glamorous travel vertical, but that hasn’t stopped three high-profile investors funding a $20 million Series A round for Shuttl, an Indian bus operator and aggregator.
Lightspeed, Sequoia India and Times Internet are behind the injection.
Shuttl was launched this April. Customers who have downloaded the Shuttl app can locate the nearest bus and pick-up point using geo-location and pay for their ride through the app.
It has access to 500 buses operating 50 routes and is currently handling some 15,000 rides a day.
The model resonates with a number of characteristics of Uber, with Shuttl users hailing buses via an app in the same way that Uber operates. Shuttl is positioning itself as a lifestyle choice by encouraging people to take a Shuttl rather than drive into work, while providing a viable alternative to car ownership, a couple of Uber’s bigger picture mission statements.
Shuttl is only active in Delhi, but plans to move into other cities in India as a result of the $20 million injection. And its ambitions are not limited to India. Co-founder Amit Singh said:
“We believe buses are the most space efficient way to commute and we have added a technology layer on to them to build what could become a template for smart cities in India and abroad.”
Buses are a big part of the transportation industry in India, with many online travel agencies looking at intercity buses and ride-sharing as part of their offer. Ixigo has a taxi meta app and partnership with Blablacar. Ibibo Group has a dedicated bus brand, RedBus.in which serves both the B2C market – people booking a bus – and a B2B business providing tech resources to bus operators.
Cleartrip, Yatra and MakeMyTrip all have bus booking channels, offering intercity rather than intra-city services.
Shuttl, for now, seems very focused on the commuter market. Ola, India’s biggest and mega-funded taxi business has a rival product, confusingly called Ola Shuttle, which started this September.
And its focus on the commuter market sees Shuttl working with Delhi authorities on the Odd-Even initiative – a trial running from Jan 1 to Jan 15, only allowing cars with odd or even numbered plates on the roads on alternate days.
Shuttl is in good company – the Delhi authorities are reportedly in talks with Google and Twitter looking at ways in which the pair can provide detailed, location-specific information to help people using public transport (which includes private operators such as Shuttl) during the Odd-Even trial.
Related reading from Tnooz:
Ibibo ramps up global bus GDS plans via Malaysia/Singapore (July 2015)
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