Zoomcar - The Success Story of the Indian Self-Drive Car Rental Company

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No more worries about mileage, fuel costs, insurance, and car breakdowns because the self-drive cars from Zoomcar offer the customers more control, privacy, and freedom. Book a self-drive car in any city you visit with the app on your phone and feel at home wherever you go. Zoomcar has enabled driving convenience for travellers around the country and is fast expanding its reach to cities.

Read this article to know more about Zoomcar founders, market share, how it works, services, tagline, business model, revenue, growth, challenges, funding, and investors.

Zoomcar - Company Highlights

  • Startup Name-Zoomcar
  • Headquarter-Bengaluru, India
  • Sector-Personal Mobility
  • Founders-Greg Moran (Present Co-founder and CEO) and David Back (left in 2015)
  • Founded-April 2012
  • Legal Name-Zoomcar India Private Ltd
  • Revenue-$13.68 mn (Rs 103.6 crore in FY21)
  • Total Funding-$383.7 Million (2022)

Zoomcar - About and How It Works

Zoomcar holds the distinction of being India’s first personal mobility platform, with the introduction of car-sharing services in 2012. It is currently the market leader in the personal mobility space with over 10,000 cars in its fleet, and eyeing to add another 50,000 cars in its fleet by the next fiscal, as reported in March 2020. With a strong focus on the mobile experience, Zoomcar allows users to rent cars by the hour, day, week, or month.

Headquartered in Bangalore, the company is over 300 people strong and operates in 45+ cities across India. Besides, Zoomcar also enjoys its presence in nearly 5 countries, as of September 22, 2021.

In 2018, Zoomcar introduced India’s first Peer2Peer based marketplace for cars with the launch of its shared subscription mobility model and currently commands over 90% market share in this space.

Zoomcar drives digital technology towards the sector, which has missed the digital influx to a great extent until now. The entry of new players validates the growth of this nascent, fast-growing industry and will expand the self-drive ecosystem in India to eventually benefit more consumers. The startup is committed to transforming mobility with solutions that offer convenience, flexibility, and value to customers and continue innovating at scale.

With COVID-19 forcing operations to go entirely digital, Zoomcar is leveraging technology such as AI and IoT to offer an impeccable experience to its customers. It also has a keyless entry that minimizes human contact and curbs transmission of the virus. Every car is also thoroughly sanitized before and after each drive. With deep-rooted technology models, Zoomcar has tweaked its mobile app to allow customers to reach out at any time in case of a query through emails, messages, and chatbots.

The platform’s entirely digital payment gateway also makes for a smooth and hassle-free experience. Vehicle monitoring and predictive analysis will help with data like speed, distance, RPM, clutch, brake, and time that will be used to calculate the driver score, thereby encouraging the customers to drive cautiously.

Not only does it increase the safety of the customers but also helps maintain the car in a better condition. The company deems to keep a close eye on the temperature of the engine and the coolant level to predict engine seizures before it happens and guide the customers safely to a stop in case of any such situation.

Zoomcar - Founders and Team

Zoomcar was founded by Greg Moran and David Back in 2013.

David Back and Greg, co-founders of Zoomcar, studied together at the University of Pennsylvania. When Greg was in college, he was studying about India, and even the thought and idea about India being potentially an opportunity probably dawned on him back then.

"Of course, we had no clue about what we wanted to do. It was always from the growth story, from the rapid development and the incredible pace of evolution of the country. It was always super fascinating for me as an American because you know the US has hit a certain threshold, and its growth will not be the kind of growth India will see in the next 20 to 30 years", recalls Greg, CEO of Zoomcar.

Coming out of school, his focus was finance, but Greg Moran was always obsessed with the environment and sustainable development. He was working in a clean-tech investment bank based in New York, focused globally but around solar, wind energy storage, etc.

David and Greg were thinking about mobility and transportation solutions. They started looking at the market more carefully and realized that car ownership levels were incredibly low at 2% or 3%. They saw the notion of car sharing as a really great opportunity because ownership levels were just not going to support it. This is why they looked at car sharing as a great entry point with self-drive.

"When we started to look at it more closely in 2011-2012, I spent three months on the ground here roaming around India in 25 cities, 12 states, and realized that it was a total white space. No one was doing anything in the market, everything was offline, all unorganized, all unstructured, no websites, no apps. So, we wanted to bring order to that chaos through a common technology platform and a brand which people could identify across the country", recalls Greg about his first visit to India.

The founders ended up raising a bit of capital in late 2012. Greg dropped out of business school and moved to Bangalore, from there the rest is history. After arriving in India with David, they realized the potential for car rentals. They had, in fact, also dabbled with the idea of starting a company in the renewable energy space, but later decided on the transportation sector.

David and Greg conceptualized Zoomcar as an hourly car rental platform. David Back got married and wanted to be closer to his family, so he stepped back from an active role as the company’s President in 2012. However, he continued to be on the board of the company until he finally resigned in 2015, as a Co-founder and President.

Greg Moran

Greg Moran is the Co-founder and CEO of Zoomcar. He was a BA, International Relations student of the University of Pennsylvania, after which he completed an MBA in Finance, Entrepreneurship from the University of South California. After being a Summer Associate with Cerberus, Greg took up the role of Analyst, Senior Analyst at Fieldstone Private Capital Group Ltd. where he worked for more than 2 years. After leaving the role, Greg eventually joined International Power America, Inc. as a Financial Analyst, Business Development. Moran soon began to work for Greg Moran Consulting as the Project Finance Consultant after leaving the previous role. He then choose to be an MBA candidate at the USC Marshall School of Business, after which he co-founded Zoomcar.

David Back

David Back is a History graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. He then joined Harvard Law School, after which Back joined an MBA programme at the University of Cambridge. However, he dropped out after the first term from the same to co-found Zoomcar. Back started his career with a Summer Research Internship with the American Enterprise Institute. He eventually became the Teaching Assistant for Mauro Guillen and Brian Spooner at the University of Pennsylvania. After serving as a teaching assistant for a period of over a year, Back turned into the Director of Government Relations at The Hydrogen Expedition. He left the same after some time to become the Researcher for General Counsel's Office at the Kauffman Foundation. McKinsey & Company was the next company where Back served as a Summer Associate. Back then served as a Teaching Fellow at the Harvard University and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He then became a Summer Associate at Goldman Sachs before co-founding Zoomcar, where he served as the Co-founder and President, who resigned in 2015. After this, Back served as the Entrepreneur In Residence at Idein Ventures, he eventually became a Speaker at The London Speaker Bureau and is serving as the Speaker for over 6 years till the present. After he left this role, Back took up the role of Managing Partner at the Icarus Ventures. David Back currently serves as the Chairman of Tattered Cover Book Store, Inc., since December 2020.

Zoomcar - Startup Story | How was Zoomcar Started?

Greg, the co-founder of Zoomcar, has always been passionate about sustainability and the shared models for sustainable economic development. While working in the clean technology and infrastructure disciplines for an investment bank, he witnessed first-hand the opportunities that existed in working for environmentally sustainable solutions in India. Further exploration revealed the challenges in urban transportation, namely the lack of infrastructure that can cushion the hike in personal vehicles.

Realizing the toll it was taking on India’s environment and a complete lack of a self-drive model led Greg to spearhead the launch of Zoomcar. He has always been fascinated with India as a market. As a fast-growing economy, it provides entrepreneurs with amazing opportunities to not only scale up their ventures but also deliver a social impact through unique, and oftentimes tech-enabled, service offerings.

"The opportunities in India, I realized, would only be compounded over the years, and thus, it became imperative for me to be part of India's growth story by introducing sustainable self-drive models that cater to the challenges in mobility at large", says Greg Moran, CEO of Zoomcar.

Zoomcar - Vision

"Our vision is to acquaint new-age customers with hassle-free car ownership. At Zoomcar, we have always empowered our customers with better mobility alternatives and will continue doing so at scale. This also positively affects the automobile industry as it eliminates the economic barrier to entry of various socioeconomic groups", says Greg Moran, co-founder of Zoomcar, about the vision of the company.

Zoomcar - Name, Tagline and Logo

The tagline of Zoomcar is Never Stop Living.

The selection of a name was a fairly organic process. Greg and David were brainstorming names back in 2012 and wanted something that would be distinct and somewhat onomatopoeic to ensure it would be very memorable. Moreover, they wanted to select a name that would be rather unique sounding from a Hindi perspective and could go well in jingles. A word starting with a ‘Z’ certainly fits the bill on this front and they ultimately landed on Zoom. They only switched to Zoomcar in 2014.

Zoomcar - Products/Services

The startup offers a comprehensive suite of car rentals. From hatchbacks to sedans and premium vehicles, it offers users over 10,000 options to choose from at Zoomcar. These are made more attractive with exciting deals and promotions that the team comes up with on various occasions or long weekend breaks.

Zoomcar has also recently launched India’s first vehicle model agnostic Driver Score Tech Stack for the passenger car segment. The AI-Powered algorithm with machine learning capabilities tracks the mechanical specs of the car being driven, the driving style of the customer, identifies critical events of driving and rates it on a scale of 0-100.

Over the past seven years, while Zoomcar has continued to rent out cars on an hourly basis, it has also brought in several changes. Today, one can have a car delivered to their location. It runs on a different business model, and the focus is on customers who want the freedom of having a car any time they require, for a longer duration.

"The only way we have been able to stay ahead of the curve is by keeping our laser-sharp focus on the vehicle rental space and business. Whether it is cars or two-wheelers, we believe that in personal mobility there is a shift from ownership. That will not move towards the taxi industry but more towards self-drive or rentals", says Greg Moran.

Zoomcar - Market Share and Market Size

Zoomcar currently has 75% of the market share and is looking at growing to 80-85% over the next 18 months with one lakh cars. In 2018, Zoomcar introduced India’s first peer-2-peer based marketplace for cars with the launch of its shared subscription mobility model and currently commands over 90% market share in this space. With the growth of the sharing economy across the globe, subscription-based car ownership is becoming an increasing trend.

The startup boasts of hitting a massive 15,000 car subscription run rate through its shared mobility platform recently. In the Electric Vehicles segment, the team has recently announced its fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) completing over 1 crore km. Today, Zoomcar already has over 500 EVs on the road making it the largest electric shared mobility fleet in the country with plans to add another 1000 cars within the next year and 10,000 cars by 2021.

Zoomcar - Business Model and Revenue Model

Zoomcar operates on short-term rental and a long-term subscription business model. The former operates on an hourly and daily basis with prices starting at Rs 50/hr and ranging up to Rs 250/hr depending on the vehicle type. Long-term subscription starts at Rs 15K per month and runs up to Rs 45K depending on the vehicle type.

On rental bookings, the company typically takes a ~30% take rate. The co-founders did not comment on profit margins except to indicate that the company has been unit economic positive from the beginning of its operations.  

The business model of Zoomcar not only revolves around sustainability but also caters to the market need for convenient self-drive mobility. There is always a risk whenever a new category is launched. However, Greg believes that he has succeeded in carving a niche for this disruptive offering. He now sees several startups and cab aggregators follow his lead and venture into self-drive mobility, which only comes as a validation for what the company had set out to achieve.

The Zoomcar revenues generally come from its sales and other income. The self-drive rental startup offers car-rental services to users who do not own or wish to own a car personally. Zoomcar initially started with owning its personal fleet of cars, but that business strategy was changed later on to serve as an asset-light model. This was when the company realised that it was incurring heavy losses due to its business model. Along with its previous commissions, Zoomcar also charges a 25% commission on the revenue made by its associates, where it allows people to partner with the firm and share their idle vehicles.

Along with being a car-rental startup, Zoomcar experimented with numerous other ventures. The first of which was a dockless bicycle-sharing service called Pedl, which it launched in 2017. However, the company eventually discontinued it temporarily because of the need to upgrade its cycles. Pedl was launched in over 10 cities. Zoomcar also has another revenue-sharing model via which it helps people lease their own cars that are sitting idle.  

Zoomcar - User Acquisition and Growth

The company is the market leader in the self-drive space with over 10,000 cars in the fleet. Zoomcar’s organic growth has been phenomenal. It has seen massive growth in terms of scale towards the second part of 2018 and 2019. The amount of user-generated content it receives is unprecedented. The company is a performance marketing-focused brand and the majority of its marketing team consists of performance marketers. It also has a CRM team that helps in increasing repeat transactions and the frequency of transactions.

The company has always operated in a cost to income ratio, which is 6%. When Zoomcar got deployed on roads, the sticker with its brand name itself was the biggest outdoor campaign.

Zoomcar Car

It got a huge network growth through word of mouth that has helped in getting organic traffic, which is around 50-55%. The startup is also focused on curated content and is associated with new-age content platforms like FilterCopy to create campaigns with a focus on awareness. It is also associated with the TLC channel.

"On an average, we receive more than 60,000 high-quality user-generated content. Our customers pose for photographs with Zoomcars, surprisingly with doors open, because that is where the logos are. This just signifies the brand resonance we have achieved in the last seven years", says Greg Moran.

Many brands spend a huge amount on marketing to attract influencers and get user-generated content, but Zoomcar has grown organically. It is a 'selfie brand'. A testimony of this is the fact if you would do a quick search on Instagram for #Zoomcar, you would see tons of high-quality user-generated content across different formats bur primarily selfies and videos. On average, we see almost 15K to 20K user-generated selfies and videos across organically every month.

This validates the fact that with Zoomcar the users feel empowered, independent, and liberated! The company hardly spend any money on any sort of influencer activity as users become a natural set of micro-influencers for the FTUs (first-time users). Its Instagram base grew by 100% organically in the last 6 months and currently, it stands at a solid base of 146K users and counting.

One of the prime reasons for Instagram being the company's cornerstone of brand strategy is that its core target audience (Age: 21 to 28 ) are Instagram natives and don’t shy away from showing their passion for fashion, food and travel and the startup gets solid leverage out of this. Moreover, all organic and satisfying customer selfies on Instagram further signifies that they not only had a great in-trip experience while using the service but Zoomcar has actually been able to wow its customers who are proudly referred to as 'Zoomers'.

With the coronavirus pandemic onslaught, Zoomcar found itself amidst controversies and faced a depreciative financial state in terms of unit economics. The expenses of the company rose by 35% in the financial year that ended on March 31, 2020, with its income increasing only by 10%. However, after the lockdown rules and strictures were lifted the company started to unwind and is currently hoping to cover its losses in the next year or so.

COVID-19 has indeed changed the dynamics of India. Each of the industries has started to adapt to the new normal ever since the restrictions were relaxed. The car rental industry, to that end, appears to be well-equipped and prepared to serve its customers. Zoomcar had already reported a 400% rise in demand towards the end of 2020 and expected that to settle down at 200-300% during 2021.

Besides, Zoomcar has also announced the launch of its operations in Indonesia and Vietnam, with the pandemic situation stabilizing in most of the countries abroad. Furthermore, the company has also appointed business heads to scale their business and help it run smoothly in Indonesia and Vietnam.

Zoomcar has appointed Leo Wibisono Arifin as the Vice President and Country Head to look after the operations in Indonesia. Arifin served as the head of the strategy of one of the largest tech companies in Indonesia, GOJEK before he joined Zoomcar. According to the company, they chose Arifin to expand Zoomcar's mission of revolutionizing the mobility sector in Indonesia. Besides, Kiet Pham is scheduled to join the company as the Vice President and Country Head for Vietnam. Pham has held previously held offices of senior management positions at GOJEK, OYO, and Nielsen before joining Zoomcar.

The company is currently looking forward to utilizing the experience and expertise of Arifin and Pham in startup management to cement the position of Zoomcar as the first-to-market car-sharing platform in Indonesia and Vietnam.

COVID-19 has indeed changed the dynamics of India. Each of the industries has started to adapt to the new normal ever since the restrictions were relaxed. The car rental industry, to that end, appears to be well-equipped and prepared to serve its customers. Zoomcar had already reported a 400% rise in demand towards the end of 2020 and expected that to settle down at 200-300% during 2021.

Operating since 2012, when it was founded, Zoomcar has seen some growth in India, where it initially relied on a D2C model, which eventually took up the shared subscription model that allowed the idle cars to be rented out smoothly.

Zoomcar currently boasts of having a fleet of 10K+ cars that runs across 45 cities in India.

Zoomcar - Revenue

Zoomcar revenues are currently standing at Rs 103.6 crore in FY21, which previously stood at Rs 293.7 crore in FY20.  The Zoomcar revenue nosedived by 72.6%. This was mainly due to a drastic fall in its sales by 72.6%, which declined from Rs 289.7 cr to Rs 79.3 cr. However, its other income revenues increased by a staggering 519%, from Rs 3.9 cr to Rs 24.3 cr. This "other income" includes the Zoomcar dividend and interest income.  

Zoomcar - Advisors and Mentors

Mahindra has been a tremendous partner. Electric mobility was something they always wanted to push out and continue to develop over the next decades. This is a long game they are playing, and in that way, their long-term interests are very much aligned with Zoomcar.

"I think if you look at them they have certainly been visionaries in mobility in India and Anand Mahindra, hat's off to him, especially because he was able to see out into the future way back when they started to partner more deeply with REVA, which they acquired way back in 2010. Mahindra was always a cornerstone", says Greg about Mahindra.  

Zoomcar - Recognition and Awards

The company has received several different awards including Top Place to Work, Top Brand Marketing Campaign, among others. Each year, it receives several marketing-related awards - CIDCA Award for excellence in Digital Advertising and Marketing, ACEF, Best ATL Campaign for a Cause award at the mCube 2019 etc.

Zoomcar - Future Plans

Zoomcar is one of the largest subscription-based car rentals in the country today and considering the current situation, it is looking at exponential growth for businesses since people will prefer personal mobility.

The company is looking at various car subscription models to serve the needs of the customers. It is also seeing more demand for in-city trips compared to the outstation ones and a strong focus on shorter-term subscriptions. Its focus will be to diversify on this front and ensure it is covering all cities.

By prioritizing safety, hygiene, and customer experience with technology at the core, Zoomcar is looking to make its cars future-ready and COVID-19 safe. One of the startup's focus areas has been increasing this exponentially by adding more and more vehicle models which will be offered on a subscription basis. The company is also aggressively partnering with the major automotive OEMs to offer a subscription as an alternative to vehicle ownership.

Zoomcar is planning to list in the US markets via a SPAC. Here, it will interesting to see how Zoomcar manages to do so with its current financials.  

Zoomcar - FAQs

When was Zoomcar founded?

Zoomcar was founded by Greg Moran and David Back in 2012. The latter left in 2015.

How does Zoomcar make money?

Zoomcar earns from its subscription Zap subscribe.

What is the revenue of Zoomcar?

Zoomcar's standalone revenues in FY19 were Rs 266.6 crores, which increased to Rs 294.6 crores in FY20. The revenue of Zoomcar is at Rs 103.6 cr in FY21.

What is Driver Score Tech Stack?

Zoomcar recently launched India’s first vehicle model agnostic Driver Score Tech Stack for the passenger car segment. The AI-Powered algorithm with machine learning capabilities tracks the mechanical specs of the car being driven, the driving style of the customer, identifies critical events of driving and rates it on a scale of 0-100.

How many cars does Zoomcar own?

The self-drive car rental company has a fleet of 2,200 cars.

Where is the Zoomcar headquarters?

Zoomcar headquarters is in Bengaluru.