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Vehicle Sharing – Exploring the Market in India

Vehicle sharing is the simplest, most cost effective intervention for addressing the urban mobility problems we are facing today. 

In the Indian economy, which faces rapid rates of urbanization, urban mobility problems will choke growth in multiple ways, including:

  • Higher fuel consumption bill, leading to higher net imports of transport fuel
  • Productivity losses, in terms of lost man hours from traffic congestion during commute 
  • Increased macro-economic health costs, arising from air emissions
  • Inefficiencies due to constrained economic decision-making, for example, where workers are unable to realize  employment at a feasible commute trip relative to their homes
  • Increased inflationary pressures, where there is an increase in the freight & logistics cost components for  goods and services offered in urban environments
At present, the number of cars on Indian roads have been increasing by an average of 11% over the last 10 years (1). This extraordinary increase in the number of cars, particularly in cities, has led to a myriad of problems discussed above including rising fuel consumption, rising cost of transportation, deteriorating air quality with its associated health risks and increased traffic congestion.
Of this there are a number of possible macro- solutions that could be implemented in Indian cities:


  • Rapid growth of public transport infrastructure – metro, buses, mono-rail and BRTs are currently been actively catalyzed in India
  • Vehicle sharing options for urban workforce during work-home commute trips as well as Transport fleet optimization for both personal mobility and commercial transport services, with a focus on fleets such as taxis, auto-rickshaws, freight vehicles, and vans
  • Non-motorized transportation (i.e. walking, cycling), by creating or delineating appropriate pathways for safe and convenient walking and cycling lanes
  • Reducing the need for mobility through planning self-contained urban units, applying sustainable urban design, or ensuring government housing near industrial clusters
To achieve most of the above options, interventions in urban planning functions, financing options, skills development and citizen behavior change need to be implemented. These are summarized below:
Source: Sustainability Outlook
Vehicle Sharing Options thus represent an intervention which requires minimum upfront capital investment. The success of Vehicle Sharing interventions does not demand additional capacity from existing urban planning and governance functions and does not need human capital inputs to scale up as a solution.
There is also scope for the Vehicle Sharing Market to grow in India. Recent studies reveal that in most metropolitan cities, the average occupancy rate of private cars is 1.5 persons. (2)
Case Study: Delhi’s Overcrowded Roads
Not only has the population of Delhi ballooned in the last two decades, but so has the per capita car ownership which has led to a sharp jump of 15% in the number of vehicles in the city in just 2 years. (3)
Despite a flurry of flyover construction, and a revamp of the city’s public transport infrastructure, the increasing number of cars has caused the average vehicle speed in the city to drop from 23.5 km/hr to 15 km/hr between 1997 and 2007 (4). The Volume to Capacity Ratio (V/C) of major roads in Delhi varied between 1.01 and 2.83, which is higher than the ideal scenario of 0.7 for urban roads (5,6) as per the Indian Road Congress. One of the primary causes of this congestion is the large number of single-occupancy vehicles on the roads. Research shows that the occupancy of cars in Delhi is on an average only 1.15 (7).
In a case where the penetration of public transport and usage of cars (considering the population growth) in the city remains constant, the number of daily car trips in the city would nearly double to 5.6 million by 2021.
Source: Data from DDA, Delhi Govt., CSE, IRC; Analysis by Sustainability Outlook
To deal with this situation, the ideal option would be further development of the public transport systems so that mass transportation becomes the default22222 option for the millions of citizens driving to work every day. 
The government of Delhi has embarked upon an ambitious plan to ensure that 80% of the urban commuters use the city’s public transport system. (8)
But can Public Transport account for 80% of travel within Delhi?
Today, public transport accounts for about 40% of the total trips in the city, with private vehicles accounting for 35% and the remaining 25% trips are made by walking or cycling.  (9)
Source: CSE, Sustainability Outlook Analysis
Since the workforce in Delhi is expected to nearly double (grow by 184%) between 2011 and 2021, simply maintaining a 40% share of public transport would require a corresponding growth of 184% of the public transport infrastructure. 
Can our public transport infrastructure support 80% of travel in New Delhi? We examine top public transport solutions planned for Delhi to 2021
Source: Data from DTC, Delhi Metro, DDA; Analysis by Sustainability Outlook
Considering the different modes of public transport, Sustainability Outlook Analysis shows that even in the best case scenarios, public transport will only cater to 53% of the city’s population, which is in the ballpark of the MoUD projection of 55%.    In that light, increasing its capacity by four-fold to meet the government target seems far-fetched, if not impossible.
The figure below shows the modal mix of Urban Transport in Delhi in 2012, and the projections to 2021 as per three different scenarios:
  • Business As Usual:  Share of public transport is 40%
  • Sustainability Outlook projections: Share of public transport is 53%
  • According to the MoUD projections: Share of public transport is 55%
  • Delhi Government Master Plan: Share of public transport is 80%
FIG: Home-Work Commute Trips by mode of transport in 2012; (B) Projected Home-Work Commute Trips by mode of transport in 2021

Sources: Center for Science and Environment , Delhi Government , Delhi Development Authority , Sustainability Outlook analysis

The Opportunity Zone for Vehicle Sharing – targeting the 47% who will be unable to use public transport in Delhi in 2021
People living in Delhi may not have the default22222 option of using public transport.  In the absence of the urban utopia where majority of the transportation occurs through high density transit systems, a possibility of vehicle sharing opens up. Surveys of residents in Delhi indicate that over 50% are open to the idea of vehicle sharing.  Of the daily commuters who aren’t currently using public transport, today, from our previous analysis, this would indicate a potential market of 0.87 million daily commuters already. Fast-forward to 2021, and that number could be as high as 1.6 million, with an associated growth rate (over 9 years) of 84%. 
FIG: Growth of Vehicle Sharing Market under various scenarios
Source: Sustainability Outlook Analysis

“Our highest users still remain the general public” talks about the Vehicle Sharing in India

Of late, a number of mobile apps and online services have opened up, aiming to meet this large, potentially untapped market for Vehicle Sharing. One of the key hurdles on the path to growth is creating awareness and demand Vehicle Sharing. Sustainability Outlook caught up with one such online car-pool facilitator, SearchCarPools, owned by WebReinvent Technologies to find out more. 
Where do you see India’s carpooling market heading? 
The market for carpooling in India is growing, but at a very slow, unsatisfactory pace. The main reason behind this disappointing progress is mistrust and lack of initiative. People are not ready to trust a stranger easily.  As of now, our company requires a registrant to fill in a form with all details including demographic and workplace information. At a later stage, we are planning to introduce identity verification measures where-in they will have to register with the copies of photo and address proof.
Also, for most of us comfort outdoes our responsibilities and initiatives towards environment. We can drive a sedan (with just one occupant) to our work and contribute in jams and pollution but would not do carpooling and live in a purer, jam free town. 
What has been your model for corporate partnerships? Has corporate partners been your highest user uptake?
We have been trying to promote carpooling amongst corporate our highest users still remain the general public.
What is the biggest roadblock for wide adoption of carpooling services in India? 
The biggest bottleneck for carpooling in India is the gap between demand and supply, or, seekers and providers. In certain areas there are more providers than seekers and in certain, it’s vice versa. This is because of two main reasons:
1. Some people are unaware that a platform like this exists. 
2. From those who are aware, some don’t want to do it because of the issues I have already outlined.
What has been the consumer reaction to carpooling in India? What are the barriers?
Today, we have around 18,000 carpoolers with the platform being available in 7 other countries as well. These are countries from Europe, America and Asia and amongst these foreign countries, Singapore tops in engagement with us. We are working on certain technologies and looking forward to funds to create not just awareness but interest, and take it to the next level.

The future for Indian Cities
Today, Delhi has the largest road density in India, and the most popular Metro Rail network in the country. Despite that, Delhi seems to facing an urgent need for organized vehicle sharing options. The traffic situation is expected to be worse for other rapidly growing Indian cities, particularly Mumbai and Bangalore, whose network of roads is not as well developed as that of Delhi.
The opportunity for Vehicle Sharing interventions will become a critical necessity as cities face future scenarios where vehicle ownership and public transport may no longer be viable ‘go to’ solutions that are today.
  1.   Page 11, 
  2.   Page 15, 
  5.   Volume to Capacity Ratio (V/C) is a measure to evaluate the extent of utilization of road capacity. Ideally, it should be always less than 1. The V/C for design service volume for rural roads is 0.5 and for urban roads it is 0.7 as per Indian Road Congress norms.
  7.   Indian Road Congress (IRC, 1999), Guidelines for Capacity of Urban Roads in Plain 
  8. Areas, New Delhi, India
  16. page 66
Image: Elliot Brown via Flickr