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When it comes to public transport, buses are the most preferred means of traveling for many people across rural and urban India. While factors like the easy availability of buses and affordable fares are the reasons why most people choose to travel by bus, there is still much scope for improvement in the bus transportation segment in India. From waiting for buses to standing in queues to buy bus tickets, there are many hassles associated with bus travel. Mumbai-based startup 'Chalo' was founded in 2014, to do away with these very hassles.
With the help of technology, Chalo is making traveling in city buses a smooth experience for travelers across 22 Indian cities. We interviewed Chalo Co-founder Dhruv Chopra, to understand more about this innovative startup.
Here's the success story of Chalo that will help you learn About Chalo, its USP, Founders, Name and Logo, Chalo Funding, Revenues, Challenges, Awards, Chalo Growth, and more.
|Founders||Mohit Dubey, Priya Singh Dubey, Dhruv Chopra, Vinayak Bhavnani, Nikhil Aggarwal (resigned in 2019)|
|Valuation||$365+ mn (July 2022)|
|Parent Organization||Zophop Technologies Private Limited|
Chalo - Industry
Chalo - USP
Chalo - Founders and Team
Chalo - Startup Story
Chalo - Name & Logo
Chalo - Business and Revenue Model
Chalo - Funding and Investors
Chalo - Acquisitions
Chalo - Challenges
Chalo - Awards
Chalo - Growth
Chalo - Future Plans
Chalo is a technology-driven transport solutions company that aims to make travel by public transport better. The startup's key focus is on improving the bus services of the cities making them more reliable, easier, more convenient to use, and less time-consuming, thus increasing ridership in these buses.
Chalo provides the Chalo App, through which a customer can track any bus live and see its live arrival time. This means no more waiting at a bus stop – you can plan to arrive at the bus stop just 1-2 minutes before your bus.
For a consumer, Chalo provides these products or key tech-led services:
NFC touch-to-pay card which can store a wallet and multi-trip tickets (e.g. monthly pass). This means no more hassles of carrying change, and in the times of COVID-19, contactless payments increase safety by 20x over.
Chalo Mobile Bus Passes
Available through the Chalo app, users can buy their bus passes/tickets on the Chalo app and simply scan their QR code to travel. This means no more trips to pass counter again, for the lakhs of students and other passengers who use bus passes to travel. This also adds to safety as there is no contact or exchange of cash with the conductor.
Chalo offers an innovative facility for the users to buy their tickets in advance and just activate them before they travel.
Chalo Super Saver
With Chalo Super Saver, Chalo offers flexible prepaid plans on the Chalo card and Chalo app that helps the users save big on their travels.
Chalo app is free and readily available on Google Play Store. People can download and start using it right away to track their buses live, and in some cities, they can also buy their bus passes/bus tickets on the mobile app.
The Chalo team has been spending a lot of time and effort on feedback from the early versions and has continuously improved the app over the last 3 years. On an average, there is a new version released with improvements every 2 weeks. New features like trip planner, emergency SOS, live trip sharing, and multiple languages have all been added over time.
The most recent update includes a live passenger indicator, which shows users how full the bus is against the recommended capacity in that city. This is especially useful as buses are operating with dramatically reduced capacity due to COVID-19.
Chalo strives to track the local buses using GPS trackers, thereby offering a service that is crucial for the traffic-clogged roads of the Indian cities. Chalo also helps the riders by showing them the updates of the next bus and thus, minimises the wait times and the anxiety. Chalo partners with the bus operators in order to equip their fleet with tracker-enabled public buses.
Chalo - Industry
According to 2019 industry data, the total spends on the shared commute is around $83 Billion, which includes buses, auto, trains and cabs, and other modes of transport. Out of this, buses are the single largest mode of transport where it has been seen that the intracity bus travels in India boast of a total spend of over $35.5 billion.
The bus industry of India is huge indeed. India ranks among the top 10 in the world in the bus segment. Over 30,000 vehicles are sold in India every year, say reports.
Chalo - USP
From tracking the bus timings to buying bus tickets, Chalo is not only making life simple for bus travelers, but the startup is also helping bus operators to increase their number of riders.
The need for improving bus services has already been established, and many city governments and bus operators are looking to bring in technology to improve services. Their main challenge has been the investment needed, and the ongoing maintenance, updates and usage of technology to increase ridership.
Chalo’s unique business model solves both these problems for them, and by charging only for increased ridership, effectively the bus operator gains by partnering with Chalo, rather than spending money on technology and services.
Chalo - Founders and Team
Mohit Dubey, Priya Singh, Dhruv Chopra, Vinayak Bhavnani, and Nikhil Aggarwal are the founders of Chalo. Nikhil left the company as the COO and Co-founder in October 2019 whereas all the other founding members are still there on the Chalo team.
Mohit, Priya, and Dhruv had worked together previously to build CarWale and BikeWale, India’s #1 car and bike portals. The trio, like every other urban Indian, was bothered by the congestion and chaos in the roads of the Indian cities due to the increasing number of private vehicles and wanted to find out a solution to this. In 2014, Mohit met Vinayak, (a software developer from IIT Delhi) who too shared similar interests.
Mohit Dubey is the Co-founder and CEO of Chalo. Prior to Chalo, Mohit founded and served as CEO at CarWale, BikeWale, India’s #1 automotive portals for cars and two-wheelers respectively, from 2005 to 2017, and CarTrade. He also founded and led Founder & CEO Veracious Solutions Pvt Ltd, a software development startup, from 2003-2005. Dubey started as an Executive assistant to the MD of M.M. Poonjiaji Spices Ltd. and then went on to be the Marketing Head at Cyber Infodev Pvt Ltd., and had eventually headed numerous organizations in his career to date. Mohit had also been the Cofounder and Member Board Of Directors of CarTrade. Mohit Dubey holds a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA in Finance from Goa University.
Priya Singh is the Co-founder and the Chief People Officer of Chalo. After obtaining a BA and MA in Humanities and Clinical/Medical and Community Social Work, Priya went to complete an Executive Leadership Development from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Priya served as a Mental Health Counsellor at the start of her career. She then became a Guest Lecturer at Barkatullah College, a Block Incharge at CARE India, and eventually moved to become the State Project Officer at the World Food Programme. Priya then became Communication Specialist at Population Services International, and a State Programme Manager - NRHM, MP at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. She finally decided to find Chalo. However, before that, she also served as a Vice President at CarWale, founded Rangrezaaglobal, held the Mumbai Chair - Masoom at Young Indians, and served as the Board of Director of Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools.
Bringing in "20+ years of diverse leadership experience with Startup, Internet Industry, Development Sector/International NGOs, Public Private Partnership, Government Policies and Implementation", Priya Singh is nothing less than a vital asset to the company
Dhruv Chopra is known as the Chief Marketing Officer at Chalo. He also served the same designation at CarWale, after he stepped down from the duties of the VP. Chopra also worked as the VP of HSBC prior to that. His previous roles include that of Marketing Sales Executive at Cerebra Integrated Technologies Limited; Games Programmer at Nazara; Partner / Programmer / Business Development at Infoserve; Account Manager at Optimos, and Manager of E-business Sales at Xerago. Dhruv Chopra has a BA in Economics.
Vinayak Bhavnani is an IIT Delhi alumnus, who has a dual degree in Computer Science. He is currently known as the Co-founder and CTO of Chalo. Bhavnani was a Software Development Intern at Naukri.com, after which he became a Software Developer at Directi. He then co-founded Zophop Tech, where he also served as the CEO, prior to joining hands with the other co-founders and founding Chalo.
The team at Chalo believes that a lot of our cities’ problems – congestion, air pollution, long commutes, travel stress, accidents, and even road deaths – are closely linked to the way we travel, and we can have clean, green, and beautiful cities when we change the way we travel, and thus significantly improve the quality of our lives.
Dhruv Chopra, Chief Marketing Officer, Chalo, overlooks the overall marketing of Chalo with a keen eye for details in all things digital. He takes great interest in substituting cars and bikes with public transport. Furthermore, he believes that we can enjoy happier lives with travel that involves less stress, and will eventually have a lot more time to think about ourselves, what we are doing presently, and our future plans.
Dhruv was the Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President, Enterprise Solutions, of CarWale and BikeWale before Chalo was founded. He served as a digital marketing manager at HSBC India (2006 - 2009), run his own IT company, and programmed online video games in the initial days of his career.
Priya Singh Dubey is the Chief People Officer (CPO) of Chalo. Priya helps the company build amazing talent and helps in cementing the position of the company in order to make further growth possible. Furthermore, she is also responsible for the training and development that goes on across the company, including crew members on Chalo Buses. Priya stood by Chalo since it was established in 2014. She was initially an early investor of the company and eventually took over the role of CPO in 2019.
Priya served as the Senior Vice President, Talent, and Training, at Carwale. Besides, she was also responsible for other pivotal roles in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Madhya Pradesh, India, and in the World Food Programme. Priya also serves as a board member of the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools.
Vinayak Bhavnani is responsible for the Product and Technology at Chalo. He has been a part of Chalo since it was founded in 2014. Vinayak is really passionate about using technology, which he thinks, will help make the everyday commute a lot simpler and much more convenient for an overwhelming majority of Indians. Vinayak contributes to the development of all products at Chalo and oversees the work in the department, rendering it efficient for the consumers, bus operators, and regulatory partners - and the entire technology platform, spanning live tracking, ticketing, payments, cards, and more. Chalo has successfully stood as one of the few companies that have managed to build the entire technology stack for public transport operations management. All of these were possible under the guidance of Vinayak.
Vinayak worked at Directi before Chalo, where he was responsible for building large-scale enterprise-grade chat and voice products. Vinayak's hometown is Kota. He has a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from IIT Delhi.
Nikhil Aggarwal has been the co-founder and COO of Chalo since 2016. He was a student of Delhi University from where he completed his graduation. Nikhil had previously worked at the World Bank as a Consultant.
Chalo - Startup Story
Getting stuck in the city traffic is annoying yet something that most of us Indians need to face. Given the heavy traffic jam that is being an increasing bother each day, moving around within the city has turned out to be a challenging task. The increasing numbers of private vehicles is a major reason for this congestion of roads within the city. Chalo co-founders Mohit, Priya, Dhruv, and Vinayak had many discussions on such issues and realized that developed means of public transport can be of much help to get out of this situation.
"Why are international cities that have equally bad congestion – like Hong Kong, London, New York, and Singapore – still much easier to get around in, and live in? The answer was simple – they have more efficient and highly reliable public transportation, which people prefer to use over their private vehicles. This is eventually the only way to reduce traffic congestion on our roads and make our Indian cities also more livable, with everyone having healthier and better lives." quotes Dhruv Chopra
In their research, the Chalo Co-founders realized that, in India, buses are the single largest mode of public transport (48% of all trips) and also have the largest improvement opportunity. While intracity train and metro facilities are present only in a few cities of India (with a limited footprint), local bus services are present in almost every city and cover the length and breadth of a city. However, unreliable and inefficient bus systems mean that people chose private vehicles vs buses. Thus, the team saw a huge opportunity in using technology to make buses more reliable, and improve the passenger experience.
Chalo - Name & Logo
The name 'Chalo' comes from the very core of the startup's business objective of “making travel easy for everyone”.
"We wanted the name to be easy to understand and relatable across passenger segments and across the country. Chalo is one of the most common words used for beginning any form of travel and hence is a perfect fit. We also love the fact that we use the word “Chalo” several times in a typical day" says Chalo co-founder Dhruv Chopra explaining the idea behind the startup's name.
Chalo - Business and Revenue Model
Chalo partners with buses and their operators to help the consumers or the end-users. Therefore, it leverages the B2B model to benefit the end-users, thereby wiping off their wait times.
Chalo deploys live tracking, payment systems, and operations services for bus operators without any upfront investment on their part. This means that the entire capex and initial investments needed in hardware like GPS devices, Electronic ticketing machines, making cards available, are all borne by Chalo.
Chalo partners with bus operators to increase ridership, and charges operators a share of the increased ridership, thus making it a win-win situation for all.
Chalo - Funding and Investors
Chalo has raised total funding worth $60.9 million to date. The company last raised a $13.9 mn round led by Lightrock on April 5, 2022.
The previous round of funding raised by Chalo was the Series C funding round of $40 mn, which the company raised on October 5, 2021. This funding round was led by Lightrock India and Filter Capital along with other existing investors like Raine Venture Partners, WalterBridge Ventures, and more.
It was a round of $7 mn that Chalo raised prior to that from Raine Venture Partners Series B funding on January 13, 2021. Chalo is currently valued at $365 mn, as of July 11, 2022, and is looking forward to achieving a valuation close to $800 mn.
Chalo will utilize the latest funds it received to develop better technologies, cement its position in India and expand its business operations internationally.
|April 5, 2022||Venture Round||$13.9 mn||Lightrock|
|October 5, 2021||Series C||$40 mn||Filter Capital, Lightrock|
|January 13, 2021||Venture Round||$7 mn||Raine Ventures|
|January 1, 2019||Seed Round||-||Trifecta|
|May 27, 2018||Seed Round||-||-|
|October 16, 2017||Seed Round||-||-|
Chalo - Acquisitions
Chalo has acquired Shuttl on October 26, 2021, for an undisclosed amount, which is the first-ever acquisition for the company. Chalo was rumored to be acquiring Vogo in an all-stock deal as per the reports on November 13, 2021, from sources close to the deal, which finally became real on March 28, 2021. The acquisition of the two-wheeler rental startup was via a share swap deal. The Vogo acquisition is expected to reinforce the company with first and last-mile ride services at major bus stops and other public places.
Here's a couple of Chalo acquisitions:
|Company Acquired||Date of Acquisition||Deal Value|
|Vogo||March 28, 2022||-|
|Shuttl||October 26, 2021||-|
Chalo - Challenges
To make bus travel hassle-free, there is not just one but many factors that need to be taken care of, which is quite a herculean task for the Chalo team. Within the first few months of launching Chalo's live tracking services in Indore, which significantly reduced the wait time at the bus stops, the team realized that live information on when the bus is going to come is only a part of the problem. Aspects such as improving the reliability across the network, ensuring buses were better kept clean, were all equally important.
On further scrutiny, they found that there were a few inherent issues with the ways bus systems were managed. Barring a few cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai, where the entire city routes are managed by a single operator, in most other cities, the bus routes are auctioned to private bus operators. A typical bus operator manages 1-20 buses and owns rights over certain bus routes defined by the government. The service levels across the city are therefore not uniform, leaving a customer dissatisfied. Also, small private operators tend to compete with each other rather than work towards the betterment of the overall network, and their micro-optimizations often result in unreliable bus services for passengers. Research shows that a passenger tends to shift very quickly to other means of transport like a shared auto if buses do not run on time or even purchase their own 2-wheeler if they can.
To provide a pleasant and a standardized travel experience to the bus riders, the team at Chalo is constantly working on bringing in a systematized management of services across the entire bus network of a city that could impact the way bus services were delivered to passengers and increase ridership.
The different aspects on which 'Chalo' is working includes-
- Delivering the latest technology to bus travelers – live tracking, tap to pay cards, mobile ticketing and passes, etc.
- Taking ownership for the entire bus experience – from cleaning buses to training bus crew, to ensuring adherence to schedules, etc.
- Improving bus routes and schedules to suit the changing structure of a city.
To successfully implement this vision, Chalo partners with existing bus operators, and the various government entities involved in delivering city transport services – for example, the smart city SPVs, city transport SPVs and departments, road transport corporations, etc.
With the acquisition of Shuttl, which came on October 26, 2021, Chalo is currently aiming to bring in premium bus services and plans to expand internationally, starting from Bangkok, where Shuttl already has its presence.
Chalo - Awards
Chalo was featured among India’s Top 50 Start-ups by Nasscom in 2017.
Chalo - Growth and Revenue
The first break for Chalo came in 2017, when Indore’s largest bus operator agreed to install Chalo’s GPS devices on their buses, thus enabling users of the app to live track those buses. But this still was not 100% of the city’s buses, so it was not useful for all bus passengers.
The first city to launch the Chalo App with live bus tracking across 100% of its buses was Bhopal in May 2018. With just a press conference to announce the service, word spread among bus passengers rapidly, and within the first month itself 25% of bus travelers in Bhopal were using the Chalo App to live-track their buses. Today, nearly all bus passengers with a smartphone in Bhopal have installed the Chalo App.
Chalo has grown rapidly over the last few years. From the first 100% live tracking city of Bhopal in May 2018, to over 22 cities, which it has expanded to, as of July 2022, is an amazing feat, no doubt! Chalo boasts of an incredible pace of growth, in which it grew 1 new city strong each month for 2 continuous years. Also, the product offerings to users/passengers kept expanding. Besides, the company also kept bringing in the latest and best technologies from around the world to improve the passenger experience.
The Chalo App is currently used more than 10 million times each month. Chalo operates with a fleet of 15,000 buses in around 22 cities, completing over 20 million rides each month, as reported in July 2022.
"Our company’s core purpose is to “make travel better for everyone”. Having implemented its integrated journey planner – the Chalo app - in 23 cities across India to offer live tracking of buses, and as the pioneer of cashless payments for buses in India, Chalo is the preferred partner of many smart cities in the country, helping them in their mission to increase the adoption of public transport among the residents. The intent of starting Chalo was to make it easier to use public transport in India reliable and pleasant and prefered choice for everyday travel." quotes Chalo co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer Dhruv Chopra emphasizing on the startup's vision.
How Chalo Ensured Safety of its Passengers during the Covid times!
As soon as the nationwide lockdown was announced, all the bus services were halted across the country. Now, when the services resumed, the focus shifted to ensuring safety across the bus network, for each and every passenger and everybody else.
The Chalo team studied the virus transmission risk in buses and found that 95% of the risk comes from cash exchange in the bus, whereas just 5% comes from passenger-to-passenger transmission and surface transmission.
The risk of Covid-19 Transmission in a bus arises from the following sources -
- Cash + Paper Tickets = 3,000 opportunities
[1 Conductor x 1,000 passengers x 3 opportunities each (giving cash, receiving change, receiving ticket) 95%]
- Passenger to Passenger = 80 opportunities
[1 passenger x 40 co-passengers x 2 trips daily (Assuming full bus load of 40 passengers) 3%]
- Surface Transmission = 70 opportunities
[1 passenger x 35 surfaces x 2 trips daily (Assuming passenger touches nearly all available surfaces) 2% ]
Yet, the current efforts around the country focus only on de-congesting the bus, which is the last 5% of the risk.
Chalo doubled down on implementing contactless payments in buses, which removed 95% of the risk right away, making buses 20x safer. Chalo has also introduced the world's first “100% trace and contact” system for public transport, which tracks 100% of rides across the network, enables reverse contact tracing, and ensures that 100% of passengers are contactable.
This means that if any passenger is detected/suspected as infected, each of their co-passengers for the last 2 weeks can be reverse-looked-up and contacted, to enable containment measures.
This system makes buses safe, even safer than domestic flying.
Chalo Revenue and Financials
Chalo has registered operational revenue that equals to Rs 27.63 crore in FY21, which was Rs 27.43 crore in FY20. Its growth was flat during FY21. However, it is important to note that the Chalo losses were also reduced significantly by around 42%, which became Rs 33 crore in FY21.
Chalo - Future Plans
Speaking on the future plans of the company after the acquisition of Vogo, the CTO and Co-founder of Chalo, Vinayak Bhavani said, “This acquisition offers Chalo key strategic gains. Now we will be able to offer a convenient and cost-effective option for bus passengers to travel to and from bus stops, solving the door-to-door daily commute. This will increase bus ridership and serve our core purpose of making travel more convenient and reliable for all."
What is the Chalo live bus tracking app?
Chalo is a free app you can down on Google Play Store that tracks buses live and provides mobile ticketing solutions for bus tickets and bus passes.
Who are the founders of Chalo?
Initially founded by a team of Mohit Dubey, Priya Singh Dubey, Dhruv Chopra, Vinayak Bhavnani, Nikhil Aggarwal, Chalo now has 4 of its founding members, except Nikhil, who has left the company back in October 2019.
How does Chalo app work?
The Chalo startup works in partnership with bus operators to provide passengers with live tracking. They also provide cash-free transaction options for travellers.
Does Chalo have their own bus service?
No, as of now, Chalo buses is not a thing. However, Chalo connects with over 15,000 buses and boasts of having a presence in around 22 cities in India.
What is Chalo funding?
The Chalo funding lies at around $60.9 mn to date, as of July 11, 2022.
Who is Priya Singh at Chalo?
Priya Singh is the Co-founder and the Chief People Officer (CPO) at Chalo.