Chalo - Track Bus Routes and Enjoy Hassle Free Travel

Chayanika Goswami Chayanika Goswami
Oct 5, 2021 14 min read
Chalo - Track Bus Routes and Enjoy Hassle Free Travel

When it comes to public transport, buses are the most preferred means of traveling for many people across rural and urban India. 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 where intracity bus travels in India boasts of a total spend of around $35.5 billion. This $35.5 Bn is expected to grow to $45 Bn in 3 years (FY 22), as per a report conducted by PGA Labs in February 2020.

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 over 23 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, Funding, Revenues, Challenges, Awards, Growth, and more.

Chalo Highlights

Startup Name Chalo
Headquarter Navi Mumbai
Founders Mohit Dubey, Priya Singh Dubey, Dhruv Chopra, Vinayak Bhavnani
Sector Public Transportation
Founded 2014
Parent Organization Zophop Technologies Private Limited

About Chalo
Chalo - USP
How Chalo is Ensuring Safety of its Passengers during this Covid times
Chalo - Founders
The Idea Behind Starting Chalo
Chalo - Name & Logo
Chalo - Revenue Model
Chalo - Funding
Chalo - Challenges
Chalo - Awards
Chalo - Growth
Chalo - FAQs

About Chalo

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 city bus services and making them more reliable, easier and more convenient to use, and less time consuming, and thus increase ridership in these buses.

For a consumer, Chalo provides three key tech-led services:

  • 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.
  • Chalo Card: 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.
  • Mobile Passes / Tickets: 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 the pass centre 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 app is free and is 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 in 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.

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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 Products
Chalo Products

How Chalo is Ensuring Safety of its Passengers during this Covid times

As soon as the nationwide lockdown, all the bus services were halted across the country. Now, as the services resume, the focus has shifted to ensuring safety across the bus network, for each and every passenger and crew member.

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.

Risk of Covid-19 Transmission In A Bus arises form 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, 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, so 95% of the risk is removed, making buses 20x safer. Chalo has also introduced the world-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 as safe, or even safer, than domestic flying.

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Chalo - Founders

Mohit Dubey, Priya Singh Dubey, Dhruv Chopra and Vinayak Bhavnani are the founders of Chalo.

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 Indian City roads 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 CEO of 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.

Prior to Chalo, Mohit founded and served as CEO at CarWale and BikeWale, India’s #1 automotive portals for cars and two-wheelers respectively, from 2005 to 2017. He also founded and led a software development start-up from 2003-2005 and prior to that served on the management teams at other companies. Mohit holds a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA in Finance.

Chalo Founding Team
Chalo Founding Team

Dhruv Chopra, Chief Marketing Officer, Chalo, is responsible for overall marketing at Chalo and runs it with a soft spot for all things digital. He’s passionate about taking cars and bikes off the road and replacing them with public transport because he believes that we will all have happier lives with stress-free travel, and have a lot more time to ourselves to do what we want to.

Prior to Chalo, Dhruv held the positions of Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President, Enterprise Solutions, for CarWale and BikeWale, India’s #1 auto portal, from 2009 to 2017. He has also managed digital marketing at HSBC India (2006 - 2009),  run his own IT company, and programmed online video games in the early part of his career.

Priya Singh Dubey is the Chief People Officer of Chalo. Priya focuses on building amazing talent at Chalo and works towards securing the company’s foundation for future growth. She is also responsible for training and development across the company, including for crew members on Chalo Buses. Priya has been a part of Chalo since its inception in 2014, initially as an early investor, before taking over the role of CPO in 2019.

Prior to this, Priya was the Senior Vice President, Talent and Training, at Carwale. She has also held pivotal roles in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Madhya Pradesh, India, and the World Food Programme. Priya also serves on the board of Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools.

Vinayak Bhavnani is responsible for the Product and Technology at Chalo. He has been a part of Chalo since its inception in 2014 and is passionate about using technology to make the everyday commute easier, simpler, and convenient for the overwhelming majority of people in the country. At Chalo, Vinayak oversees development of all products - for consumers, bus operators, and regulatory partners - and the entire technology platform, spanning live tracking, ticketing, payments, cards, and more. Under his guidance, Chalo has become one of the few companies in the world to have built the entire technology stack for public transport operations management.

Prior to Chalo, Vinayak worked at Directi, building large-scale enterprise-grade chat and voice products. Vinayak hails from Kota and is a Computer Science graduate from IIT Delhi.

The Idea Behind Starting Chalo

Getting stuck in the city traffic is an annoying yet everyday situation that most of us Indians needs to face. Given the heavy traffic jam, moving around within the city has turned out to be like some challenging task. 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 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 means 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.

The name 'Chalo' comes from the very core of  the startup's business objective, i.e “making travel easy for everyone”.

Chalo Logo
Chalo Logo
"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 - Revenue Model

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

Chalo has raised total funding worth $70 million to date. The latest round of funding raised by Chalo is the Series C funding round of $40 mn, which the company raised on October 5, 2021. This recent funding round was led by Lightrock India and Filter Capital along with other existing investors like Raine Venture Partners, WalterBridge Ventures, and more. The last round it raised was a round of $7 mn, from Raine Venture Partners Series B funding on January 13, 2021.

Chalo will utilize the latest funds it received to develop better technologies, cement its position in India and expand its business operations internationally.

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Chalo - Challenges

To make bus travel hassle free, there is not just one but many factors that needs 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.

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Chalo - Awards

Awarded as among India’s Top 50 Start-ups by Nasscom in 2017.

Chalo - Growth

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 23 cities, which expanded to a presence in 31+ cities, as of October 2021. Chalo boasts of an incredible pace of growth, which it grew 1 new city strong each month for 2 continuous years. Also 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 31 cities, completing over 20 million rides each month, as reported in October 2021.

"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.

Chalo - FAQs

What is Chalo 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.

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 are not a thing. However, Chalo connects with over 15,000 buses and boasts of having a presence in around 31 cities of India.

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