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25-year-old Kshitij Kapoor works with an MNC in Gurgaon. Being a resident of Mayur Vihar in East Delhi, he was quite hesitant initially to join an organisation at almost the other end of the city. However, things became easy when he started sharing rides with fellow commuters to Gurgaon from a nearby bus stop. Like Kshitij, in an urban city, most of the people travel almost 30-50 km on a daily basis and the amount of time they were stuck in traffic is anywhere between 60-150 minutes. Urban population is about to hit 590 Mn by 2030, which is around 400 Mn now. Indian cities are already dense with 200 – 1000 people per hectare within the city limits. With the increasing amount of traffic in the urban cities that has increased by ten folds and the pollution crossing alarming levels, this is the time to seek out a better alternative of commuting. Ride sharing comes as an ideal solution to all these commuting setbacks.

In a normal situation, where almost 60% of people in the cities travel alone on the roads, be it in their personal vehicles or in taxis and autos, traffic jams and pollution levels are bound to increase. The recently introduced sample odd-even rule in the capital city indeed enabled the city commuters to have a sigh of relief. The scheme brought an uptick in the concept of ride sharing as well as carpooling, thereby reducing the pollution and traffic jams to a tremendous extent. The reason being, almost 50% of the vehicles got cut off from the roads. So this suggests that if all the four modes of transportation; Cars, bikes, taxis and autos are utilised properly, it can benefit everyone. Ride sharing platforms propagate the same idea.

When it comes to taking intercity trips, travelling can be heavy on the pockets if done via bus or flights. Although we can’t do much about the cost but we can utilise the existing resources to find a practical alternative. Once again ride sharing here can be extremely cost-effective for the commuters, bringing intercity travelling within the budget.

Moreover, ride sharing platforms appear to benefit people in multiple formats. They intend to pair people with like-minded riders for travelling and also help them in saving money while doing their bit to keep the environment clean. This eventually positively impacts the traffic and pollution scenario of a city. Keeping all these benefits in mind, ride sharing must be taken to the next level so that people can actually follow and use the concept in their daily commuting.

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Factors leading to the slow progress of the ride sharing concept

We live in a country where social mores do not readily allow us to mingle with strangers. We tend to stay in our own comfort zone. Ride sharing has been an alternative mode of transportation in European countries & in western countries since a long time. In fact, people in those countries rely on ride sharing. But in India, public transport was never structured this way with ride sharing not even being perceived as a viable option. We cannot blame the people for such a mindset. In fact, there are a lot of cultural differences between India and the western countries.

Unfortunately, there is also a reigning misconception about the idea of ride sharing. People in India compare ride sharing with car-pooling. It is the concept of car-pooling that never comes to the mainstream even if the best technological solutions are built. Indians have an emotional connect with their personal vehicles and for a majority of them; it is usually the second most expensive possession as well as an achievement after owning a house. Thus, vehicle owners don’t wish to share their car with a stranger. It is this dilemma in the minds of people that has barred ride sharing from becoming a hit so far. Few more barriers like security concerns, waiting time, ride availability, reliability were also not addressed properly.

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The time for Ride Sharing is now!

At present, India has the world’s largest youth population with the average age of an Indian set to become 29 by the year 2020. Unlike the older generations, the new generation is open to new concepts and thought processes. Young, urban inhabitants with their broad-minded outlook and a more social demeanour are willing to meet new people or share a ride with them. With their increasing trust levels, their attitude towards strangers is also changing. This is influencing the older generation to follow suit. Thus, the present scenario has become favourable for ride sharing. With more number of takers, the concept can become an organised business and can seriously make a difference in the urban commuting sector. However, the acceptance towards ride sharing cannot take place overnight due to numerous parameters like finding a fellow rider who is travelling towards the same destination at the same time and on the same date, security issues, waiting time concerns and reliability. If the concept is followed aggressively though, issues like finding a last mile commuter will take a back seat.

Meanwhile, the Government must also intervene in evangelising this concept of ride sharing by facilitating the companies offering such services. For instance, a car owner, who is genuinely interested in offering a ride, may not get passengers for the first few weeks or even a month. This will make him lose interest. The centre should incentivise people for performing ride sharing service. Instead of just a concept, it should see ride sharing as a community driven movement for the overall welfare of the global environment as well as wiping out transportation hassles.

Ride sharing may have always existed in India as a well-known concept. In many cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Gurgaon, Noida, Mumbai “ShareAuto” or “ShareTaxi/Cab” is used often. However, so far, it was never executed in an organised way. With the rise in the number of smartphones and increasing penetration of the Internet, ride sharing apps will not only dominate the usage of mobile apps but will also induce a positive impact on urban commuting as a revolutionary mode of transport.

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