The term brings up images of a dusty traveller standing in the middle of a highway, thumb stuck out, backpack placed against the side of a highway marker waiting for the kindness of a passing car. It’s an idealistic image, isn’t it? When one thinks of hitchhiking, it’s always the passenger flagging a four-wheeler on a long trip in the middle of nowhere, or if your own vehicle breaks down in the middle and you need help getting to the nearest garage.
The number of four wheelers operating in India are 22 Mn, as per this report from the Ministry of Transport. And there are about 5 Mn taxis operating in India, in total – this includes taxis plying with cab aggregators such as Ola, Uber, Meru and private services. In stark contrast, according to a Credit Suisse report, there are about 155 Mn two wheelers running on Indian roads, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities, where cars are still considered a family luxury and cab-hailing is considered an expensive proposition. The disparity in numbers between four wheelers and two wheelers is 6x-7x.
With traffic congestion a perennial problem all over India, and a huge number of two wheelers (with an available empty seat) available for the taking, two corporate honchos Shashank Kansal and Ruchir Gupta created a bike pooling app – BYKUP. BYKUP’s basic USP is that it connects a biker and a rider on prescribed city commute routes.
The biker gets to ‘offer a lift’ and the rider ‘accepts the lift’ through geo-mapping algorithms, as per the website – turning the ancient mode of hitchhiking on its head and giving it a tech twist.
The Jaipur-based company managed to raise $200K in angel funding in two tranches of $100K in January and October 2016 respectively, and has a team of 14 , at the moment. BYKUP went live on the beta version in Android in the Tier II town of Jaipur and Hyderabad in August 2016 and expanded to Pune later.
“First of all, in Latin America and Spain, hitchhikers don’t draw their thumb up to signal for a ride. They keep it sideways. It signifies their status as a hitchhiker. So that is the first myth busted,” begins Shashank with a chuckle. “And then, we call it bike pooling because the idea of the app depends on making daily commuting easy for regular travellers. It’s not random hitchhiking. We want BYKUP to become your habitual transport,” adds Ruchir.