Jiffry Zulfer must be one of the few, if not the only, chief executive of a sizeable business without his own company car. Well, actually, he has but not in the conventional sense. The founder of PickMe, a ride-hailing firm now valued at 13 billion rupees, gets about on the cabs his company offers commuters with the convenience of a few taps on a mobile phone app. That valuation puts PickMe higher than John Keells Hotels, whose current market capitalization is at 12.4 billion rupees. “We are making profits now, probably the only ride-hailing company making money,” Zulfer says.
Zulfer is determined to get as many of us as possible to adopt his own attitude, giving up car ownership and relying on PickMe, whose service he assures will be available round-the-clock, reaching even the remotest estate on the island. “Today, we’re a mobility platform. We move people, we move food, we move goods. Our big vision is to see how we can be part of everyone’s journey today. Our biggest competition is essentially vehicle ownership.” Zulfer aims to build a platform that replaces your vehicle, noting that owning a vehicle is a liability.
“If you didn’t own one, you won’t have the headache of your insurance and license renewals, to worry about parking. And if you were to use a platform like ours, you’re using your time better. You can sit in the back of a taxi, and read your emails, read a book, and maybe call your wife.”
“We want to make sure mobility is convenient, and we provide a great experience, at the lowest possible price.”
PickMe, which shook up and transformed the mundane taxi service, offering customers improved availability, reliability, and visibility,at affordable rates, has expanded into food delivery and logistics, eyeing especially small businesses. It is buying other companies in related areas, having picked up YAMU, a digital content creator that specialises in restaurant reviews, aiming to make money on the growing trend of ordering food and eating out. Financial services are another business the company is eyeing. Today, PickMe has over a million active users on its platform.
Over two million people have downloaded its app, but the company does not keep track of downloads given a high churn rate – say tourists who download the app but uninstall it when they leave. PickMe, which works in partnership with drivers who provide their vehicles, has a driver base of 60,000 and has seen a growth in part-time drivers people who work in regular jobs and drive in the evenings and early mornings. The company has a growing team of techies building the software, doing data analytics and using artificial intelligence to make optimum use of the information yielded by each ride. “Today we have one of the best engineering teams in the country,” says Zulfer.
“We have a growing data science team working on new algorithms, machine learning, AI. We understand our cities better than even government institutions because we know how people move around. It gives us an idea of what’s broken, what’s working.” PickMe now offers flexible pricing, reducing rates during off-peak hours, as it refines its ability to match demand and supply. It has just rolled out ‘upfront pricing’, estimating the length of the journey and fare to the destination you want to go to, with the ability to recalculate if customers deviate. “We’re building the next wave of mobility,” says Zulfer. “We want to make sure mobility is convenient, and we provide a great experience, at the lowest possible price. In the last five years, one of the few things that came down in price is your cost of transport.”