Millennials today prefer sharing things for a great experience at a nominal cost. To facilitate that, cab aggregators like Uber and Ola offer car pooling services, while the hospitality industry offers homestays by multinational majors like HeyBnb, etc and many Indian players like 99roomz as well.
Cab aggregator Uber facilitates Uber pooling, where four people going in the same direction can share the cab and pay a minimal amount in comparison to the fare involved in UberX or UberGo. An Uber spokesperson said, “With lower prices and more shared rides, we truly believe people can move past car ownership as taking Uber becomes less expensive than having their own vehicle.” On an average, 20% of Uber’s trips are on “pool” in their service areas; in Delhi it is as much as 30% of the total trips.
Among the regular users of Uber Pool is Akshay, 25, a marketing professional, who said, “During rush hours, Metro and public transport are so crowded, it literally takes courage to travel for hours. But with the pooling facility, I have earned the comfort of a cab at a nominal price.”
However, with the pros of fuel saving and cheaper rates come the cons of fare loss for drivers. Rajesh Kumar, a driver said, “There are very few people who now book a Micro or Mini, because everybody wants to save money. We travel large distances many times in a prime car ferrying one person at the pooling rates and it is a loss for us.”
But the Uber spokesperson had a different explanation to offer. “Drivers are paid on trip distance and time plus a base fare according to their city’s UberPOOL rates. In fact, the driver gets paid for the entire trip as per this fare structure even if rider fares are discounted,” the spokesperson said in a written reply to this reporter.
Following the success of shared rides, the hospitality industry opened itself to homestays, an arrangement under which people with a spare room, apartment or a house can accommodate guests visiting their city. From the guests’ perspective, it’s a win-win situation as they get the comfort of a home while avoiding the high prices of a hotel. The industry’s big players include multinational groups such as AirBnb, and HeyBnb, and indigenous ones like 99roomz etc which offer its facilities across India.
99roomz facilitates at around 100 locations in India and aims to create more options for travellers from solo to group stays, from common place to exotic and affordable to luxurious stays.
A 99roomz spokesperson told The Sunday Guardian, “The platform enables the home owners and small hospitality entrepreneurs to get online bookings. Our revenue has exceeded our expectations and has grown exponentially during holiday seasons. Travellers have been largely satisfied with the home stays and many have become our regular users.”
HeyBnb is a multinational platform which has a tie-up with more than 3,500 properties in India and around 150,000 properties out of India. HeyBnb is present in more than 100 countries across the world. A HeyBnb spokesperson told this newspaper over e-mail: “HeyBnb provides Villas, Bungalows, Home Stays, Tree Houses, Condos, etc The business of generating room nights has been started on January 2017 and month on month we are seeing a steady progress on the same. Our customers have been happy with the property selection procedure, booking flow, host’s hospitality and properties.”
Sandeep, 28, one of the members of a travellers’ group, said, “Our group loves to explore places and what’s better than staying at a local’s place? We have tried various platforms for homestays in the past few years and we have loved the experience. It brings us closer to the local people, giving us the enriching experience of knowing a new place from its residents. Home stays are a boon to grow a culture and society, and to make them feel together.”
However, homestays come with their own share of apprehensions. Misbehaviour by either the host or the visitor, and theft committed by either party are the areas of concern.
At 99roomz, all the stay locations are physically inspected and verified by the company to ensure that standards are being followed and are safe for all kinds of travellers, including solo women travellers. At HeyBnb, a host has to go through a five-point verification before listing their properties which includes verification of email id, mobile number, bank details, photo id and government issued id.
On the subject of pros outweighing the cons of sharing economy, V. Pattabhi Ram, a CA-CS-CWA columnist at Industrial Economist, said society will only have to have the temperament of “give and take.”
He added, “To take a step forward, the industry should ensure first-come-first-serve; sharing doesn’t cross an acceptable limit and there’s a proper customer service.” Other derivatives that can experiment with sharing could be office spaces, books etc.