Long-distance bus service operator Yolobus has raised $600,000 in a seed round from a group of angel investors from the mobility industry, a top company official told TechCircle without disclosing the names of the investors.
Yolobus was founded last year by Shailesh Gupta, co-founder and former CEO of co-working space provider Innov8 (acquired by OYO), along with Mukul Shah, former country head of Smartworks, and Danish Chopra, former technology lead at Uber.
The seed capital will go towards building the team and technology besides investing on expanding its fleet size and marketing, Gupta said.
Owned and operated by Yolo Travel Tech, Yolobus attempts to improve hospitality in long-distance bus services with the assistance of technology. The platform offers clean, comfortable and connected buses for intercity travel.
“Punctuality is the single biggest issue in this industry. Buses don’t start or reach on time. Service standards in the bus industry and staff behaviour are other key issues. Also, new-age technologies don’t exist in this industry, which prevents any sort of transparency on the timings or service quality. We wanted to build a product and experience which will solve these key issues,” Gupta said.
The startup aggregates vehicles from existing operators on a minimum guarantee programme and reengineers them to integrate advanced technology capabilities. The in-bus amenities include high speed wifi, washrooms, USB charging points, and infotainment systems.
Operators provide the staff and maintain the operations while the startup takes care of sales, marketing, technology and quality control
Yolobus deploys its own GPS systems and CCTV camera feeds in the buses which helps them monitor and assess driving and service quality on a real-time basis from a centralized control room. “We have an audit team that examines the buses on a daily basis before the bus leaves the parking yard,” he added.
Yolobus launched its first service in September last year. Currently, it has a fleet of 20 buses operating across half a dozen routes such as Bangalore-Hyderabad, Bangalore Chennai, Lucknow-Varanasi, and Delhi- Manali.
The startup functions as a pure-play operator, without owning any assets and doesn't compete with online travel agents (OTAs).
Yolobus has listed its buses on all major OTAs such as MakeMyTrip, Paytm and Redbus. Users can also book the buses on their mobile app and website. It also has an agent app where travel agents can book tickets for their clients.
“Our vision is to become the largest preferred bus operator without owing any assets. People are feeling really good about someone taking care of hospitality inside the bus. We are currently expanding the fleet and preparing to launch our service to a lot more new routes,” Gupta said.
Long distance bus transportation is marred by unsafe, unhygienic, and substandard service levels. OTAs do not go anywhere beyond bus discovery and therefore, it’s an interesting market to disrupt with connected technologies. Yolobus will primarily compete with traditional private operators here. Online travel start-up RailYatri has been trying to establish a presence in this segment with its ‘IntrCity’ bus service. Flixbus, one of the largest intercity bus networks in Europe with a valuation of over $2 billion, is expected to launch its services in India soon.