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Why This Indian Cab Hailing Startup is Looking at Southeast Asia as the Next Big Market

Their launch seems timely as it's followed by Uber giving up its Singaporean adventure to Grab
Why This Indian Cab Hailing Startup is Looking at Southeast Asia as the Next Big Market
Image credit: Entrepreneur India
Entrepreneur Staff
Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India
5 min read

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Having driven around the bylanes of India, cab hailing apps from the country are now taking the highway on international roads. Exploring the international market, they are testing new waters and taking the Indian startup ecosystem to a global platform.

While Ola started its international journey by going down under, next in line is Jugnoo. The start-up recently announced that they will be launching in Singapore. Their launch seems timely as it’s followed by Uber giving up its Singaporean adventure to Grab.

Entrepreneur India caught up with Samar Singla, founder, Jugnoo as he spoke about why they chose the Singapore market even as they continue to find a strong foothold in India.

Why Singapore?

Singla believes that in recent times Singapore has become a lab for experiments - a place where new innovations are flourishing and the next big thing there is on-demand service. He said that after the conflicted deal between two big sharks (Uber and Grab), the market has opened up opportunities for the newcomers.

“We all know Singapore’s notorious nature for having expensive cars and government’s control over it. But Uber and Grab changed the consumer behaviour by providing comfort and convenience during the ride rather than one owning a car. For an average Singaporean owning a car is not a need anymore, which has created more demand for the ride-hailing services,” he said. Talking about the market, Singla also said that customers in Singapore are open, educated and have an understanding of startup models in this sector.

Singapore’s cab-hailing sector was in the news recently as it saw global giant Uber’s exit, following a partnership with local hero Grab. Singla too believes that after the exit of Uber, the entry barriers into this sector are relatively low in Southeast Asia. “This is our opportunistic move for our first expansion outside of India. We are optimistic about figuring out alternative ways to compete in other parts of the world as well, which could potentially include markets outside of Southeast Asia, in the future,” he said.

Taking the Reverse Route

With its entry into Singapore, Jugnoo is taking an alternative yet unique approach to carve a niche for itself. They have launched a ride-hailing service that uses a “reverse-bidding” model. In Singapore, one can enroll on Jugnoo driver app and give the bids for customer trips. The first round of bid will produce a range of competing price bids, depending on driver availability. Commuter is free to pick the lowest price bid and take the ride. Jugnoo brings back the traditional technique which made the drivers and customers happy. “The idea of reverse-bidding had been in development for a while and we are motivated to launch the system in Singapore, rather than our home country, after observing the proposed buyout of Uber by Grab,” said Singla.

Fighting the Locals

However, it’s not going to be an easy ride for Jugnoo. Grab, being a behemoth of Southeast Asia, already has the home-base advantage.  It’s app downloads were already racing past Uber and over the years, Grab had worked towards incorporating features like instant messaging for seamless service and even an autotranslate feature (given the differences of language).

So, wouldn’t it be difficult for Jugnoo to complete the likes of Grab and Didi in Singapore? Singla has a simple answer - they are not competing. “We have a totally different and democratic working model. We are not working here on the surge pricing, discounts and offerings. If we say we will go and compete with Uber, Grab, Didi and others on their home turf and with their money that would be quite stupid. Our goal is around 10 percent market share and to be a sustainable company,” he said.

Is Jugnoo Done in India?

In India itself, Jugnoo faces competition from the likes of Uber and Ola who have spread their wings across the country. In order to compete with them, Jugnoo had also diversified its services. They had launched ‘Fatafat’, an on-demand service in cities like Udaipur and Kota where customers can not only hail a ride but can also order food from restaurants, grocery, fruits, vegetables, OTC medicines, gifts and flowers, fresh milk and many more things.

“India is a growing economy. Many tier 2, 3 and 4 cities are still untouched by us and we are rapidly growing in India too. In India, we are not the aggregators only but the complete on-demand and hyperlocal service providers,” he said.

Going Global? Here Are a Few Tips

Singla doles out advice for entrepreneurs who are planning to expand to global markets. An essential element is to understand the cultural difference. “Where the cultures are different, the issues will be different so developing a strategy to address those issues and bringing a solution is crucial,” he said.

He further added that one should keep in mind that the “one size fits all” approach might give short-term benefits but will have negative long-term effects.

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