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Russian start-up inDrive revs up to challenge Ola, Uber's monopoly in Delhi

Ride-hailing startup offers unique pricing and lower commission than Ola and Uber

7 March 2023

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Jayashri Ghorpade

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  • The firm aims to address all three problems – with a unique pricing mechanism that takes ride-hailing back to the taxi era, and a commission cut which it claims will remain lower than what Ola and Uber charge.

  • It gives the driver and passenger control over the fare for a ride, while the rivals decide the fare through an algorithm, a process with no control for either party

InDrive, a Russian startup, is set to challenge Ola and Uber in the Indian ride-hailing market, signaling a shakeup in the online ride-hailing segment. This development comes at a time when major companies such as Microsoft and ByteDance are battling to gain market share in their respective areas of interest, with Microsoft targeting Google's territory in Internet search using generative artificial intelligence and ByteDance eyeing the virtual reality headset space identified as critical to Meta's future.


In an attempt to penetrate the saturated ride-hailing market in India, inDrive has put up massive hoardings across Delhi-NCR and wrapped entire metro trains with its ads. This market is currently facing a trust deficit from drivers and passengers due to frequent cancellations, a distorted commission structure for drivers, and sometimes exorbitant fares.


With a unique pricing mechanism that takes ride-hailing back to the taxi era, the firm aims to address all three problems and claims to maintain a commission cut lower than what Ola and Uber charge.


The platform's haggling feature is perhaps its most intriguing aspect as it enables both drivers and passengers to negotiate and agree on a ride fare. When booking a ride, passengers can propose the fare they are willing to pay, and drivers can counteroffer until they reach a mutually agreed-upon price.


Founded in 2013 in the city of Yakutsk in Siberia, the startup believes that its differentiating factor from major rivals Ola and Uber in India is giving the driver and passenger control over the fare for a ride, while the rivals decide the fare through an algorithm, a process with no control for either party.


The perceived control over the fare decision-making process has made inDrive's proposition appealing to drivers, who have previously complained against Ola and Uber for various reasons. In comparison to Ola and Uber, where drivers are limited to accepting or rejecting the fare suggested by the app, inDrive allows drivers to negotiate a fair price.

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The start-up began onboarding drivers in Delhi-NCR from last January, by capturing them as they lined up to fill their cabs at the CNG pump. With its marketing blitz over the last four months, it has also seen many passengers join the app. According to a spokesperson for the firm, "thousands and thousands" of drivers across several cities have signed up for the app. While inDrive didn't disclose the exact number of drivers, one driver claimed that there are now enough passengers on the platform that he doesn't need to use another app. Currently, the app is available in cities like Chandigarh, Chennai, Lucknow, Kolkata and Delhi-NCR, and the company plans to launch in Surat, Mumbai, and Pune soon.


In 2022, inDrive's app downloads increased by 45% year-on-year, rising from 42.6 million in 2021 to 61.8 million in 2022. Its user base also grew by 60%, while revenues surged by 87%. Achieving unicorn status in 2021 with a valuation of $1.23 billion after a $150 million funding round, inDriver recently raised another $150 million through a debt instrument tied to its performance. Notably, inDrive has pledged to keep its commission, which is lower than its competitors', constant globally. While Ola and Uber can take over 25% of a passenger's payment and use surge pricing, inDrive's commission stands at 9.5-10%.

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