CxO of the Week: Greg Moran, Co-founder and CEO, ZoomCar

By : |July 22, 2020 0

CxO of the Week: In 2018, ZoomCar introduced India’s first P2P based marketplace for cars. It launched the shared subscription mobility model and currently commands over 90% market share in this space. With the growth of shared-economy across the globe, subscription-based car ownership is becoming an increasing trend. ZoomCar recently hit a massive 15000 car subscription run rate through its shared mobility platform. This feat makes it the third-largest automobile player in India in terms of volume moved, just next to Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor India.

So, CIOL took an opportunity to talk to the CEO of ZoomCar, Greg Moran about the future of EV, ZoomCar and more. Excerpts of the interview are here.

CIOL: ZoomCar was the first-mover in the self-rental car services. So what is your opinion (literally, in your case) on driving the digital vehicle to success?

Greg: For ZoomCar, it was always about obsessing over the customer in all facets. Moreover, we knew from the start that we wanted to position ourselves as a very different type of mobility company, an experience above all else. We were not a commodity offering like Ola or Uber. So, we knew that we had to position ourselves to reflect this reality. I simply can’t emphasize enough how important it is to effectively convey the mission statement and communicate the soul of the company. If done well, you will leave an indelible image with the entire ecosystem.

Over the past seven years, while ZoomCar has continued to rent out cars on an hourly basis, it has also brought in several changes. Today, one can have a car delivered to their location, ZoomCar runs on a different model, and the focus is on customers who want the freedom of having a car any time they require, for a longer duration. The only way we have been able to stay ahead of the curve is by keeping our laser-sharp focus on the vehicle rental space and business. Whether it is cars or two-wheelers, we believe that in personal mobility there is a shift from ownership. That will not move towards the taxi industry but more towards self-drive or rentals.

CIOL: You are an American. What made you choose India over Silicon Valley?

Greg: I have always been passionate about sustainability and shared-model for sustainable economic development. While working in the clean technology and infrastructure disciplines for an investment bank, I witnessed first-hand the opportunities that existed in working for environmentally sustainable solutions in India. Further exploration revealed the challenges in urban transportation, namely lack of infrastructure that can cushion the hike in personal vehicles. Realizing the toll it was taking on India’s environment and a complete lack of self-drive model– and not just chauffeur-driven car rentals or cab aggregators– led me to spearhead the launch of ZoomCar.

I have always been fascinated with India as a market. As a fast-growing economy, it provides entrepreneurs with amazing opportunities to not only scale up their ventures but also deliver a social impact through unique, and oftentimes tech-enabled, service offerings. The opportunities in India, I realized, would only be compounded over the years, and thus, it became imperative for me to be part of India’s growth story by introducing sustainable self-drive models that cater to the challenges in mobility at large.

The business model of ZoomCar not only revolves around sustainability but also caters to the market need for convenient personal mobility. There is always a risk whenever a new category is launched. However, at ZoomCar, we believe that we have succeeded in carving a niche for this disruptive offering. We now see several start-ups and cab aggregators follow our lead and venture into self-drive mobility, which only comes as a validation for what we had set out to achieve.

CIOL: The pandemic has affected the mobility industry heavily. Where does ZoomCar stand today?

Greg: COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of our economy indeed. What used to be the norm till last year may well become obsolete in the coming weeks. Therefore, each industry needs to adapt to the new normal. The car rental industry, to that end, is well-equipped and prepared to serve its customers. We are already seeing a 400% rise in demand. Further, we expect this to settle down at 200-300% over the next few months. People are now looking for shorter-term mobility access as opposed to long-term investment.

We have seen a rise in demand for cars for personal work and emergency use cases. Rentals for intercity travel are up and a lot of people are opting for one-way travel. The notion of owning a car amidst such an intensifying emphasis on social distance may have taken the backseat. Still, the necessity of a mobility service remains as relevant as before. As people would avoid public transport to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus, the need for rental cars will only go up. We are looking at various car subscription models to serve the needs of the customers. We also see more demand for in-city trips compared to outstation ones and a strong focus on shorter-term subscriptions.

CIOL: And post-coronavirus?

Greg: Our focus will be to diversify on this front and ensure we are covering all cities. With COVID-19 forcing operations to go entirely digital, ZoomCar is leveraging technology such as AI and IoT to offer an impeccable experience to its customers. We also have a keyless entry which minimizes human contact and curb transmission of the virus. The company thoroughly sanitizes every car before and after each drive. With deep-rooted technology models, ZoomCar has tweaked its mobile app to allow customers to reach out at any time in case of a query through emails, messages and chatbots.

The platform’s entirely digital payment gateway also makes for a smooth and hassle-free experience. Vehicle monitoring and predictive analysis will help us with data like speed, distance, RPM, clutch, brake and time. That we will use to calculate the driver score, which will encourage customers to drive cautiously. Not only does it increase the safety of the customers but will also help maintain the car in a better condition. A close eye will be kept on Engine temperature and coolant level to predict engine seizures before it happens and guide the customers safely to a stop in case of any such situation. By prioritizing safety, hygiene and customer experience with technology at the core, ZoomCar is looking to make its cars future-ready and COVID-19 safe.

CIOL: There is a gap in mobility between urban and rural India. What according to you is increasing the gap in the market?

Greg: Ultimately, urban India enjoys far more mobility options than rural India. This certainly helps provide more flexibility and convenience for urban citizens.  Moreover, incomes are higher which translates to more personal vehicle ownership.  Moreover, public infrastructure is far superior in urban India, thereby improving travel times across various distances. Governments continue to invest in public infrastructure in cities and this helps to further increase that gap between urban and rural.

CIOL: How are you filling the gap?

Greg: With a strong focus on the mobile experience, ZoomCar allows users to rent cars by the hour, day, week, or month. We operate in 45+ cities across India. As people would avoid public transport to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus, the need for rental cars will only go up. We are looking at various car subscription models to serve the needs of the customers. We also see more demand for in-city trips compared to outstation ones and a strong focus on shorter-term subscriptions. Our focus will be to diversify on this front and ensure we are covering all cities.

CIOL: Sustainability and mobility, they don’t go together. What is your ground on the statement?

Greg: The very business model of ZoomCar is centred on reducing the burden of increasing vehicles on the infrastructure and the environment, the data shows that a car shared takes 20 other cars off the road. Going forward, the way consumers behave is not so much oriented around the environment per se. It’s much more focused on what is the overall cost perspective, that’s where when it comes to Electric Vehicles. The use now is much more towards electric two-wheelers for a simple reason that the overall cost of ownership is actually on par with petrol scooters. Cars are still not quite there yet. It is simply because of the overall cost of ownership when compared with the petrol car. Coming out of this lockdown you will see electric scooters do well. But for electric cars in my view will take a little bit longer.

CIOL: So, what is the future of EV’s and subscription-based mobility in India?

Greg: As mentioned, there is an exponential spike in demand for car subscriptions as well. Especially considering the current recession, car subscriptions can prove to be a better option. They will be a more affordable and quicker way of acquiring a car, delivering a safe personal mobility replacement. We have multiple options for a subscription. But the shift in demand has been towards one, three, and six months, car subscriptions for intercity usage will see an upward trend.

ZoomCar’s subscription programme also gives various personalised policy options to subscribers. It partially eases the impact of the Covid-19 related lockdowns. We anticipate a significant increase in car subscriptions post Covid-19, as consumers look to avoid public transport without the burden of car ownership. ZoomCar has already been keeping busy during the lockdown with its associations and partnerships with essential service providers, and government bodies. Car subscriptions will continue to evolve and grow into more flexible plans and longer durations of leases ending 12, 24, or 36 months.

Electric scooters could certainly play well in the leasing or subscription segment given the higher upfront costs. Given the uncertain residual values for the current EV scooters, this flexible option will be more consumer-friendly. It would be more affordable. Since the Capex is still 25-30% higher on e-scooters, it’s really about how manufacturers and financiers think about second life value on the residual value front.

CIOL: What sets you apart from your competitors?

Greg: I am passionate about my work with a broader mission of serving the environment. I also have a very high empathy level. With ZoomCar, I faced a particularly steep road since I was a foreign co-founder and CEO. Without much of a path blazed before me, I had to set out on a unique course as a leader. While most founders focus on establishing a product/market fit, building an initial team, and raising angel funding, these were just table stakes on my end. Given my rather unique background as an American in India, coupled with the industry I chose to disrupt, my energies ultimately focused on several other areas that posed existential threats to our survival.

CIOL: What do you advise a startupreneur?

Greg: I would tell most entrepreneurs, understand your business in the market, and then see what works and what doesn’t. There is nothing sequential about laying an early foundation. It isn’t like, you raise money and then start building relationships with the venture capitalist, or during the process. You need to do it in parallel. No matter what anyone says, or does, relationships are the key. Ultimately, the investor is investing in you first.

CIOL: What’s your mantra to become successful in life and what would you like to give back to society?

Greg: It’s all about leading by example and walking the walk. Ultimately, leadership is a privilege and it’s critical to never lose sight of this fact.  At a personal level, it’s all about leaving cities in a much better place from a sustainability perspective. There’s simply no other choice and this will determine the ultimate fate of civilization. Never waste a crisis. Use it as a teaching moment and as an opportunity for the team to become closer together. And work at an even greater productivity level.

About Greg Moran, CEO and Co-Founder of ZoomCar

As the Co-Founder and CEO of ZoomCar, Greg Moran spearheads the entire operations of the Bangalore-based self-drive shared mobility company. Greg believes that sustainability is the most critical issue for the next 100 years. He has dedicated his entire career to sustainable development across the globe.

While studying at USC’s Marshall School of Business, he founded and served as the President of the USC Energy Club. It was the largest club in its league in Southern California. He is also a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, holding a degree in International Relations. His professional career thus far spans projects based in six continents and is collectively worth over USD 12 billion. Before starting up ZoomCar, Greg has held various positions in investment banking, private equity, corporate business development, and energy policy formulation. He has worked with Fieldstone Private Capital Group, Cerberus Capital, International Power, and the City of New York respectively.

Read here for previous CxO of the Week.

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