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When the cab aggregators like Uber and Ola were on the rise in the early 2010s, they came with a promise of “Cabs anytime, anywhere at affordable rates”. That was the dream they showed to the country.
However, fast forward to 2023, and the cabs are not available on a single call. The wait time is too much and even if a cab arrives, it’s very likely to be too costly, more so in cities like Bengaluru.
Similar was the case with auto rickshaws in Bengaluru where, on the one hand, customers were facing high fares from auto aggregators and even higher charges from local autos while on the other hand, auto drivers were facing troubles with cab aggregators as they weren’t getting the full payment from customers.
This resulted in a city-wide protest in Bengaluru where auto rickshaw drivers decided to boycott almost all of the cab/auto aggregators.
Amidst the chaos arrived ‘Namma Yatri‘, a Bengaluru-based auto booking app which enables drivers to offer their services directly to customers with zero commission. The platform is said to be the first community-led initiative with nearly 45,000 drivers and 4.5 lakh customers. The application currently clocks nearly one lakh weekly trips and intends to further amplify its growth by being part of the Open Network for Digital Commerce, or ONDC, network. The platform is developed by ‘Juspay’, which recently became part of ONDC’s open network for mobility initiative.
ONDC is a section 8 non-profit organisation set up by the Government of India’s commerce ministry to democratise digital commerce.
Why is it important?
“Namma Yatri is a much-needed application today,” said Magizhan Selvan, Chief Product Officer, Juspay, in a recent interaction with Analytics India Magazine. “It’s entirely open, which essentially means that all the data, be it completed trips, searches, drivers’ earnings, registered users, registered drivers, is available on our platform,” says Selvan.
The Namma Yatri platform doesn’t take any commission and, hence, the entire amount that the customer pays goes directly into the driver’s pocket.
The backbone of the platform lies in the Beckn Protocol, backed by Nandan Nilekani, Chairman, Infosys. It basically is a comprehensive set of specifications comprising APIs, data models, reference architecture, transaction mechanisms, and global standards. By adopting the Beckn Protocol, digital platforms like Namma Yatri can establish decentralised networks that enable seamless communication, discovery, and transactional capabilities between consumers and providers, without requiring a central intermediary.
Overall, the Beckn Protocol is a powerful tool that can help drive innovation and collaboration across industries by providing a reliable, secure, and interoperable framework for digital platforms to work together. Even Indian platforms like UPI and ONDC are based on Beckn Protocol, reflecting its significance in the open-source industry.
“Imagine the platform similar to Namma Yatri being adopted in cabs, metros, or any platform which is serving the passengers,” said Selvan, “we essentially want to become UPI of transportation“. This might have already begun, with the recent partnership with ONDC. The ONDC’s open mobility initiative is already considered a revolutionary initiative in the transportation industry.
For instance, ONDC claims that it’ll help customers book rides from their favourite applications while availing the same benefits that Namma Yatri is currently providing. It’ll also enable the integration of multiple modes of transportation such as metro, auto, and buses which, as per ONDC, will make travelling a lot more affordable and hassle-free.
Revenue still a problem?
The Namma Yatri idea sounds great as a service so far but there’s a huge problem with it—how to generate revenue.
Selvan indicated that after a significant scaling of the product, the company might introduce nominal charges as well. “They’ll still be lower than the traditional charges,” confirmed Selvan.
Additionally—while the ONDC’s collaboration might give Namma Yatri a little backing from the government—the platform plans to ask for help from the community as well. “We want to request the people of Bengaluru to also join the initiative with us. To do that, we are completely opening up the system,” said Vimal Kumar, CEO, while announcing the partnership with ONDC.
Moreover, the parent company, ‘Juspay’, is also heavily backed by big players such as Softbank. In 2021 alone, the company received nearly $60 million from investors like Softbank and has received an estimated $88 million in total. As of today, the company’s valuation stands at $442 million.
The incredible Namma Yatri team
To ensure that the customers are satisfied with the service and to check if the platform is working properly, the employees at Juspay occasionally drive autos as well. When Analytics India Magazine visited their facility, a couple of autos owned by the company were parked nearby.
Even Magizhan Selvan, the head of product, was seen driving an auto. In a viral LinkedIn post, he was explaining why he drives the auto. Citing the Founder of Juspay, Vimal Kumar, Selvan said that he is inspired by Kumar who says “that the best way to build a product is to build it for yourself“.
“So, to build Namma Yatri, an auto-drivers app, the best way is to drive the auto and understand auto drivers and driving better,” read the post. “I’m learning Kannada too to connect with auto drivers better. What used to be informed before is an experience now and it is quite helpful,” wrote Selvan.