Free service, intercity expansion, but no office or BRTA approval — what is up with the Russian-origin company?
If you have been online recently, your YouTube and Facebook feeds must have been buzzing with ads of a new ride-sharing app with an eye-catching green logo.
So, last Monday, when I was unable to hitch a ride through my regular app, I thought of giving inDrive a try.
Since it was new, I asked my driver about the app, how many ride requests he gets through it and so on. To my surprise, he said the app did not cut any commissions from drivers and he had been using it for months. I knew about marketing strategies like giving discounts, promo codes, first few free rides, and so on. But free for months? This was new.
Contacting the app authorities in Bangladesh proved difficult — there was no address mentioned on their app or website. Even their Facebook page, opened on 5 April 2019, does not mention any physical address.
When users comment on their Facebook posts looking for their office, they reply that they do not have a customer service office, and suggest that users contact them through social media or the app’s support chat box for any assistance.
That too was far from efficient. When I tried their customer support chat box, it took me more than 10 minutes to get a reply. Then another 10 minutes to get another response.
Since there is only one inDrive app on the Playstore, it is certain that the inDrive app being operated in Bangladesh is the original inDrive operating in 655 cities in 48 countries with 175 million app downloads.
Globally, the company is growing fast. According to a Forbes report, it saw an 88% year-on-year growth in gross revenue in 2022. It was founded in Russia in 2013 but has been based in California since 2018. And it has focused on international markets since then, says the same Forbes report.
However, in Bangladesh they have yet to gain as much traction as other apps. “From Uber, I get a lot of calls but from inDrive, the number is lower and also calls come from very long distances,” said Rezwan Rumi, an inDrive rider.
“They did not give us any office address. Approximately two to three months ago, one day they called us in a makeshift office at Banani and handed some T-shirts and helmets to around 15 drivers,” said Harun Ar Rashid, another inDrive driver.
Drivers of other ride-sharing companies need to go to their respective office physically and sign up with proper documents, including their guarantor’s documents. When asked about where he submitted his documents for signing up on the app, Harun said, “To sign up on the app, I did not need to submit my NID or any physical documents. It just required information about my bike registration and driving licence.”
Furthermore, their business model is also unclear. We found no official information about their commission policy. But according to an Oyelabs blog post, inDrive offers commission free service for the first six months in a new city. Then it starts charging 5-10% of the fare.
Response so far
“I am using this app just because they don’t charge commission. As soon as they start charging commission, I will definitely uninstall the app,” said Harun.
“I get calls from 4-5 km away, there is no point in getting this far to pick up a passenger. Also they send a call to a lot of drivers and drivers pass bids. It takes a lot of time to confirm a ride. They can send the request to the nearest three to four drivers. But I guess they send it to over 10 drivers at a time, ” elaborated an annoyed Harun.
He wanted to call and complain but they do not even have a customer care number. “When we face any issue, we don’t have a customer care number to call; everyone is not comfortable to lodge a complaint through a chat box or email,” added Harun.
Users found out about the app mostly through social media campaigns. They are running ads and collaborating with popular social media influencers. Even their competitors got to know about them from social media.
“We found out about it through Facebook and YouTube. We know that inDrive is operating in the global market but we did not know about any legit presence in Bangladesh, since we did not see any news of them launching in the country,” said Rahid Chowdhury, Executive Director and COO at Obhai Solutions Ltd.