Alberto Padilla
BlaBlaCar Mexico

Building a 'Transport Community'

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 13:15

In a country where interstate transportation services are limited to planes and buses, the first option to expand the offering falls on a better use of the existing grey infrastructure and vehicle park. With this is mind, BlaBlaCar Mexico is working toward creating a transport community based on trust.

“Rather than selling a car-pooling service in Mexico, we facilitate a sharing economy, while contributing addedvalue services to the ride,” says Alberto Padilla, founder of BlaBlaCar’s Mexican subsidiary. Those services include a range of features such as supply-and-demand matching, ride safety and insurance, the latter two of which are key elements in the business model.

“Many people believe that safety is a restraining factor for the success of a company like BlaBlaCar in Mexico. But we have found that at first almost every country believed that,” says Padilla.

In a country where, according to the 2016 National Survey on Urban Public Security (ENSU), 53.9 percent of its citizens feel unsafe on the country’s roads and 39.8 percent feel unsafe in their own cars, safety warranties are essential to the success of a car-sharing company. “We try to generate a platform of information, so people feel comfortable and safe traveling with their ride companions,” says Padilla. The platform validates the pictures and IDs of people who want to use the service. It also includes user profiles and reviews from other users.

BlaBlaCar is overcoming reservations surrounding traveling with strangers, offering 1 million car seats at the end of its first year in Mexico. “Mexico has the potential to offer up to 100 million car seats,” says Padilla. But the company’s founder knows that meeting that potential will take some time and patience, since BlaBlaCar’s presence in France for 10 years did not take off until five years ago.

To date, BlaBlaCar offers mobility options between 1,000 cities in Mexico but there is room for growth. Padilla believes the cities that could most benefit from BlaBlaCar’s offering are those with populations that exceed 800,000 inhabitants. The Bajio, central and western regions of the country offer the best opportunities in terms of potential customers. “Collaborative economies work because of available information and information sharing would not be possible without the development of technologies,” says Padilla. “BlaBlaCar works thanks to the widespread use of internet and smartphones, which allow people to find new transportation means.”

The widespread use of smartphones combined with the country’s characteristics and the prior existence of carsharing services made Mexico the perfect country in Latin America to introduce BlaBlaCar. Padilla tags the company’s acceptance on the prior existence of services such as mobility startups and Airbnb, a community of people who rent their homes or rooms within them to users with a verified ID and payment method.

Padilla says BlaBlaCar’s business model is more focused on being a transport community than transportation professionals. The guidelines prevent drivers from generating revenue from the rides, riders simply contribute to the fuel costs of a journey that a driver would make regardless of other users, to take advantage of existing resources while sharing expenses.

While it is true that services such as BlaBlaCar provide innovative vehicle-use solutions, Padilla believes they can also help OEMs with their business. BlaBlaCar can be an ally to manufacturers, he says, as carmakers begin to understand the emerging mobility concepts and the way users are viewing cars. “Services like BlaBlaCar can offer OEMs information such as possible product designs and new patterns of use.”

The future of BlaBlaCar revolves around services rather cars. “We do not place as much emphasis on the vehicle as we do on the services that accompany each ride,” says Padilla. This opens a business opportunity for insurance companies to cover a newly created market niche, such as AXA that has already teamed up with the ride-sharing company.