The startups, modeled after U.S. car-sharing service Zipcar (CAR), are gaining in popularity. Slow economic expansion has frozen income growth, and prime lending rates have risen 26 percent in the past five years, discouraging people from taking out car loans. “A lot of people don’t want to invest in cars,” says Abdul Majeed, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chennai. “With traffic congestion and cost of ownership rising, and with poor public transport in most cities, car-sharing is bound to take off.” For younger Indians joining the workforce, car-sharing comes free of the hassle of maintaining the cars.
Zoomcar, based in Bangalore, has attracted U.S. investors, including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which led an $8 million investment round in October, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Americans Greg Moran and David Back started the company in February 2013 with $650,000. They raised another $3 million last year. Summers was an early investor. “There were small-time operators, mom-and-pop type shops that didn’t have the technology and the right product,” says Moran, who, along with Back, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007.