[Photo Source: Facebook/FlightCar]
Taking to the skies is always exciting but parking your car at the airport and renting another at your end destination? Not so much. If FlightCar had its way, parking and renting will soon be easier than ever before. In fact, the innovative start-up has already expanded to most major airports across the country and with a loyal clientele that is constantly expanding, leading to better options for both car owners and renters.
FlightCar is the brainchild of Rujul Zaparde and Shri Ganeshram, both of whom were just in their late teens when they launched the company two years ago. Seeing how many cars lie idly parked at airports and the way travelers struggle to find the perfect car to rent when they reach their destination, the duo thought of combining the problems to come up with a perfect solution.
Members who join FlightCar must first agree to rent out their cars. Then, they get free airport parking when they fly out and are assured of a quality rental when they arrive at their destination—all at competitive rates and with the ease of a few clicks online. Of course, members also get to earn money when their cars are rented out.
The inspiration for FlightCar came from Airbnb, Zaparde, the CEO and founder, said.
“If people are willing to share their most valuable assets—their homes—why wouldn’t they be willing to share their cars?” he added.
It is this concept of sharing that works so well for FlightCar members. Not only is FlightCar free to join, members are also guaranteed a high quality of service. Before a car is rented out, potential drivers’ driving records are thoroughly checked. In addition, FlightCar offers free insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance, a free GPS and car seats as a part of the deal. To top it off, they also make sure members get back their cars squeaky clean.
With a clear and unique vision about their company, the services mentioned above are not the only ways in which FlightCar is different from other car rental agencies, Zaparde said.
“We’re not Hertz, and we don’t want to be,” he said. “We’ve brought on folks from very diverse backgrounds. We can move extremely quickly.”
[FlightCar Founder, Rujul Zaparde. | Photo Credit: FlightCar]
FlightCar is offering a lot to its members—in return, it is reinvesting in further growth.
“We’re not profitable. Today, we’re investing in growth—net profit comes later,” Zaparde stated frankly. “Given how quickly and vastly its clientele is growing, profitability should certainly not be too far away.”
When asked about what makes FlightCar popular and successful, Zaparde’s answer was simple.
“Transparency. We’re also the first peer-to-peer car sharing company operating out of airports. FlightCar’s a clear win-win for car owners and would-be renters. As long as you’re okay with sharing your car, all you have to do is drop it off at one of our airport locations. Rentals cost 25-30 percent less than traditional market rate and car owners can earn anywhere between $25-100 per week with free parking and a car wash thrown in. If you live in a city where you don’t use your car much, you can earn up to $500 a month by sharing your car.”
With a mission to “reduce the number of cars sitting idle in the world,” Zaparde said, FlightCar certainly seems to be on the right track to sustainability. Of course, success didn’t come quickly or easily for Zaparde and his team, he said. Both Ganeshram and Zaparde were just 17-years -old when they started working on the concept of FlightCar after being introduced by common friends.
Zaparde admitted, “Getting the first investors on board was the toughest—FlightCar was pre-launch with no customers. Our first $600,000 took five months to raise before we had customers. Our next $5.5 million took 12 days to raise after we had customers.”
With all that fundraising experience behind him, Zaparde has some useful insights to share with budding entrepreneurs. According to him, “Of course, it’s difficult to start and scale a business, but the barrier to entry is the lowest it’s ever been. All you need is a CS degree and an idea, and you can build an online platform to test your concept.”
He summed it up best: “My advice to budding entrepreneurs is to go for it. When we started FlightCar, we spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to launch and conducted extensive market research trying to get it right. In the end, it turns out we learned a lot more by launching with our minimum viable product and learning from our customer feedback. The easiest and the best way to understand what your customers want is to simply ask them what they want—and use their feedback to create it. The bottom line is, you need customers or you don’t have a business!”
This post is a part of our Start-Up Series on India.com. If you know of a South Asian entrepreneur living in the Diaspora, who is ambitious and innovative, let us know! We would love to profile and connect with them for our series. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with their information.