Chalo raises $40 million to digitize bus commutes in India – TechCrunch

Mohit Dubey, who founded CarWale a startup that lets people sell and buy new and used cars, more than a decade ago. Dubey realized after 10 years of working with CarWale, that he was only solving problems for 3% of India. Dubey wanted to do something more. Literally.
Chalo is his current venture. It allows bus operators to accept digital payments and allows commute tracking. In India, the bus market is worth $20 billion, nearly twice as much as cabs. However, there are very few buses, he said to TechCrunch.

According to Manish Kheterpal (Partner at WaterBridge Ventures), one of Chalo's early backers, "The bus space has not seen any tech disruption nor meaningful service improvements." Chalos' unique solution has positively impacted daily commuters in 11 Indian states and is set to expand its offerings nationwide.

India has only three buses per 10,000 inhabitants. This is an area that is both ripe to disrupt but remains largely underserved. Customers must still pay their fare in cash. There are very few buses that offer monthly passes. There is no way to know when these buses will arrive at the designated stops.

Chalo, seven years old, is tackling these problems. It uses GPS to locate customers' commutes and places them on buses. The app's eponymous app allows operators to sell tickets and monthly passes and helps them secure recurring income.

Dubey said that it is a huge opportunity. He also stated that digitizing bus commutes is proving to be a challenging task. Bus operators often don't know how many collections they have made in a given day. As buses travel through remote areas with limited connectivity, the ticketing system must also be able to accept online payments.

Chalo is now gaining traction on all fronts.

Chalo announced Tuesday that it had raised $40 million in Series C funding. Filter Capital and Lightrock India led the round. The round also included existing investors WaterBridge Ventures and Raine Venture Partners, Neeraj Arora, former chief business officer at WhatsApp, and Amit Singhal, former SVP at Google.

Dubey stated that the startup had been operating around 1,900 buses prior to the pandemic. The startup now operates 2,500 buses and has added several thousand more. He said that the platform will have approximately 8,000 buses online by December. He said that it is rare to find a business opportunity with a social impact.

With 48% of all trips, buses are India's most popular mode of public transport. The experience is not great despite this. Chalo uses technology to improve the bus rider experience and increase ridership. He said that we are one of India's largest mobility companies with 20 million happy rides per month.

The startup announced that it will use $10m of the proceeds from the financing round to purchase back stock options in order to reward its employees and angel investors.

Chalo emerged as the clear winner after COVID, addressing the needs of the public transport segment. They are now the country's de facto mobility operating system. Vaidhehi Ravindran (Partner of Lightrock), stated that public transport is the backbone for building a larger mobility platform to address mobility needs at scale.

We admire the innovative and technology-driven approach of the founding teams, as well as their deep commitment to serving the community. They have a deep empathy for stakeholders and this is reflected in every aspect of the business. This makes them the ideal team to create the solution for India's citizens. As they transform Indian mobility, we are thrilled to be a partner with Chalo.