A taxi shows the logo of the news startup called S3 Cab launched in Mumbai. (Source: S3 Cab) 

Startup Street: Watch Out Ola, Uber. There’s A New Cab Service In Town

This week on Startup Street we take a look at the latest entrant into India’s cab-hailing industry. U.S. telecom giant Verizon quietly launched a startup that could disrupt the American wireless services market. And Ratan Tata-backed Lenskart has earmarked funds for investments into startups. Here’s what went on.

Opportune Entry?

As Ola and Uber remain locked in competition for the larger share of India's cab hailing market, a new player has just driven into Mumbai - one of their largest markets.

S3 Cab, promoted by Mumbai-based veteran logistics player Bharat Freight Group, has already roped in 700 drivers from Ola and Uber prior to its launch this week, Sohel Kazani, director of Sahayadri Smart Safe Pvt. Ltd., told news agency PTI. He said the company aims to hire over 4,000 cab drivers over the next two months.

This comes right after Mumbai and Delhi saw large-scale protests by drivers affiliated to Ola and Uber against reduced income incentives. A large number of these drivers had availed of car loans and claimed impending defaults prompted them to surrender their vehicles to banks, BloombergQuint had earlier reported.

Also read: The Lure Of Ola-Uber Economy Is Waning In Jobs-Starved India

Kazani said S3 Cab has the advantage of full support from as many as 10 transport and cab unions in the city. But, he claimed, the company’s USP lies in its financial arrangement with drivers.

“Drivers will not be charged for the first Rs 1,800 collection every day and collections above this will be charged only at 10 per cent, which is just half of what Uber and Ola charge their drivers,” Kazani said. The startup will not have any surge pricing or pooling facility, he added.

The startup also plans to launch an app for small delivery trucks as a delivery facility for e-commerce retailers.

Both Ola and Uber refused to comment on the new competitor.

Also read: Ola Wants a Million Electric Rides on India's Roads by 2021

Verizon Just Went The Jio Route

Signage sits on the exterior of a Verizon Communications Inc. store in downtown Chicago, (Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg)
Signage sits on the exterior of a Verizon Communications Inc. store in downtown Chicago, (Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg)

American telecommunications giant Verizon has taken a page out of Indian industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s playbook. It launched a startup--Visible--meant to disrupt the wireless services industry in the U.S.

The startup offers unlimited data, minutes and messaging services for a low price of $40 without putting a cap on the video quality, according to its website.

This sounds akin to Ambani's Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. - a telecom venture that offered free or low-priced data services to beat incumbent players. A year and a half after its launch in September 2016, Jio’s fares keep dropping as do the profits of its peers.

Visible, however, is not yet as widely available as Jio is. The services are currently only available on the App Store. Once the application is downloaded, a SIM card is sent to customers overnight.

Lenskart Goes Shopping

Ratan Tata-backed Indian lens startup Lenskart has earmarked $2-3 million dollars for investments in eyecare startups.

“These could be a technology or product companies working on eyecare solutions, be it an innovative eye examination machine or some kind of a lens technology. The intent for investing in these early-stage startups is to collaborate in the development of innovative products,” Peyush Bansal, founder and chief executive officer of Lenskart, told PTI.

As a part of this strategy, it has invested Rs 3.3 crore in a U.S.-based startup ThinOptics which makes reading glasses that can be attached to a user's phone or key chain, to avoid misplacing them.

Reading glasses account for 5 percent of Lenskart's revenues, Bansal said. “With zero advertising, we have seen sales of about 10,000 pieces a month for ThinOptics glasses,” he added.