Irina Reider - Director General of the service to search for BlaBlaCar travel companions in Russia. Since 2015 she has been responsible for the development
“Pseudocarpling is something we never really wanted”
- At Startup Village they have already said that all marketplaces are standardized. With BlaBlaCar, too, is this happening?
- Probably not. BlaBlaCar is now in breadth, that is, if initially, from 2006 to 2018, it was pure carpooling, then now the service has added more buses. About how this happened, there are two stories - French and Russian, which occurred in parallel.
In France last year was a bigrailway strike. Against this background, BlaBlaCar saw a great demand for its services, and in order to satisfy it, entered into a partnership with several bus companies. Passengers liked it.
There was a slightly different story in Russia. For a long time we kept the focus on carpling and forbade any attempts to penetrate the carriers' service until their number gained some critical mass. Then we decided in a test mode to try to cooperate with several large operators. Passengers were satisfied, car owners did not notice the difference, carriers received an additional source of customers. This is how the company began to go beyond carpooling, and now we are striving to become a global marketplace for road trips.
Travel with fellow travelers and on buses - verysimilar transport options. But there are differences between them. Buses are convenient for long-distance trips, with large luggage, in the company, and perfectly connect large cities
Carpooling gives a very large granularity andcreates routes between a large number of settlements, even very small ones. No carrier can provide such density, because it will not be profitable for it from an economic point of view.
- So you, too, are moving away from the initial idea of the gig economy?
- Carpooling is still the basis, we just realized that there is synergy with buses. It becomes two different pieces of the same marketplace.
- You have a lot of commercial carriers even in carpooling.
- These are the pseudo carpoulers with whom weactively fighting. This, by the way, is a purely Russian peculiarity, in other countries we have no such problem. Now we want to make sure that on our platform there is a clear separation between real carpulers and regular bus carriers. We first fought with pseudocarpulers by our specialists, but recently we also launched a special algorithm that automatically detects suspicious activity, for example, the driver publishes trips too often for a simple car owner and blocks such accounts.
- Why did this happen only in Russia? We and Uber, and services for its model, became the main work for taxi drivers. Why is gig economy in Russia not quite gig economy?
- Probably because our people are tooare enterprising. Not for nothing in Russia there is a saying - the law is not dyshlo, where he turned there and left. But organizing pseudo-commercial transportation, people take on obvious risks. They know that BlaBlaCar is a carpooling platform, but they violate our rules. In other countries we have no such problem. True, in other countries there is a law on carpling, and in Russia it is only being prepared.
“Carpooling is not a commercial activity, but compensating for the cost of gasoline”
- Do you expect the emergence of such legislation?
- Yes. We are part of a working group at the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, which is now dealing with this issue. It is in our interests that there is a clear understanding of what carpooling is and what commercial transportation is.
- The law is for you?
- Not really. That at the legislative level it should be clearly stated what carpooling is, because one of the main problems is that such trips are confused with taxis, although these are completely different things, because car owners-fellow travelers do not provide services on demand of passengers and do not receive financial benefits from such type of activity.
“But your buses are closer to a taxi, not carpooling.”
- Not. Taxi is a taxi. Buses are buses. They have different regulations.
In any case, taxis are intracity.trips. Buses and carpooling - intercity. And due to the fact that taxi - Yandex, Uber - is a big industry, there is its own regulation and problems. Adding us to this is categorically not true.
Therefore, the primary task is to create a clear understanding: carpooling is not a commercial activity, namely, compensation for gasoline costs due to sharing of trips.
- And how can this be considered a non-profit activity, if the drivers still get the money?
- From any income a person must pay taxes. But there are understandable exceptions. For example, if you threw petrol with relatives or friends to go to the country, the law does not begin to treat your business as entrepreneurial, and does not oblige you to pay taxes on this trip.
Exactly in the same way do not need to be considereda carping trip in which a driver spends 100 rubles on gasoline for business, and fellow travelers (friends, relatives, neighbors, new acquaintances from BlaBlaCar) compensate him 60 rubles.
That's it in order to determine whichthe moment ends with carpooling and entrepreneurship begins, and the law is needed. He will determine how much a kilometer of a journey must cost in order for it to be considered partial reimbursement of expenses, and not taxable profit. So it works, for example, in the USA - there is a separate law that if you transport someone for the price, in my opinion, $ 0.58 per mile, then this is a non-commercial activity. And the main thing is that it is irregular yet, that is, if you have an activity without income and it is not taxable.
- In October, you launched monetization, what are the results now? Our users are not very fond of when the free service becomes paid. YouDo after such a change, many users left.
- Yes, in fact it seems to me the main problemin monetization, in particular, BlaBlaCar - the fact that people do not understand how big this business is, how much resources it takes in terms of website development, support, marketing. Therefore, there is such a discord.
We really launched a test monetization inOctober, we looked at how it works, we realized that we need to refine from the point of view of the product and now we are actively working on it. We changed the food flow, added payment through Sberbank Online, we are also considering other options. In general, we are preparing for the next release.
We tested a certain price elasticity,and realized that there is no elasticity. That is, either a person understands the essence of monetization and is willing to pay for service, or, even if it is 5 rubles, is not ready. Surprisingly, this is a fact. We will also take this into account next time.
Loneliness in the market
- You did not try or did not want to take money from drivers, and not from users?
- Not yet. If we talk about Europe, the BlaBlaCar model is the same there as the Airbnb. That is, a person makes an online payment immediately and pays a commission from above. We think that in two or three years we will come to this model. And there we can already consider options, Airbnb charges both sides. But first you need to come to this model - now it is also impossible, because all payments between the passenger and the driver are made in cash.
- User identification as it is developing?
- Actually, very well, in terms ofRolllaut it goes even faster than we expected - in half a year more than 500 thousand people verified their accounts. Also in the future, we plan to launch some gamification, offering people free trips in exchange for verifying their accounts.
- About a year ago, probably, your competitors had Yandex service and Mail service. You bought one of them, the second closed. You have a rather unique position in the market, you are not alone?
- Not lonely, because there are still groups in VKontakte and similar ads on Avito.
- Compete with you?
- Compete in very small volume, but theyreally is. BlaBlaCar originated in 2006 as an idea. He began to develop slowly enough. Then he received investments, began international expansion, the development went exponentially. On a large volume came somewhere in 2014-2015. This model, like the marketplace, requires a large amount of supply and demand, a stable balance between them, that the driver could always find the passenger, and the passenger of the driver. .
On the other hand, the issue of monetization is not easy. Therefore, it seems to me for Mail and for Yandex - although I do not know what was there from the inside, and for those who may think in this direction - this is an unobvious business model. That is, this is not a business that you can open tomorrow, attract money, start doing marketing, and now you already have supply and demand on the site. BlaBlaCar had time to develop, he first joined the game and developed the business. And in the end he took a leading position in the market.