One such company, zingbus, which connects over 250 cities across the states of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu (UT), HP, UP, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Gujarat through thousands of daily connections, has seen obvious benefits.
Prashant Kumar, Co-Founder & CEO, zingbus, says in the last couple of years, there has been substantial digitisation in the intercity bus and rail travel space. This sector was growing at 35% CAGR before the pandemic, but since the pandemic it has gathered more steam and has been growing at 60% CAGR. It is expected that this momentum will continue and the market will expand to 5X its size in the next 4-5 years.
Kumar says the pandemic has led to higher expectations of hygiene and safety from the customers and technology-led players like zingbus, who read the market demands early, are witnessing a strong tailwind. The company claims it has grown 12x between November 2019 and November 2021. The emergence of a lot of new connections between tier 2 and Tier 3 cities has led to significant shifts in demand demographics.
“Intercity bus travel was the first to bounce back post lockdown given the restrictions at the railways and crowded railway stations despite the restrictions. We have seen almost 70% recovery (compared to pre-covid) on all major connections along with the emergence of many new prominent connections across the country. I expect the market to grow at 10% Q-o-Q for at least next 5-6 quarters,” says Kumar.
Explaining the type of travel that is more in demand, he says, “In the days after the first unlock, we saw only long, migration driven travel happening. These demand patterns were indisputably one-sided. Slowly, we saw short, two-sided demand too. That was followed by a huge surge in tourism, which settled in after a few weeks. Right now, we are seeing healthy traffic on all types of connections and motivated by all kinds of use cases apart from students.”
Kumar says even though his data is biased by the density of connections they cater to in a given region, in the North, Punjab and U.P. have seen most travellers, while in the West, Gujarat has driven most of the traffic.
Sharing some numbers on the travel industry, Kumar says, “Domestic intercity travel is a $40 billion space, out of which surface travel is $32 billion (rest is flights). Out of this, buses contribute more than $15 billion. Most of the activity in this sector is happening on the tier 2/3 connections and routes through the non-air-conditioned run-down buses with negligible internet penetration. This is where the bigger opportunity lies. zingbus is currently less than 1% of the $3 billion air-conditioned tier 1 market of intercity bus travel,” he elaborated.
Kumar adds that in the next two years, zingbus aims to ferry over 50,000 passengers daily across thousands of connections. “We shall facilitate door-to-door connections for passengers and would run the highest number of electric fleets in the country,” he adds.
The company is aggressively hiring talents across engineering, product, business, and operations profiles. “We are now determined to develop technology for the next leap of improvement in traveller experience and are expanding the service to new geographies. We are very keen to launch in the southern part of the country where most of the intercity bus travel market is and will be there early next year,” Kumar says.