While the vaccine for the COVID-19 is still out of sight, gradual unlocking of economy and borders and also reduction of COVID-19 cases thanks to herd immunity has resulted in a surge in travellers, both seeking leisure and business. Also the fact that travellers are preferring personal vehicles over public transport is expected to bring a new ray of hope for car rental and leasing industry. We got in touch with Sunil Gupta, MD & CEO, Avis India to understand more about the current state of industry and its future. Here's our conversation-
Tell us about Avis and its operations in India
We began our journey in India over 20 years ago. At that time car rental was a niche market in India. Over the years, we have embraced opportunities and decisively responded to challenges, and that helped us learn, innovate, and grow to become the leading car rental and mobility service provider in India. Our suite of mobility services now comprises chauffeur-driven and self-drive cars on rent, cars on lease for terms ranging from 1 year to 5 years and fleet management services to corporate and retail customers in the country. We started our operations with 9 cities and now we have established a network extending across 50 conveniently located rental stations in 21 cities viz Agra, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cochin, New Delhi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Noida, Pune, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Dehradun, Shimla, Udaipur, and Vadodara.
What services do you provide to customers in India?
As mentioned above, Avis India has various mobility services across multiple formats fulfilling the requirements of both corporate and retail customers across India. For those who are adventurous and willing to explore by themselves, we have Avis Flex services. This is a dedicated to self-drive service rentals for 7 days and more. Customers can also explore offerings through our Avis Vacation services. This is a specially curated chauffeur-driven service for people who want to travel and explore without having to worry about driving through an unknown road.
In addition to these, we also have Avis Flexi 12 that allows customers to lease a new car for 12 months, without any down payments. Also, for the mobility needs of corporate employees, we have Avis Secure Shuttle service. Through this service traveler can choose to travel an average distance of 15 to 45 km on a daily basis. They can avail pick-up and drop-off service, from home to the workplace and vice-versa.
How badly has Covid-19 hit rental and leasing services?
The travel bans to stem the spread of COVID-19 hit the rental-car industry, bringing the entire operations virtually to a halt. Due to the nationwide lockdown, as people were confined to their homes, we had experienced a significant difference in terms of bookings this year as compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, the car rental industry is steadily overcoming the challenges of the pandemic. In the past couple of months, we have seen a positive trajectory and recovery in the demand for domestic travel. Thus, the car rental industry is gradually coming back on track.
Your thought on importance of personal mobility in post Covid-19 world.
As travel begins to return to normal, people have started stepping out. They are also planning road trips, journeying from one city to another. However, people are still apprehensive about taking public modes of transport for traveling. Also, they are preferring to travel in smaller groups as compared to before. Given that hygiene and safety are key priorities at present, consumers are now preferring a service that they can trust. They are also looking for a mobility option that gives them the flexibility and freedom to travel without breaking social distancing norms. This has triggered a demand for personal mobility services.
How do you see the future growth of leasing & rental industry in India?
The mobility industry is very disaggregated and diverse modes of operation and ownership of mobility assets exists in the country. Therefore, industry-wide data is not available. However, mobility services fulfill the very crucial need of personal transportation and in a rapidly growing and urbanizing economy like ours, this becomes even more critical. Except for the disruption caused by COVID, it is safe to assume that the mobility industry growth in India would be 1.5 times the GDP growth. The other feature of the industry is that it is getting more and more corporatized. The share of organized sector players has been steadily increasing due to quality and reliability factors and digital interactions becoming more relevant to customers.