VROOM: One Year On
A Conversation with AVR Venkatesa

The atmosphere was noticeably different when I met my CEO, AVR Venkatesa on the eve of VROOM’s first anniversary. He was having his usual morning coffee, seated at the conference table, looking more poised than ever. He welcomed me in as I took a seat next to him. “One year of VROOM,” he said. “What an amazing journey it has been thus far!”

And so began our conversation, which covered several topics, from the germination of VROOM as an idea, to where it is headed as it grows in scope:

One year of VROOM! What thoughts come to mind on such a momentous occasion?

AVR: Well the very first thought that hits my mind after having completed a year is, what are the priorities and challenges the business needs to address and overcome so that it stays around and fulfills the mission for the next ten years. Because what I am trying to build is something new in India and I am thankful to the people who have come and joined me in this endeavor. My focus right now is to make VROOM a successful business venture.

What made you start VROOM? Where did you draw inspiration in order to start and build the business?

AVR: I started VROOM after realizing in my last job — as the CEO of a publishing services company — that I still have the entrepreneurial bug in me, that was more suited to start another venture. There is more than one reason behind starting up VROOM. The primary goal was to make commuting much more efficient and affordable for commuters. Having explored a lot of peer to peer/collaboration economy ideas, I finally settled upon the ability of the owner and rider of a motorcycle to share their pillion seat for improving commuting and transportation in Indian metros. There was also a desire to contribute to lowering pollution levels, participating in the sharing economy, and also in India’s progress through its Smart Cities mission.

What was your vision a year back? How have you met them or even surpassed them?

AVR: My vision a year ago after launching VROOM was to assemble a high performing team, and I would rate myself for having been successful on that front. Most of the team members are made up of people with whom I have been working with for over ten years since my last entrepreneurial venture at TexTech International.

My other vision was to build the VROOM apps for both passengers and riders and to have launched them in the marketplace. We have been reasonably successful on that front and are focussed on providing a richer platform for our riders and passengers in the market.

In terms of challenges, I would say the biggest one was the marketing curve we had to climb. I haven’t had much experience on the consumer side of digital marketing, and so I underestimated the investment needed for it. Now, however, we have a cross-platform marketing initiative that has been working reasonably well for us.

The other challenge that we have been facing has been on the supply side with rider recruitment. We experimented with several strategies to attract riders to our platform, and we now have a bouquet of options that they can choose from, including full-time and part-time positions. Having invested both mine and my co-founder Prema’s personal funds into VROOM, and having raised a round of funds from friends and families, my goal now is to do a Pre-Series A or Series A round to help VROOM realize its potential.

What other CEOs do you look up to and who has inspired you to have your work ethic? Who is your role model in the business world?

AVR: I’ve had a number of role models. For a long time, I admired Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. In recent times, I have had a lot of appreciation for Elon Musk. If I think VROOM is a big challenge, he has taken challenges orders of magnitude higher than what I have undertaken. His success keeps me motivated and shows me that the VROOM’s vision is very, very reachable.

Where do you expect to go in the next 3 years? In what ways do you expect to grow?

AVR: Well, I want to make VROOM a viable business first, so in addition to VroomRIDES, we want to enhance our existing platform. We will soon be launching VroomPACK in the next month or so, to provide delivery of small packages from any location to any location in the city. We are also looking at geographic expansion across India. So if you ask me, in the next three years, I would like to be present in a dozen cities in India, doing tens of thousands of trips — both passenger trips and package delivery trips — a day. I would also like to see how the Smart Cities mission develops in the country and how VROOM can contribute to that. I am also very excited and look forward to the usage and expansion of electric vehicles in both the four wheeler and the two wheeler categories.

Talking to AVR is always inspiring, and I left our conversation feeling motivated to shape the future with him. VROOM has come a long way in its first year, and boy, does it have even further to go!

Thanks for reading! Please keep watching this space for more in our Coffee and Conversations series.

Aravind