Carpooling app Wunder aims to eliminate traffic jams in emerging markets
By Chong Jinn Xiung March 8, 2017
- Has 250,000 signed-up users and aims to expand to more cities this year
- App is designed for full-time office workers who would like company of their commutes
TRAFFIC jams are a daily hassle that Malaysians, especially those living in Kuala Lumpur, have to deal with come rain or shine.
It comes as no surprise that Malaysia leads its Southeast Asian neighbours in terms of car ownership. At 93%, Malaysia ranks the third in the world.
The number of cars on roads and the people who spend hours in them daily prompted a carpool campaign in the mid-1990s in a bid to reduce the number of vehicles.
Sadly, the carpooling culture never caught in Malaysia and there are even more cars on the roads today.
This is where Wunder Carpool, a platform by Hamburg-based company Wunder, hopes to change the status quo by setting up carpooling communities in some of the most gridlocked cities of today with the aim of freeing cities, many of which are in emerging markets, from traffic.
Founded in 2013, Wunder has already raised three rounds of funding from venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley and Germany with early-stage venture capital firm Blumberg Capital as their lead investor.
Basically, Wunder is dusting off the carpooling concept and giving it a 21st-century makeover by capitalising on the sharing economy, urging drivers with empty seats in their vehicles to offer them up to other commuters who are heading in the same general direction as them.
In an email interview with DNA, Wunder’s chief operating officer Sam Baker (pic, right) says Wunder works by best matching carpoolers based on their preferred starting point, destination and scheduled commuting time.
The app is basically designed for full-time office workers who enjoy sharing the empty seats in their cars once or twice a day. So instead of being stuck in a jam alone, they would be able to meet new people, save the environment and share their travel costs all at the same time.
Wunder says it has built-in mechanisms to make rides safer for users such as using community ratings and comments for other riders to see. It also requires all users to provide their verified Facebook Profile, the number of rides taken or given and for drivers to provide a picture of their car and license plate number.
Passengers schedule when they want to leave for work and the app automatically calculates carpool matches with people around the area for the next several days and confirms a fixed price.
“There is no surge pricing with Wunder. Fixed pricing is critical as it helps the driver recover basic costs such as fuel only. No profit is possible,” said Baker.
The company describes itself as a social network for commuters that form a community that its users can be a part of and share stories together on their commute.
At the same time, Wunder takes pride in the fact that the cost of a typical journey can be up to 4x cheaper than ride-sharing apps and while remaining more comfortable than taking public transportation.
To date, the company claims to have more than 250,000 signed-up users and has conducted more than one million rides through the app in 2016 alone.
“While the Wunder app is 100% free at the moment, we plan to offer paid premium features in the future. We’re also piloting carpooling programmes with large employers in Metro Manila who would like to offer incentives for their employees to carpool,” Baker added.
Currently, Wunder is active in several cities around Southeast Asia and South Asia including Manila, Cebu, Kuala Lumpur and Delhi. It plans to announce new markets in Asia this month and several other cities this year.
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