By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – BlaBlaCar, a French start-up, began operating in Brazil on November 30th. The app and online service is designed to connect car-drivers with room in their vehicles with members of the public in search of a lift. The passenger then contributes to the cost of the journey and provides company and conversation for the driver throughout the journey.
The service, which was started in France in 2006, now has twenty million users, most of whom are in Europe. Brazil is the twentieth country the company operates in and only the second in Latin America after Mexico.
“We say that BlaBlaCar is a ‘global-local’ company,” says the head of the Brazilian office, Julien Lafouge. It is global because it operates in twenty countries [including Brazil]. It is local because we pay attention to the small details of the countries where we operate.”
Users can access the service via the web or via an app. Once a person is registered and has created an online profile then they are able to post journeys they will be going on or look for rides. The service is only offered between cities, and not between neighborhoods.
Profiles are subject to peer-to-peer rating and reviews, so members can give feedback on one another. People who use the service frequently can reach ambassador status and therefore attract more rides. Willingness to chat on the journey is also rated in the “BlaBla” measurement.
Users are not able to advertise more than four free spaces on a trip, thus excluding vehicles larger than a car. The company also calculates a maximum possible price for the trip, based on fuel consumption and road tolls, and imposes a cap on the total price.
A journey between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is likely to cost around R$60 each via BlaBlaCar. Normally the price would be around R$180 each via standard Brazilian airlines, and by bus it is around R$83.
BlaBlaCar says that it is unlikely to face similar problems to Uber, an executive car service which has met much resistance in Brazil, because drivers do not make money from the trips they facilitate.
It hopes to have a positive impact on the environment by reducing the amount of journeys taken in the country as well as the number of empty seats in cars. In Europe, the average number of people per car on the road is 1.7. For users of BlaBlaCars, that number is 2.8 people. It is said to have saved 500,000 tons of fuel.
The Brazilian market is promising as cars are a popular form of transport but road tolls and the price of gasoline are high. Plus social networks, app and the internet are also popular and widely used in the country.
BlaBlaCars has been able to expand into Brazil having raised $300 million in the past few years. It is now operating an office of around ten people in São Paulo and is looking closely at how best to adapt the service for Brazil.