Comment: Taking the car rental market into a higher gear

I have always dreamt of travelling the world.

Nuvven has been set up to improve the car hire experience. Picture: Damnura.
Nuvven has been set up to improve the car hire experience. Picture: Damnura.

As a child, I travelled a lot in trains across India. I remember my excitement as a train would slowly approach the platform, waiting to take me to somewhere new and, in my world, totally unexplored. I carried this passion with me when I moved to the UK and wanted to explore every corner of this beautiful and diverse continent.

I have always found that the best way to explore a new country and enjoy its countryside is to drive through it. Unfortunately, this ideal has led to many unpleasant encounters with car rental companies.

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One of my most recent experiences was at the Venice Treviso airport in Italy. I booked a hire car through a popular online car rental price comparison site. It quickly turned sour when I arrived at the airport and tried to pick up the car. Firstly, I was hit with hidden charges, none of which were disclosed to me during the booking.

Biswajit Kundu Roy is the founder and CEO of Nuvven. Picture: contributed.

They said it could all be discounted if I purchased more insurance. My prior experience of car rentals made it easy to see through it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t cancel my booking without being charged and the website didn’t offer any help. Finally, I grudgingly ended up paying. Not the relaxing start we wanted to our holiday!

Working as a Big Four management consultant, I have helped FTSE companies to transform their businesses using digital technology and innovation. This experience inspired me to go back to the drawing board to think about how we solve these problems in the car rental industry and inspired me to set up Nuvven.

Nuvven’s vision is to drive consumer advocacy through a 21st century car rental experience that makes it enjoyable for customers to rent cars and get to places. Our goal is to drive more trust, innovation and value for money.

Disrupting

Unfortunately, new disruptive models have found it difficult to scale quickly. This has meant that the incumbents continue to dominate, with no incentive to innovate – customers lose out.

Which raises the question: how do we disrupt the industry at scale?

At Nuvven, we believe that transforming the industry from the inside out is key to solving customer problems at scale. The global car rental industry is controlled by a handful of car rental companies – Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Sixt and National. Collectively, they control about 60 per cent of the worldwide market share.

The remaining 40 per cent of the market remains heavily fragmented, with numerous small and mid-sized car rental companies. In the UK, there are more than 500 small and medium-sized car rental companies with fleet sizes of between 100 and 500.

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We want to tackle the deep-rooted issues in the car rental industry first and, much like Amazon transformed the retail industry through e-commerce, democratise and level the playing field for smaller rental players.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last ten months. We’ve developed a multi-discipline team, raised some funding and have started working with beta customers to test and enhance our product. We’re on schedule to launch our MVP – “Minimal Lovable Product” – next month with five of our early adopters.

The community of tech entrepreneurs, investors and advisors in Scotland has been extremely supportive. My recent trip to Silicon Valley with a few other Scottish tech founders highlighted the saturation of tech companies in the area. They’re struggling against high cost of living and a very expensive talent pool.

On the contrary, Scotland offers a great option for start-ups (even compared to London) offering low start-up costs, access to world-class talent and government support for new businesses.

Everyone at Nuvven has been working tirelessly to achieve our bold vision to create a “purpose-driven” technology company that keeps customers and partners at the heart of everything that we do.

Biswajit Kundu Roy is a senior manager at PwC and the founder and CEO of Nuvven

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