Hype can be best described as an eleventh hour samaritan in the luxury car rental space.
The promise of vehicular luxury that "Uber Black" originally brought forth for many discerning riders, only to be overshadowed by an almost immediate (and necessary) inflow of mass-market vehicles, is now kept alive by this thriving new platform that offers on-demand luxury cars (Mercs, Maybachs and More) anytime, anywhere. Hype's services are distributed across both self-drive and chauffeur-driven models. Having kicked off operations in 2017, Hype is now active in Hyderabad, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ahmedabad and Lucknow, among other Tier-I and Tier-II Indian cities.
Today, we are in conversation with Raghav Belavadi (Co-founder and CEO of Hype).
With cab-hailing platforms and car rental startups raiding the market, what gave you the courage to launch in this sector? How did you plan on being different?
There were too many operators for regular taxis in the market, but elite car rental services for special occasions were virtually non-existent. Many people prefer a better riding lifestyle than what's currently on offer, and prior to our intervention, it was pretty much tedious to search, negotiate and book an elite vehicle. We changed that with the introduction of Hype, an on-demand luxury car rental platform.
When did you launch Hype, and what were your initial challenges?
We launched the platform late in 2017. One of our early challenges, was to secure a buy-in from car providers. Most luxury car owners and providers were not ready to go online and showcase their previous vehicles for a self-drive option. We went into hyperdrive with detailed customer profiling and premium positioning to overcome this challenge.
What was your family’s reaction towards your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I have been an entrepreneur since 2011 and this is my journey. My family has always extended unconditional support towards whatever I do in life. They have stood by me through my highs and lows, and are still doing their best to help me in any way they can.
How important was the acquisition & targeting of a niche audience segment for Hype? How did you go about it?
It was both critical and important to acquire the right target audience for us, and it will continue to be important for as long as we stay in business. Initially, we imagined that Hype would cater to an extremely elite audience, hailing from affluent communities, but I soon realized that it could serve almost anybody and it needed to be a large-scale B2C product! Achieving a healthy mix of lifestyle-driven and essentials-driven user base, is an interesting challenge for us, and it always keeps us motivated. Rather than going heavy branding activities, we have chosen to focus on service quality and secure, easy to use technology. This gives us an opportunity to constantly innovate in everything that we do.
Was there ever a time when you felt overwhelmed and unable to continue? What made you continue? What kept you motivated at your worst moments?
Well, for any entrepreneur, 6 days a week can get overwhelming, and we just have to get used to the rough whether. In my experience, regardless of the financial state of the startup, this remains pretty much constant. What motivates me is that I'm doing this for the right reasons, to make life better for some people on the planet. That is usually enough.
Are there specific influences who have inspired you in your entrepreneurial journey? If yes, is there any advice from such mentors/influencers that you would like to share with our readers?
I am heavily influenced by Steve Jobs. He was a living example of the concept of “if you believe it, you can do it”. He set aside an excellent example that regardless of who your competitors are and how big they are, your idea can still be unique and you can still be embraced by your users.
What are the top three business takeaways that you have learnt in your journey so far, which you did not know when you first started?
- Product and service are everything; all else is secondary.
- Be prepared to sacrifice everything to achieve your dreams.
- Don’t raise funds till you're in dire need of them.
What advice would you give to a ten-year younger Raghav, if given an opportunity?
Dear Raghav (then),
If you have an idea - any idea, give it a shot. It is always good that way. Because in the process of implementing that idea, regardless of the outcome, you will eventually become a better person.
Have you raised funds for your business? Are you optimistic about raising funds in the future?
Yes we have raised funds in the past, and we confident about raising larger funds in the near future, as a part of our next round. We're currently looking at a pipeline of investors that are seeking term sheets.
Any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the car-rental segment?
Stay customer centric. The rest will follow.
How much of a role does consumer marketing/publicity play for Hype? What are the key challenges that you have faced so far?
Branding and marketing are very important for us. Associating our firm with well-known brands or platforms, helps in building an element of confidence in the minds of our customers, and allows us to operate better. Hype has been associating itself with celebrities and other prominent entities, and I am hopeful that this trend will continue. High-level marketing demands bigger funds, and even though the creation of strategic partnerships is important, it isn't easy because most people don't bet on a new startup. But over time, if we can keep increasing our visibility, we can overcome this challenge too.
Is there someone whom you wish to thank on The Times Blog? Please elaborate.
I want to thank my sister (Vijaya Belavadi) who helped me with critical funds that we needed early-on. I want to thank my partners Mr.Ramesh Babu(in Bangalore) and Mr.Dasmesh Dhanoa (in Delhi), who have wholeheartedly supported me, guided me and helped me in countless ways. Without them, it would have been not possible for me to come this far.
Aside from this questionnaire, is there any heartfelt insight/story that you wish to share with our readers?
Actually, yes. When I had booked a Mercedes S Class for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, it was extremely tiring to search, negotiate, and pay offline providers, only to find that we had received a BMW instead, with a ridiculous explanation from the booking platform. That got me upset, and eventually led to the genesis of Hype. I was fixated on solving a problem that I had personally faced.
The Times RapidFire
Name One book that you would recommend today, without blinking.
Answer: Screw it, let’s do it!
An original quote for your loyal customers?
“Coming together is the beginning.”
Do you operate with goals, or systems? Pick one.
Cricket, or no Cricket?
Answer: No Cricket. Football!
Print, or Digital?
And finally... what comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘The Times Blog’?