Creating a more equitable, efficient system to rent rideshare vehicles online – with Rohit Fernandes

by Asad Jung

Rohit Fernandes, Marketing Director,, spoke with The South Asian Times about an online car rental service for rideshare drivers that he has been working on. It aims to disrupt the process of renting a vehicle for ride-sharing, by allowing drivers to go through the approval and booking process online, and getting approved instantly. Using this service, drivers, such as those employed by Uber or Lyft, will be able to rent a vehicle easily.

Fernandes began his career in India, where he worked on the country’s first AR mobile app, Lakme Makeup Pro. He then moved to Oglivy, where he co-led the nationwide #NamakKeWaastey campaign for the 2016 Olympics.

The new service comes as a reaction to the landscape of the ride-share industry. “The current driver approval process has not kept up with the growth and development of the industry or facilitators,” said Fernandes. Although booming and expected to surpass $220 billion by 2025, the current system for ride-share drivers to rent cars is inefficient, and disproportionately creates roadblocks for immigrants, the majority of NYC drivers, who rent vehicles.

Immigrants are the heart of the still-developing, essential industry — truer in the pandemic. “According to The New York Times, nine out of 10 rideshare drivers are immigrants, and 54% are responsible for providing more than half of their family incomes,” says Fernandes. Despite their key role, many face roadblocks when renting vehicles,  because of language barriers, premature background checks, and lack of deal transparency. With the entire process online, addresses antiquated systemic failures with an effective, novel, digital solution.


What was your role in creating the service?

Rohit: With my unique knowledge, having worked successfully across the digital communications realm and on some award-winning projects, leading several innovation projects in the web and app development space, I brought unique skills of, and served as, a UX researcher and designer, web and graphic designer, copywriter, web analyst, product specialist, advertising specialist, as well as marketing and marketing automation specialist. I delivered the entire front-end digital product, owned the marketing communications, and had them optimized to suit the special audience.

Any challenges you faced during development?

Rohit: The challenge was to understand the user who speaks English as a second language. They’re web savvy, but only pick up on English “keywords” in communication, and can be overwhelmed with information. We had to simplify the experience, and educate them through the process. This started with implementing prompts, optimizing forms, and using minimum text. Eventually, to ensure that users weren’t being inundated with the forms, typically experienced by users filling forms in a second language, I implemented a guided tour, which increased form completion rate by 40%. Later, we added tutorial videos for users to understand and visualize the outcome of the form filling process. This drove up form submissions by 20%.

How did your marketing expertise facilitate the service?

Rohit: The study and understanding of this consumer segment addressed my marketing communications. I found where the customer is, what channels they’re using, and how they’re looking for their solution. Focusing on those specific channels, I crafted our communication and adapted it to reach them efficiently. Deeply understanding the customer prompted me to scrap detailed content in favor of minimal use of sentences and more “keywords” that they understood, and connected with the product immediately, without too much text, or making them hunt for the benefit.


How does the service aim to bring a fair and transparent experience for ride-share drivers?

Rohit: Since there is no “person” involved with the approval process and booking transaction, there is no biases at play, no salesmen with targets, no profiling and upselling or downselling, no “need” or “desperation” based pricing, with the same standard of service guaranteed for all drivers. More importantly, the approval for rentals is “instant”, which should be the industry standard.


Why is this significant for the South Asian community?

Rohit: South Asians, from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, make up 30% of the 185,000 licensed drivers who are behind the steering wheels of New York’s yellow and green cabs, and for-hire vehicles. Many of these drivers have since moved onto ride-share. Over 60% of our current customer profile is South Asian. We are eliminating barriers from keeping them employed, and allowing them access to better, newer vehicles that would afford a higher income. We’re also facilitating driving immediately, rather than having them to wait on bureaucratic processes to play out, as is with many well-known rental companies.

Image courtesy of (Photo provided)

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