Urban congestion remains an annoyance to the traveler and a grief to the environment. BlaBlaCar, a Paris-based online carpooling platform, has just offered to acquire Busfor, which would be its second bus fleet acquisition in 2019.
Busfor is the leading bus-ticketing platform in Russia, Poland and Ukraine, employing 150 people. BlaBlaCar sees this acquisition as a unifying opportunity for Eastern Europe’s fragmented market under a single platform to meet a greater diversity of rider needs.
Carpooling and hitchhiking are old concepts, ones that BlaBlaCar’s founder Frédéric Mazzella utilized when the trains were booked at Christmas, and without a car, he didn’t know how he’d make it to his family across France. Once he got a ride with his sister, he began noticing the ubiquitous vacant car seats on the A10 highway. He launched BlaBlaCar in 2006 with a mission to solve this problem.
Using an online platform to connect drivers who have room in their cars with passengers who desire transit in the same direction, BlablaCar has filled a niche as the largest long distance carpool service in the world.
In June 2019, BlaBlaCar turned its sights on bus fleets. BlaBlaBus launched in Europe and one month later, the company acquired Ouibus’ 70 lines and fleets. Ouibus, founded in 2012, provided BlaBlaBus with an established network in Western Europe. While BlaBlaCar rebranded Ouibus’ fleets, its plan for Busfor inventory is different.
“Busfor will retain its own brand, product offering and consumer app, but we will be integrating its supply of bus journeys into the BlaBlaCar platform to help bus carriers and stations grow their customer bases while also creating the best user experience for travelers,” BlaBlaCar co-founder and CEO Nicolas Brusson said.
Busfor partners with 7,000 bus carriers, but buses in this region operate mostly offline. Only 10 percent of bookings are made online; BlaBlaCar sees this as an opportunity for growth. Out of the 80 million registered users of Busfor, 25 million are already using BlaBlaCar’s services.
Rideshare giant Uber also operates in Eastern Europe, but Brusson doesn’t see the companies as having overlapping markets, at least for the short-term. Uber focuses on short trips within cities, rather than BlaBlaCar’s mission of connecting passengers across entire cities or regions.
Blablacar’s mission is to “bring freedom, equity and brotherhood to the world of travel.” It’s hailed as one of France’s top unicorn companies, which are private companies with at least $1 billion valuations. Eighty million members in 22 countries use the online platform, spanning Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. Its website touts 25 million travelers per quarter, an average of 3.9 people per vehicle, and 1.6 million tons of CO2 saved each year.