BluSmart’s Promise of Reliability And Safety Raises Questions After Nightmarish Ride

In the streets of Delhi NCR, safety concerns often overshadow the convenience of transportation. Choosing a reliable cab-booking app service, therefore, becomes a matter of paramount importance, especially during late hours. BluSmart, until recently hailed as a breath of fresh air in the city’s rather unreliable cab-hailing landscape, seems to be sadly crumbling under the burden of its own lofty promises. Behind carefully crafted founder stories, brand myths, valuation & fundraise news feeds, there are several chinks in their armour, which stand exposed as they attempt to scale and expand their footprint. Lack of vehicle maintenance, customer safety, emergency response, driver training, and a broken redressal system have been experienced firsthand by our team, and the ground realities warrant vigilance from customers and some serious introspection from the management team.

(This article recounts a BluSmart ride experience and the subsequent month-long ordeal. It will be updated as the situation evolves and once there is a resolution and/or closure.)

On the evening of February 26, 2024, a BluSmart Rental was booked from Delhi-Gurgaon border to Noida Expressway – a distance of approximately 50 kms, that would take about an hour and a half to cover. The booking was made at around 7:00pm, and the rental trip was scheduled for 10:30pm. Ample time, one would think, to expect a comfortable EV ride with a reliable vehicle and driver, booked through the most trusted service in town. However, what unfolded was enough to shatter one’s confidence in the service, raising questions about BluSmart’s commitment to its customers’ safety and its promise of reliability and zero cancellation.

BluSmart driver Nitin Pal arrived in a Tata Tigor EV (Regn. No. DL52GD2930) ahead of the designated time. The music was blaring and the front seat resembled a storage bin – with a backpack, a leaking water bottle, and a dirty cloth casually strewn over it, making it practically unusable. Despite the driver’s attempts to salvage the situation, the seat remained damp, leaving three passengers no choice but to squeeze into the backseat.

As the journey commenced, the cacophony was unbearable. And a request to turn down the volume was, well, turned down. It was apparently a consequence of an unresolved electrical fault in the vehicle and a malfunctioning touchscreen. Consequently, upon ignition, the music blared incessantly, with no option to mute or reduce the volume. The only way to stop the music was to stop the vehicle. The driver had reported it to the Hub Manager, along with a tire issue, but both were overlooked. He claimed that his repeated requests for servicing the vehicle was turned down by the company (they own the fleet, not the driver), and he was instructed to continue accepting rides for the faulty vehicle, or face deductions in his earnings.

An electrical fault in an electric vehicle can have consequences. But the BluSmart team thought it was absolutely fine for passengers to risk their lives with faulty wires and faulty tires on expressways with speed limits of 100 kms an hour, and endure loud Haryanvi music in full volume over a one and a half hour journey in the middle of the night.

Barely two hundred metres into the trip, it became abundantly clear that risking a ride in the vehicle was not a wise decision. The driver was asked to pull over to the side and check the car. After tinkering for a bit, he pleaded helplessness. He was then asked to contact his senior. The Hub Manager was connected, and his response was a big yawn, lacking urgency and empathy, almost making the caller feel sorry for bothering him at such an unearthly hour. “What do you want to do?” he asked. If only he were adequately trained, he would know that he was expected to answer that question, not ask it.

Left to fend for themselves in a moment of crisis, the passengers, now stranded in the dead of night, attempted to engage with an emergency helpline through the app. As anticipated, the ‘help’ section only allowed chat, with no option to speak to a real human. Efforts to seek help through the chat support proved futile, as templated responses such as “happy to assist you”, “how can I help you today”, “sorry for your inconvenience”, “allow us time to go through the details” offered no tangible solution. With no reassurance of a replacement vehicle in sight and no in-person assistance, the passengers, including two women, found themselves in a precarious situation in the dead of the night. Mind you, by now the vehicle had been stationary for over 20 minutes in the middle of a ride, close to midnight, yet no alarm bells were triggered. No emergency notification, no call to the driver, no call to the passenger. Nothing.

The passengers then asked the driver to cancel the ride. He asked for an OTP which was shared, and INR 999.00 was instantly deducted with a “thank you for riding with BluSmart” message – for a ride that never happened. To get the money refunded was another challenge – raise a ticket, lodge a complaint, explain why the ride ended, and plead for your money to be credited back. Booking another BluSmart wasn’t an option, since on-demand rides are not available on the platform. An Uber was then booked – a decision that came with its own set of expenses and inconveniences – but thankfully, a polite and helpful Uber driver arrived within 10 minutes and safely took the passengers to their destination.

BluSmart’s callous disregard was evident from the fact that there was no follow up from them after what was a nightmarish experience on the streets. It was only when a post was put up by one of the passengers on X (formerly Twitter), that they decided to respond immediately. A call from Liaquat Ali, Head of Customer Experience, claimed that they have systems in place and it was a rare occurrence that shouldn’t have happened. He assured two things after a verbal apology: (a) that he would share his personal mobile number after the call, and (b) he would get back at the earliest after thoroughly investigating the matter, with a clear resolution. Neither of which happened.

Subsequent attempts to communicate with BluSmart only yielded further disappointment, with promises of action fading quicker as they were made. Tickets raised were closed without resolution, emails were not followed through, and a pattern of neglect and indifference underscored an abject failure to address fundamental flaws in the resolution process – a matter that should have been resolved on the ground by the driver and the Hub Manager in the first place.

Weeks later, when LTD took up the matter with BluSmart via email on March 14, 2024, we were contacted by Aastha Bansal, Head of Communications on March 16, 2024. With another apology and a set of fresh promises to dig deep, investigate the matter, raise the issue with cofounders, and get back at the earliest with a resolution and a closure. As expected, none of that has happened yet.

(As the situation develops, this article will be updated accordingly.)

A month is a significant duration in today’s digital age, where matters can be tracked and resolved in minutes. And a prolonged, open-ended sequence of events like this one, stemming from a disappointing user experience, is sufficient to erode customer trust in any brand. Loyalty is fleeting in the digital era. If another brand were to launch tomorrow with marginally improved specs, services, and promises, customers would shift in a blink.

One may add that over time, more disgruntled BluSmart customers are coming forward, sharing stories of canceled trips, poor vehicle quality, and declining customer service. These incidents raise serious questions about their ability to hold on to their foundational promise of safety and reliability. If the company fails to realign itself with its core values and address systemic issues promptly, its fall from grace may be faster than its ascent to prominence.

Trust, safety, and reliability are paramount in this sector, and BluSmart risks alienating its customer base – who, by the way, are also their most vocal supporters – if they don’t address these fundamental issues on the ground.

10 things that BluSmart could have done differently for a better outcome

1. If a vehicle is not road worthy, it shouldn’t be on a ride. Drivers in consultation with Hub Managers should be empowered to make that decision.

2. If there is a vehicle failure while on trip, the driver should connect with the Hub Manager and a replacement EV should be made available by the Hub Manager within 10 minutes.

3. If a replacement EV is not available, BluSmart should remain in constant communication with the passenger throughout the breakdown period, arrange for an alternate luxury mode of transport at their cost, provide the passenger with a ride experience beyond their expectations, and ensure safe transportation to their destination. No questions asked.

4. Make provision for a dedicated in-app/ in-ride emergency response code that triggers human intervention and assistance in case of breakdowns, accidents or emergencies. Chats in such situations aren’t as reassuring as a human touch.

5. Listen to the customer. Take responsibility for faults. Accept. Acknowledge. Make amends. Because when the customer comes first, the customer will last.

6. Prolonging a bad situation makes matters worse. Provide a swift and comprehensive report on actions taken, preferably within a few hours and ensure that the customer is satisfied with the outcome.

7. Offer a prompt and heartfelt resolution – perhaps a handwritten note from the CEO, a branded gift, a goody bag, or vouchers for subsequent rides. Anything that demonstrates genuine care. And the intent to keep the customer on your side.

8. Avoid making random promises or sing paeans about the company’s greatness. After a negative experience, customers want solutions, not self-praise.

9. Train and empower frontline teams to be your most valuable brand ambassadors. They should be empowered to think on their feet and take decisions that do not escalate a situation to go out of control.

10. Regularly conduct mystery ride audits through an independent team to assess user experience, customer service scenarios, driver training, communication effectiveness, safety protocols, vehicle condition, and other vital ride parameters.

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