Meet Zeryab Cheema, the Australian 20 year old running an Uber rival
By now most Australians have heard of Uber, the ride-sharing service that has turned the taxi and shuttle market on its head. But you probably wouldn’t have heard about HOP, a new Australian ride-sharing service that is making waves for all the right reasons.
The founder is 20-year-old Zeryab Cheema, an economics student at the University of Sydney who already has one successful business under his belt.
It was late one night during some routine social-media stalking that the idea for his latest venture, HOP, was born. Cheema knew he wanted to use rental cars as the vehicles for HOP so he used LinkedIn to direct message a director at Hertz.
“It was a message at 9pm in the evening in 2015 saying that I want to start this project with you guys, are you guys willing to collaborate? And I got a response quite quickly saying yes,” he said.
When Cheema was just 15 he launched an app called Taxi 24/7. It’s currently used in the London market and is reportedly worth seven figures. It was this early success that gave him the inspiration to create a new approach to ride-sharing.
“In the Australian market I saw that the approach to taxis was changing,” he said. “I wanted to make it easy for consumers and also to provide a choice for drivers. It was a progressive idea that came about over a number of months.”
So what is HOP’s point of difference in a ride-sharing market dominated by Uber?
“The way we think about it is: keep the driver happy and you’ll get passengers,” he said.
HOP drivers do not have to pay the 20%-30% commission on fares that Uber charges. Plus when drivers start with HOP, they’re guaranteed a rate of $38 per hour. Drivers also don’t need to own their own cars and can rent HOP cars as they want them.
“If the model is attractive enough for a driver then they’ll no longer drive with Uber or the other platforms,” said Cheema.
As for the incentive for riders, in addition to the cheaper fares and new cars offer by HOP, they’ll be supporting a homegrown startup and the hardworking local drivers.
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“Every one of our drivers is essentially a small business owner so when someone books through us or pays through us, the whole fare amount is transferred directly to those small business owners. They can earn more and can spend locally.”
According to Cheema, by choosing to support an Australian business like HOP over Uber, you’re ensuring that your money stays in our Australian economy.
“You’re supporting a system that creates local jobs. We can reinvest locally and into the economy and that gives everyone a boost.”
Cheema says that some homegrown businesses can lose focus from the Australian market due to lack of government support, lack of funding opportunities and limited local interest which can make it hard for Aussie startups to flourish at home. Hi cites software giant Atlassian, which moved off shore, as an example.
“Sometimes it is difficult for Australian businesses who take that first step into the market. I think the main reason is the government support. The second is funding,” he said. “An extra bit of funding would help those Australian businesses who are paying their taxes locally, creating local jobs and really incentivise that.”
If riders opt to support homegrown startups like HOP it can make a tangible difference to the Australian business landscape and increase market competition.
“If you choose to back Australian startups and businesses rather than the overseas players you’re impacting Australia in a very positive way,” Cheema said.