This 23-year-old serial entrepreneur has built a tourist taxi aggregator for the Northeast

Gangtok, View from Elgin Nor Khill

Gangtok-based startup NE taxi is a tourist taxi aggregator with a presence in 60 cities and towns in North East India. NE Taxi has also partnered with Impulse to curb human trafficking.

One of the challenges a traveller faces while trying to explore India is the lack of availability of transparent, convenient modes of transport. Getting a taxi involves haggling and talking to multiple vendors in the hope of getting the best value for your money. Gangtok-based startup NE Taxi is an app that aggregates tourist taxis to make it easier for travellers to find rides.

Hailing from Gangtok, Rewaj Chettri started NE Taxi as a tour guide company in 2013, North-East Tour Guide, from his dorm room in his second year of college. However, on realising that most people visiting the region just depend on their taxi drivers to show them the sights, they changed the business model and rebranded themselves as a transportation company for tourists.

Passionate about entrepreneurship, Rewaj, who has done his BSc in forestry, has been part of more than 20 startups including music app Cisum, hyperlocal laundry service Washer, delivery service Chitto, micro-investment, promotion, branding and accounting firm Sikkim Ventures, and photography platform Go Sikkim. 

Rewaj also runs an NGO, Startup Harbour, which focuses on building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Aimed at addressing the problems startups in the region face, it has been modelled as a knowledge-sharing community where members discuss relevant issues in monthly meetups. Members of the community also collaborate amongst themselves. Startup Harbour also organises a course called masterclass for entrepreneurs in collaboration with the IEF Foundation.

NE Taxi currently provides three kinds of services — outstation, sightseeing, and travel packages. Tourists can book outstation taxis in two variants — reserved and shared (called NEShare). Using the sightseeing option, tourists choose places of interest while booking the taxi. As part of travel packages, NE Taxi provides cabs that stay with the tourists during their days of travel in a particular region. Rewaj says the biggest struggle for the startup was to create a new market for car rental-only tours instead of hotel and accommodation tours, which are more prevalent. Convincing and training taxi drivers in innovative formats like shared taxis was also a challenge.

NE Taxi has also partnered with Meghalaya-based NGO Impulse to curb human trafficking that affects many young girls and women from the Northeast. As part of the partnership, if a driver gets suspicious that the travellers are being trafficked by agents, he can use the app’s SOS feature, which will alert the nearest police station.

The startup, which claims to have a fleet of over 800 vehicles from all over the Northeast, says it has catered to more than 15,000 customers. India’s biggest taxi aggregators, Ola and Uber, operate in a few big cities, while NE Taxi claims to have taxis in 60 destinations in the Northeast. The startup has a team of 31 people in their core team and branches.

NE Taxi uses online marketing to reach out to new clients, as well as B2B partnerships with other travel providers. They are also targeting local consumers by giving franchises to local travel agents for outstation reserved and shared travel. NE Taxi gets a commission of 20 percent per booking.

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