India’s Chalo raises $45 million in fresh funding to digitize bus commutes

Indian startup Chalo, which is working to transform bus commutes, has raised $45 million in a new funding round and secured an additional $12 million in debt as it works on deepening its mobility offerings and launches in more international markets.

The Series D funding round was led by Avataar Ventures. Existing investors Lightrock India, WaterBridge Ventures and former Google executive Amit Singhal also participated in the funding. Trifecta and Stride Ventures financed the debt. This injection of capital brings Chalo’s cumulative fundraise to $119 million.

Mohit Dubey, the brain behind Chalo, previously founded CarWale, an online platform for trading new and used vehicles. After a decade at CarWale, Dubey realized that his startup — and many other similar firms —┬áserved a mere 3% of India’s population, he told TechCrunch in an earlier interview.

Chalo’s business, on the other hand, revolves around empowering bus operators to transition to digital payments and facilitate commute tracking. Despite the paucity of buses in India, the country’s bus market holds a potential $20 billion opportunity, nearly double the size of the taxi market.

A lack of buses, with only three for every 10,000 residents, creates a ripe opportunity for disruption in a space that remains largely underserved. Chalo is attempting to solve inefficiencies such as cash-based fare payments, limited availability of monthly passes and unpredictability of bus schedules.

The eight-year-old startup installs GPS systems on buses, enabling customers to track their commute in real-time through their eponymous app, which also sells tickets and monthly passes.

Chalo, now operating in over 50 cities and tracking more than 15,000 buses across India, has seen a consistent increase in ridership thanks to the efficiency its platform provides, the startup said. Over time, the company has also expanded its offerings to cater to premium clientele through the acquisition of Amazon-backed Shuttl, and ventured into e-bikes via the Vogo brand.

“In the last two years, our capabilities have grown significantly. We have strengthened our core business of city buses, and now offer a multi-modal public transport network solution to cities, encompassing city buses, premium buses, and first and last mile connectivity,” said Dubey in a statement Monday.

Chalo, which also has a presence in Southeast Asia, plans to boost e-vehicles in its fleet and continue expanding into additional international markets.