A trip by two UNC-Chapel Hill students to India this summer is making life a little safer for some students on campus.

The idea for Buzz Rides, a new on-campus transportation service using small electric cars, came to Kenan Flager Business School students Joey Skavroneck and Parker Draughon as they saw the popularity of “tuk-tuks” among Indian people: “We took them everywhere while we were in India,” says Draughon. "We just really loved the idea of an open-aired taxi and how cheap it was, and wanted to bring it back to Carolina.”

The service is free to students and provides them safe passage around and across campus late at night. But it is also a business with a revenue model.

Friends and family helped the pair raise the funding for the purchase of the initial four vehicles, believing the model could take off. Business sponsorships pay for the operating costs of Buzz Rides, in exchange for the opportunity to get their company in front of students, offering product samples, giving out brochures, and getting advertising on the side of the vehicles. Buzz Rides trains the drivers to talk about the product – even adorning drivers in sponsoring company logos.

The Kenan Flagler Business School gets credit in two ways: first for its sponsorship of this summer’s “global immersion” program in India led by Lawrence Murray, director of the undergraduate business program, and second for helping the founders understand some of the nuts and bolts of starting a new enterprise. Dr. Murray says the founders came to UNC with an entrepreneurial mindset; what they needed was exposure: “What we did was show them a range of business models in India – Indian startups and older companies, multinationals – all kinds. In class, we connected them with entrepreneurial faculty so that they could bring their idea along.”

The idea has taken off. The service operates five nights a week from 10 pm to 2:30 am, picking up groups of four or more students within a two mile radius of campus. “We raised our initial money from friends and family who thought this was a good business model,” says Draughon. “But we already have more demand than we expected. Our four vehicles are constantly busy. And our friends on other campuses are asking us when we’re going to bring Buzz Rides to their campus.”

Draughon and Skavroneck have some time. They’re just sophomores.

For more information on Buzz Rides (or to invest or advertise), go to their website at: http://www.buzzrides.com/

UNC-Chapel Hill

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

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