Ride-sharing app Oszkár Navigating Hungary’s pot Holes

Transport

Socialite writer David Holzer looks into a Hungarian ride sharing app that seems destined to pilot it way to success, one shared journey at a time.

Máté Gyürüs (left) and Attila Prácser.

It was my partner’s daughter who turned me on to the fantastic Oszkár ride-sharing app. The three of us had arrived at Budapest airport and were faced with a grueling journey back to Szeged that would involve a bus, a two-hour train ride and another taxi at the other end.  

Oszkár, she said, would pick us up in the carpark of the Ibis Styles hotel at Budapest airport and drop us at our respective doors. After this had happened exactly as she said, with a comfortable drive of only 90 minutes in between, I became an instant fan and decided to reach out, as they say, to Oszkár and find out more about the company.

Attila Prácser, Oszkár managing director and co-founder of the company with Máté Gyürüs answered my questions.

BBJ: When and why did you start Oszkár?

Attila Prácser: We designed it in 2007 and it went live in November of that year. We were both at Budapest University of Technology and Economics in the faculty of transportation engineering. Thanks to an angel investment in 2014, we were able to work on Oszkár full time and it became profitable at that time. In the beginning, we both did everything, from planning and programming to customer service and marketing. After a while, Máté specialized in tech and became CTO and I did the rest. Now we have a dedicated marketing and customer service team of six people plus four others who handle customer service outside of normal working hours.

BBJ: Could you give us a brief biography of Máté and yourself?

AP: We both came from Szombathely (222 km southwest of Budapest). After uni, Máté worked for Vatera, the market leading consumer-to-consumer auction platform in Hungary. In the beginning he was junior and then senior back-end developer. Later he became the head of development there. As for me, after university I went to London for six months then worked for a mid-sized software developer company, called Vision-Software. I followed the same route as Máté.

BBJ: What exactly does Oszkár offer now?

AP: The aim is to provide travel mates for drivers on the road who want to reduce their costs or to have a pleasant trip. For passengers, it’s about finding a less expensive, faster and more flexible way of travelling. Our platform – Android, iOS and web applications – provides a way for drivers and passengers to find each other. Passengers have the driver’s telephone number and we also provide a number for customer service so it’s straightforward to avoid any confusion.

BBJ: How many people use Oszkár daily, monthly and yearly?

AP: More than 10,000 drivers and 60,000 passengers carpool with Oszkár every month. Around half of our [total] community of 750,000 people uses Oszkár at least once a year. Daily usage is not such an important figure for us as there are big differences between normal weekdays and Fridays and the weekend.

BBJ: Do you have any connection to Oszkár Ride Sharing in Australia?

AP: No, it’s just a coincidence that there’s a ride sharing service available in both countries with a similar name. Actually, the co-founder and CEO of Oscar Australia got in touch with us around a half year ago when he discovered we existed. He couldn’t understand why he had so many downloads of his app from Hungarians. Our international brand name is Motar, which stands for “More Than a Ride”. The names are different because Oszkár is hard for non-Hungarians to say and all the domains with “Oscar” in the name were taken.

BBJ: Did the situation with Uber in Hungary affect Oszkár in any way?

(Uber left the Hungarian market in 2016 when the government decided to tighten the regulatory environment related to personal transport. The fact that taxi drivers had regularly protested against Uber and similar service providers was probably not unconnected.)

AP: In the beginning, when Uber entered the Hungarian market, it called itself “telekocsi” which means “car-pooling” or “ride-sharing” and is exactly how we describe Oszkár. So it was hard for us to distinguish our service from Uber. When the taxi drivers started protesting, it became crucial to differentiate ourselves. Fortunately, we survived because our concept is completely different. Oszkár, and other carpooling services, only ask passengers to share costs. They don’t offer transportation services and expect their driving time to be compensated for.

BBJ: How would you describe the ecosystem for young entrepreneurs and startups in Hungary?

AP: Oszkár is frequently called the biggest sharing economy startup in Hungary, although we hadn’t heard this expression when we started. After we received investment from our angel in 2014, we stopped being a startup. For this reason, I wouldn’t say I’m the right person to comment. But I am always happy to read success stories about Hungarian startups.

Benefits of Carpooling in Hungary

Hungary has one of the lowest rates of car ownership in Europe, which makes many Hungarians dependent on trains and buses. This is good news when it comes to the environmental impact of motor transport. But that’s not a great consolation when you want to travel on your own terms as much as possible.

Motor travel is not going away any time soon. So carpooling apps like Oszkar that genuinely benefit both drivers and passengers equally have to be a sensible option. By allowing drivers to set the cost of travelling with them, Oszkár is presumably able to avoid the criticisms aimed at companies in the sharing economy that appear to encourage unregulated and unfair practices.

Personally, apart from all the other benefits, I’m glad of the opportunity to support Hungarian entrepreneurship. And, yes, the supremely easy to use app has an English language option.

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