We’ve all been there, trudging back to the car after a long hard day at work, and BOOM, it hits you: a parking ticket. Cue words unprintable.
Fury, disappointment, and frustration… but no, on closer inspection, the calm is restored. Anger turns to relief and then curiosity. What is this?
Bemused car owners across Winnipeg have been the momentary victims, and long-time beneficiaries, of a marketing technique by a local start-up.
Rent Your Ride — a peer-to-peer online car rental service — has been disguising print advertisements as the dreaded fines on vehicle windshields in heavily populated areas across the city.
The company, launched in 2016, connects “hosts” who are looking to earn extra money off their vehicles with “guests” seeking to experience unique, hassle-free rentals and get behind the wheel of common, luxury, and exotic cars.
Rent Your Ride is the brainchild of Michael Okoye, and alongside providing a welcome alternative to a parking ticket, it has also become a popular respite to the unprecedented pressures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As Rent Your Ride came out of lockdowns,” explains Director of Marketing and Business Development Aaron Badescu. ”There was a huge increase in the demand for bookings as well as listings. The pandemic created a unique situation where larger car rental companies had to initially sell off their fleet to stay afloat, which has caused scarcity in available cars as the demand grew back after the lockdowns were lifted. When this happened, we saw a lot of people desperately coming to them for any car to rent.”
Supplying this demand for cars, Rent Your Ride saw a 100% year-on-year increase in booking requests. Winnipeg alone generates over 120 booking requests per month.
Badescu admits the pandemic surprisingly had a positive impact on the growth of the business. Their app became a silver lining similarly appreciated by hosts utilizing the platform.
“Thankfully, the company is able to work remotely since it is an online business,” he points out (Rent Your Ride operates exclusively on a website and an app). “One of the reasons for the scale is because of the economic effects of COVID. People were travelling a lot locally, and a lot of people were listing their rides to earn extra cash since they were out of jobs.”
The company initiated policies for hosts and guests to conduct safe practices like sanitizing their rides before and after trips and following health guidelines. Rent Your Ride also updated the app to enhance the user experience and ramped up marketing efforts to increase brand awareness.
Reacting to such exceptional circumstances, whilst growing interest with innovative techniques, Rent Your Ride has paid hosts over $30,000 during the pandemic.
The company has amassed over 8,000 users across Winnipeg in 18 months and aims to have over 1000 listings on the platform by the end of the year.
Rent Your Ride benefits by a distinct competitive advantage: It doesn’t own any of the vehicles in its fleet. Providing a quick and convenient, mutually beneficial experience, the company fosters a tight-knit community where guests can directly contact hosts for assistance. “The company can attribute a lot of growth to the scarcity of rental cars, as it has become a great alternative to rental car companies that aren’t able to supply enough cars for their guests or unique cars they are looking for,” Okoye says.
Still, he points out that no matter how favorable the market is, at any given moment, the supply and demand are constantly shifting, and as per Okoye, the only way for a company to keep disrupting the industry is to have a genuine product. “Even though the pandemic helped us to explode, the true success lies in our founding values. I believe that if you can create a product that genuinely helps people, your chances of success are much larger, and you will feel good doing it. That’s what Rent Your Ride is all about!”