How bike rental startups in India are pivoting to tide over the pandemic

While Bounce and VOGO plan to convert their fleet to electric vehicles, Rapido is focussing on operational efficiency to adapt to different business models. 
How bike rental startups in India are pivoting to tide over the pandemic
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Bike rental startups in India are making a push towards electric vehicles and reducing their fleet size as many of them have been hit hard by fund crunch due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

VOGO, for example, is planning to phase out petrol scooters and push for EVs as part of its new roadmap.

“Sustainable mobility can bring everlasting change to our ecosystem - It leads to substantial reduction in carbon emission which contributes to a healthy/clean environment. Keeping this in mind, we're strengthening our commitment towards electric mobility. We have outlined a fresh roadmap to increase EVs on our fleet and have plans to phase out petrol scooters to create more space for them. We already have over 200 electric scooters on our fleet and will be adding significantly more in time to come,” Anand Ayyadurai, Co-founder & CEO, VOGO, said.

Bike rental startup Rapido says it has resumed operations in close to 100 cities, as per the guidelines announced by the Government for Unlock 1.0 and is seeing a good demand for it. 

Rapido has been operating delivery services for e-commerce companies for close to 2 years now, namely Zomato, Swiggy,, Myntra, Eat.Fit. SuprDaily, Mapprr, 24*7 Stores, Kalerya, Bharatpe. “During lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, we accelerated the existing Rapido-Delivery services to provide for the delivery of essential goods and partnered with major online companies like Big Bazaar, Big Basket and Spencer’s for delivery of essential goods,” a Rapido spokesperson told TNM.

The lockdown brought mobility to a standstill with restraints in everyday commuting for Indians all across. To ensure a quick, safe and cost-effective exchange of essentials amongst users in these challenging times, we extended our logistics offers and launched Rapido Local, a person-to-person delivery service, the spokesperson said. Initially piloted in Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata, the service is now available in 45 cities including additional Tier I cities like Delhi, and Chennai. Customers can request pick up and drop of food, groceries and medicine on the App, from or to another customer. 

The company recently also launched Rapido Store, a one-stop solution for all business deliveries. Rapido Store, as a service, is a convenient tool for offline and online businesses to help them reach out and deliver products to their customers in these challenging times. Rapido Store will help local businesses take care of multiple customer deliveries simultaneously in the most affordable and trusted manner. The service is currently operational in Bengaluru and Vijayawada and will scale to all cities Rapido is present in, the spokesperson added.

The company expects the adoption of bike taxi travelling to increase in the Tier II and III cities, as a solution to unavailability of shared autos or to plug last mile connectivity gaps, especially among blue collar workers travelling daily to work.

“We also feel people using bike taxis for short hauls, work, ordering groceries, etc. will continue to drive the demand for our service, the spokesperson added.

Stating that operational efficiency is key to building a successful business, the spokesperson added, “We are in different cities, and irrespective of the volumes in those cities, we only have two people in each city to take care of on-boarding, marketing, and all other requirements. A lot of things have been built with data to understand if a city is performing well or not. So, it helps us plan better to brace for the impact of unforeseen events and pivot to focus on different business models.” 

On the post-COVID recovery, Anand says VOGO has already achieved 40% of its pre-COVID volumes post lockdown.

He added, “Also to align our offerings with the ‘new normal’, we have recently introduced two new first-of-its-kind features on our platform for our customers- home-drop service and a 4-step sanitising process. We have also launched two new services i.e. VOGO NOW and VOGO KEEP, which offers short term and long-term rentals respectively, and have received an overwhelming response. Till now, around more than 50% of the customers have booked for renewals and 30% of them have ordered for delivery to home.”

As far growth and expansion is concerned, VOGO is working on penetrating further in Bengaluru by increasing the fleet, adding more docks and making scooters available at public parking points. “We are building a strong network of pickup points, which should be within 200 meters of any customer anywhere. Over the next 18 months, we further intend to grow to a scale of 10-15x of pre-COVID ride volumes of 45,000 rides per day. We also have plans to launch operations across three more cities by the end of this year and 5-6 cities by next year,” Anand said. 

Meanwhile, Rapido is looking at 2020 with a larger vision of partnering with India in making intra-city transportation convenient, affordable, and accessible. “We have been growing at more than 15% month-on-month from the last 3 years and 3x to 4x year-on-year in the last few years. So, the growth will always be a major thing we will be focusing on,” the spokesperson said.  

Bounce, on the other hand, is reportedly planning to sell 8,000-10,000 of its two-wheelers to the second-hand market, a source told Livemint

The company has over 20,000 scooters on its platform currently and its dockless scooters, which are widely present in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, used to get 100,000 - 120,000 rides before the pandemic struck. 

A person familiar with Bounce’s operations told Livemint that demand for scooter sharing has been affected and nearly half the demand has been eroded from the market post the lockdown. 

The report says that the startup is also directly selling used scooters to its users in a bid to reduce the fleet size. 

Bounce plans to use the money earned from the scooter sales to invest in electric vehicles (EV) and for revamping its infrastructure and technology to prepare for converting its fleet to EVs. 

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