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Bicycles have always been a part of the socio-economic culture of India. The arrival of the British in India brought bicycles to the country. Sometime down the line, it started representing the laborious middle class.

But in the present time, bicycles are not only owned by the low-income population simply because they can’t afford two-wheelers or four-wheeler vehicles, but they are transcending into lifestyle statements, thanks to brands like Hero cycles, Hercules, Atlas cycles, Montra, BMX cycles, Firefox, La Sovereign, etc.

It is being gradually realised that the role of cycling in promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyle is critical in a country like India which is witnessing an upsurge in the population. The growing population has resulted into not only congestion but also with growing income and the ease of doing business in India, there is an alarming increase in the number of motor vehicles in the country and as a consequence, diseases linked to unhealthy lifestyles and poor air quality is striking the Indian population like never before.

To tackle this menace, startups both local and global are exploring this terrain to tap into the opportunities of enabling lives to lead a zero-carbon-emission and healthier mobility.

It is with the aim of promoting sustainable mobility that startups in India such as Mobycy, Ola Pedal, Ofo, etc. are looking at pedalling options as a huge market potential.

Founded in 2017 by Akash Gupta and Rashi Agarwal, Mobycy is working on the mission to create sustainable mobility. The Gurugram-based startup enables dockless bicycle sharing and is actively working to change people’s lifestyle through the green tech.

Having worked in the NCR region to promote pedalling as not only an alternative means to travel short distances but also as an option of a healthy lifestyle, it is now expanding its services across eight cities in India.

Cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur, Gwalior and Sonipat have served as forts from whence the startup has gained mileage.

The greentech company that has been adopted by almost 40,000 users till date and is planning at adding over 50,000 bicycles in its kitty in the next six months.

But in light of the presence of many startups working in bicycle ride-sharing industry like Vogo Automotive, ONN Bikes, ZoomCar’s PEDL and giants like Ola and Ofo looking to gain a share in this domain in the Indian market, it will be interesting to watch Mobycy’s evolving strategies to gain its market share.

Mobycy And What’s At Dock For The Dockless Bike Sharing App

Aiming to make India a greener and fitter cycling nation, Mobycy is looking to present daily commuters with smart bikes for short-mile connectivity, while also reducing carbon footprints and improving the fitness levels of commuters.

It was in July 2017 during Akash’s tour to a university that the idea for the startup was conceptualised. The strenuous tour made Akash realise the daily ordeal of the students of the university and motivated him to startup.

The startup has made accessing bicycles for short rides leisurely easy. It makes use of integrated IoT-based GPRS lock technology along with other offerings such as cashless wallet payments, geo-fencing, etc.

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Mobycy App users can simply locate the nearest bicycle at any public place, rent and unlock the cycle lock by scanning a digital QR code via the Mobycy app. Upon completion of the ride, the cycle can be parked anywhere on public pavements, except inside private compounds or gated colonies, etc.

As of today, Mobycy has deployed over 500 odd bicycles on the floor. Out of the 500 bicycles plying on the road, the startup gets about 1.5K to 2K bookings daily. Also, there are 40 to 45K downloads for the app already. The company is also planning to deploy the bicycles across places which are crowded with tourists and other travellers, small pockets of colonies where people can use the cycles for short distance rides are also its essential targets.

Here is a brief list of what Mobycy is targeting at:

  • The startup is targeting to deploy 1,500 to 3,000 odd bicycles in the next three to four months.
  • It is targeting students who can access the cycles to travel from one of the university to another; is in talks with 25 to 30 universities for the deployment
  • It is targeting corporate office campuses in Noida, Bengaluru and Pune.
  • It is looking forward to providing the service for small colonies in the cities
  • It is targeting people who regularly travel short distances such as metro stations, bus stops, university campuses.
  • It is working to collaborate with organisations that are a part of the government’s Smart City projects

“In fact, we are first implementing our concept in a university in Chennai. And one of the universities in Bengaluru is also planned soon for implementation,” says Akash.

Talking about the initial challenges that the startup faced, the founder quoted the reason as “hiring the right talent”. Hiring people to work for the startup was not easy as the bicycle-hailing model is still relatively new in India. So, even the candidates who were interviewed said ‘I don’t know if this will work in India’.

Akash further added that the startup is also facing challenges in replicating the model with the government. “It takes slightly more time to convince them and then there is also a hierarchy that needs to be followed,” he said.

As a testament to its growth potential, Mobycy was recognised under the Indian government’s DIPPStartup India programme.

Backed by a US-based angel investor, founders of the startup believes that focussing on the business model and the vision on which the startup was founded is the key to making it successful. The startup is looking forward to raising $5 Mn in funding.

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As far as expansion beyond India is concerned, Akash is of the view that, “If you look at Southeast Asia, there are countries like Indonesia where such startups are not mushrooming right now. There is also Sri Lanka and Nepal where this is very new. We have plans to go into Dubai where this can be a huge kit. So, we would like to go to places which are similar to India and replicate our India success in those countries.”

He says, “Replicating our success across regions in India along with extending operations in a few other countries and pursuing global tie-ups would be an interesting take for us. So, focussing on India for the next six months will be crucial.”

The Booming Indian Market For Dockless Bikes

Bicycles as a means of commuting are catching up in India. These dockless bikes appear to be just the thing required to ease the congestion of polluting vehicles, especially in metropolitan cities. Many startups are coming up to explore the potential of bike sharing as a viable alternative in India.

Ola has already come up with Ola Pedal, its bicycle-sharing service. There are already dozens operating in China, Southeast Asia and the US among other countries.

Similar business models in China led to the creation of bicycle-hailing startups such as Ofo and Mobike, which became pioneers of the category and have since expanded to other parts of Asia and even into the US and Europe.

Ofo will also launch its services in India in a tie-up with Paytm.

In the current scenario, Mobycy will be facing stiff competition from a  growing class of bike sharing startups, including Vogo Automotive, ONN Bikes, WickedRide, Stoneheadbikes and Rentabike, Tazzo Technologies, LetzCycle and WheelStreet. Bicycle-sharing startup Cykul is currently operating over 2K bicycles in three cities Hyderabad, Gurugram and Jaipur.

Also, in September 2017, InMobi’s co-founder Amit Gupta launched Yulu – an IoT-enabled bike rental platform. Another major competitor is ZoomCar’s PEDL, which aims to reach 500K monthly transactions across 50+ cities over the course of this year.

With rising interest in a healthy lifestyle and the burgeoning need to control pollution, dockless bike sharing startups like Mobycy that are green tech-focussed have the potential to rapidly expand their global footprints.

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