A pandemic is the perfect time for a reset. At least Vivekananda Hallekere, the co-founder of Bounce, thinks so. 

Two months ago, the dockless scooter sharing platform was clocking 100,000 rides a day in its hometown of Bengaluru. According to an internal forecast, the company was on track to cross a million rides a day this year in the city. A new electric scooter fleet was also in the offing.

Covid-19 rammed the brakes on these ambitions. Not just for Bounce, but all mobility platforms. As the sector came to a near-complete halt for at least two months during India’s lockdown, vehicles idled away in expensive parking lots. With the lockdown slowly opening up, Hallekere reckons Bounce could average 6,000-7,000 rides per day in June. 

Bounce’s competitor, Mumbai-headquartered ONN Bikes, also saw demand of only 10-20% of pre-Covid levels towards the end of May, according to founder and chief operating officer Namit Jain. “This may take some time to pick up, because people are still working from home or scared to use shared transport.”

With liabilities like EMIs and loans piling up, mobility platforms were forced to find new ways to monetise their assets. “We’re trying to figure out what a new world will need,” says Hallekere. “There might be more waves of lockdowns. We went back to the drawing board.” 

What emerged in May was a new lease-to-own model. A customer could pay a monthly lease to the company, and eventually own the vehicle at the end of 12 or 24 months by paying the difference. With an emphasis on easy financing—in partnership with banks and NBFCs NBFCs Non-banking financial company A Non Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is an institution that offers various banking services like loans but does not have a banking licence —and long-term subscriptions, it’s Bounce’s version of a pandemic-proof business. 

One of the benefits, claims Hallekere, will be lower EMIs than those of a vanilla auto-loan sale. The “millennial model” of ownership also benefits professionals who move cities frequently and don’t want to be bogged down by long-term EMIs, he adds. 

Bounce’s hybrid platform is also offering rental options for seven, 30, 60, 90, and 120 days, along with second-hand sales. The company has already tied up with electric scooter maker Ather to offer weekly rentals. Auto majors like TVS, Honda, and Hero MotoCorp are next on the list. With approximately 24 million two-wheelers sold sold Indian Express Domestic sales dip by 18 percent, exports grew 7.3 percent Read more in India in 2019, Bounce wants a bite out of this market. 

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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