Ceiling-to-floor whiteboards cover the walls of the second floor sun-lit office. One date, in a bold red circle, is unmissable. “We will be launching our EV [electric vehicle] operations by 15 April. 1,000 electric scooters across Bengaluru,” says Vivekananda Hallekere, co-founder at India’s largest two-wheeler ride-sharing company, Bounce, whose office this is.

Hallekere talks in clipped sentences, afraid to give too much away. He also seems to be in a hurry. A hurry to finish the interview. Hurry to scale and grow Bounce. Hurry to the finish line.

While Bounce makes the switch to e-scooters, its rival Yulu, another shared, eco-friendly micro-mobility offering, is giving bicycle-sharing a makeover.

Amit Gupta, co-founder of Yulu, is only too happy to show off their latest Miracle bike. “It’s not a scooter, it’s an upgrade on our bicycle,” he says. The Miracle looks a lot like a regular bike, with a small, 40 kg steel-and-wire frame, a battery pack and an IoT (Internet of Things) device mounted on it.

Urban mobility startups have been in a race to crack shared transportation in India for about two years now. And it’s no easy feat; there are numerous hurdles along the way. For instance, just last week, cab aggregator Ola’s operations in Bengaluru were brought to a complete halt by the Karnataka transport department, for allegedly violating licensing rules for bike taxis.

Bounce, Yulu and other startups like Vogo, Rapido and PEDL (Zoomcar’s cycle-sharing arm), have all tried to bridge India’s biggest gap in commute—last-mile connectivity—through their options for micro-mobility. These startups grew overnight, propelled by rising internet penetration and demand for safe, quick and cheap mobility options. But that wasn’t enough to sustain them, especially not in India. (Read why in our previous story on bike-sharing.)

Even though these companies were clocking a decent number of rides, operationally, they were being sucked dry because of theft, vandalism and widespread loss. “There are two things you have to ace to play in the micro-mobility sector in India. One is to get a rugged form factor, and the other is sophisticated IoT technology. Without these two, it’s impossible to survive. Ofo’s growth in India was cut short because their tech wasn’t advanced enough,” says Greg Moran, co-founder of car-rental startup Zoomcar and PEDL. Even Zoomcar had to back-pedal on its bike-sharing platform, mostly, as Moran claims, the bikes weren’t all that durable.

Ofo, a Beijing-based bicycle-sharing company, and PEDL may have left the field, but India’s shared mobility space is at a point of inflection. According to a report by investment bank Morgan Stanley, the sector is forecast to grow at an annualised rate of 18% till 2030, and 50% of total miles driven in India will be shared ones by 2040.

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.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.