A new contender is jostling for space on India’s busiest streets. It has all the fizz and pop of a gig economy business poised to bubble into urban mobility’s next big thing. Zipping through well-funded VC lanes, breaking every rule in the book and creating a stir is the humble bike-taxi.

Globally, for cities with dense per capita indexes and broken public transport, unorganised bike-taxi services like ojeks in Indonesia and boda-bodas in Uganda have always existed. Their need is immense and prices dirt cheap. Ojeks can range from $0.30 to $1.3 per ride, comparable to the average bus and auto fare in India.

India, plagued with similar problems, could also be a fertile playground to experiment with inexpensive, convenient and innovative bike-taxi models. According to a recent report by global location technology specialist TomTom, Mumbai has the world’s worst traffic flow. Delhi, meanwhile, ranks fourth, behind Bogota and Lima. The report states that trips in Mumbai peak-hour traffic take 65% longer than usual. In Delhi, it’s 58%.

Despite such potential for disruption, Goa was the only Indian state that allowed bike-taxis up until 2015. Elsewhere, they operate largely in a grey, underground market.

“The absence of a clear regulatory framework for bike-taxis in India is a loophole that transport companies can potentially exploit to run operations in Indian cities,” says a Bengaluru-based lawyer who consults on urban mobility issues.

And no company has negotiated this regulatory no man’s land better than Rapido. Founded by three engineering graduates—Aravind Sanka, Pavan Guntupalli and Rishikesh SR—Rapido launched in 2015 and has grown into the largest bike-taxi operation in India.

According to information sourced by The Ken, Rapido does close to 90,000 rides a day across 31 Indian cities. It’s one of the few bike-taxi startups that has survived the frequent regulatory maelstroms. Even heavy-weights like Ola and Uber have struggled. Their current bike-taxi operations pale in comparison to their cab footprint. Smaller players like DOT, Zingo, Rideji and Headlyt, meanwhile, were swallowed whole by a combination of unit economics and regulatory hurdles.

Rapido is bucking this trend. According to a recent news report, it’s all set to raise $50 million in a funding round led by WestBridge Capital, a Bengaluru-based investment firm. Sources tell The Ken this figure is closer to $75-100 million.

With Uber and Ola mounting little competition, Rapido is leading the pack in a juicy monopoly-like market. According to a Forbes interview with company co-founder Aravind Sanka, Rapido aims to hit 1 million rides a day in 2019.

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

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

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.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? 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.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

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?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.