Last week, a story flashed on ETtech: Zoomcar to launch bicycle-sharing business in Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. It was greeted with a collective shrug and went almost unnoticed.
It had all the tropes of a good PR spin. The co-founder and CEO of Zoomcar, Greg Moran, was quoted in the article as saying that the company has deployed 500 cycles right now and will expand it to 10,000 within a year. All of the 27 cities where the self-drive car rental company has hubs would have these cycles soon. This new business will be called PEDL.
“We have observed a huge market gap for trips shorter than 5 km, and we believe that the cycle is best positioned to serve these cases… We have worked heavily on the technology aspect of this business,” Moran had said.
It echoes the famous trend from 2015 which dictated that whatever worked in China was replicated in India. Remember the numerous food tech companies, the cab aggregators, and social e-commerce companies?
Yes, bicycle sharing startups are big in China. There are two unicorns in China—Ofo and Mobike—which deal primarily in sharing bikes. It is a trend gradually catching up in the US as well. LimeBike has raised $50 million while Ofo has found a lot of traction in certain parts of the US. Spin, a San Francisco-based company, too, has found a lot of takers in the city. And you know there is true traction when apps such as Transit are built for finding the best bikes without doing much else.
Rest assured, this space is hot. It is not difficult to imagine that those in India are observing these trends and seeing a chance to cash in. And that seems to be one of the reasons Zoomcar has taken a crack at the segment.
Moran’s point of view, as shared with The Ken, is slightly different. He argues that cycle-sharing is a natural progression for the company. Zoomcar’s primary use case, he says, is day-long rentals or weekend trips. “There is a gap in the market for short distance rides.”
Moran argues that there are three ways a commuter can cover short distances: metro or bus, autos or walk. “We are giving customers an alternative to that. And it works.” The technology is easily replicated in cycles with a few tweaks.“There is also very little capital expenditure in this model. And we have most of the tech,” he says. However, he refuses to explain how the company procures the cycles if it isn’t buying them from manufacturers. Moran insists that cycle-sharing is a relatively simple business.