“You have a car for your long travels, now here’s a cycle for your short trips…at a steal price of Rs 1499 ($21) only, but 2 of them and we give you for Rs 2000 ($28). [sic]”

What, two bicycles for Rs 2000 ($28)? That’s just car rental platform Zoomcar’s latest offer to customers sent over email.

But while it sounds fab, these are used cycles, and used cycles don’t make for an easy sell. Why is it selling them? Well, let’s just say the bicycle-sharing business in India hasn’t taken off very well.

Meet Exhibit A, B, C and D.

  1. Zoomcar itself. In an attempt to sell off the 15,000-plus bicycles that made its fleet of Zoomcar PEDL, a now-suspended cycle-sharing service which operated across nine cities, it is trying just about everything. From emailing customers to making similar offers—one bicycle for Rs 1500 ($21)—to its rival bike-sharing startups and NGOs in the space. The Ken learnt this from two people aware of the development who requested anonymity. Zoomcar CEO Greg Moran, in another email, made it official that PEDL would be put on hold as there’s “work to do on the quality of the cycle itself”.
  2. Mobike. The China-based bike-sharing startup launched in Pune with 3,000 cycles as recently as in May 2018 – with plans to expand. However, the head of India operations, Vibhor Jain, has told The Ken that he’s left the role without elaborating why.
  3. Ofo. Not long after Mobike launched in India, Ofo, which is a similar Chinese startup, decided to dissolve its India operations laying off most of its employees. From a peak valuation of $3 billion to almost going bankrupt in three years (Ofo India launched in January 2018), Ofo learned that hard way that China and India just don’t work the same. The company had installed 2,000 bicycles under its pilot project in Indian cities including Pune and Coimbatore, before shutting shop.
  4. Mobycy. The Gurugram-based bike-sharing startup, as of January 2019, has made an interesting switch—it has ditched bicycles, pivoting in favour of e-scooters. Mobycy’s CEO Akash Gupta told The Ken that it would move to electric scooters in a “big way” because, at a unit level, electric scooters make more sense.

Things clearly aren’t looking so great.

It has taken millions of dollars and multiple pilots for India’s urban mobility startups to wake up to the reality of product-fit: Urban Indians don’t really want to use bicycles for their daily travel—they’d much rather opt for electric scooters or e-bikes.

AUTHOR

Salman SH

Salman has around four years of experience reporting primarily on consumer internet, startups, and the telecom sector. Previously, he worked with the financial newspaper Mint, reporting on startups and consumer internet trends. Prior to this, he worked with MediaNama and NextBigWhat. At The Ken, Salman will look at startups, technology trends, and the government policies shaping up around them. Loud metal, moshpits, and local gigs are he what he lives for.

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.