Bike-sharing is slowly emerging as the next big vertical in e-commerce. While China already houses several bike-sharing startups, they are just about catching up in India, one of the fastest-growing transportation economies in the world. And the first homegrown bike-renting service is here. Yulu Bikes, started by InMobi co-founder Amit Gupta, will begin operations in Bengaluru in the coming weeks, according to reports. Yulu is said to be an IoT-enabled venture that will allow people to rent dockless bicycles via the Yulu Bikes app.
Yulu will start with a fleet of a few hundred bicycles. Users can book them via the iOS or Android app, just like they book a cab, and the bikes can be unlocked via QR codes. Yulu will charge the rider per 30 minutes of use. Yulu is said to be working with the local government to dedicate more lanes to bikes/bicycles, and also allot safe parking spaces for them. “The bike-sharing space is pretty new India. At the same time, there are things happening in the country, as far as competition is concerned,” Gupta was quoted as saying.
Yulu says it is the “most advanced bike sharing solution” that provides “beautiful yet functional bicycles powered by GPRS, GPS and Bluetooth technology”. Riders can rent and return bikes from all major locations in the city via the app. And payments can be made via “a secure and hassle-free digital wallet”. It isn’t clear though which payment services are on board with Yulu.
There are four steps to avail the service: locating a bike using GPS, scanning the QR code to unlock it, riding it, and parking it at the end of the ride. Once the bike is parked and locked, Yulu bills the rider and deducts money from the mobile wallet. Yulu wants to “de-congest urban traffic by providing a scalable, affordable, efficient and clean solution for the first mile, last mile and short distance commute.”
Yulu is acutely aware of the opportunity in the bike-sharing market that is headed for a potential explosion in 2018, as China’s billion-dollar startups, Ofo and Mobile, are said to be gearing up for an India entry. Ofo backed by the Alibaba Group, which is heavily invested in India, is reportedly doing ground research. It is also examining government policies and the permissions required for foreign businesses in the transportation sector. A launch seems imminent. “Both Ofo and Mobike would like to enter India. It’s a country with one billion people, so it makes sense for them to enter,” Gupta stated. Yulu though might stand to gain the first-mover advantage.