India is a market where owning a car is more often than not equated with one’s status symbol. So, a big question looms for mobility start-ups – will Indian commuters be open to adapting to new technologies and will they be willing to make them a part of their everyday lives?
But there’s also something else at play; Indians continue to be frustrated with the steady increase of traffic congestion, the cost of private transport and pollution levels and the subsequent toll that it takes on the environment.
For Vogo CEO and Co-founder, Anand Ayyadurai, the woes of everyday commuting was all too real, so much so that he, along with his fellow Co-founders Padmanabhan Balakrishnan and Sanchit Mittal, ended up building India’s fastest growing scooter sharing network that lets customers rent scooters for short trips across Bangalore and Hyderabad.
And it all started back in early 2015. “We had spent 3 + years at high growth start-ups and wanted to build something of our own. We wanted to build a product that was tangible and in a large market. The idea for Vogo came from the challenges we faced every day in finding an easy mode of daily transport. Each one of us had to struggle finding a convenient, affordable way to commute,” says Ayyadurai.
With millennials forming a large part of India’s current working population, who have to commute on a daily basis, these new age transportation companies seem to be in the right place at the right time.
“When I first moved to Bangalore, I tried to car-pool, use an auto etc. for daily commute. But I grew increasingly frustrated with these unreliable options and bought my own motorcycle. My co-founders had similar experiences. We all felt transportation was fundamentally broken in India. It either took too much time, charges were steep, or it was inconvenient. Often, it was all these factors that made daily commute a cumbersome experience.”
“We wanted to make everyday transportation simpler. And the result was Vogo, an easy, affordable and reliable commute option.”
Affordable and Accessible
Ayyadurai is quite sure of the target segment that Vogo is going to add most value to.
“Urban millennials who need a reliable means of daily commute, without the hassle of owning a vehicle or hailing a cab or other hired services, people who use the public transport so that their first and last mile connectivity is taken care of, and anyone who needs an easily accessible and affordable solution for daily short commute.”
He isn’t worried about adoption being a problem, because he believes that using a car for quick and shorter commute is not a feasible option. “Micro-mobility needs a utilitarian solution that is affordable and accessible for all.”
“About 66% of all commute in India falls under the micro-mobility segment, and it is one of the most haphazard and unplanned part of our transport ecosystem. Private two-wheelers are the second largest source of personal commute and after buses, the most frequently used mode to travel is two-wheelers. India adds about 20 million two-wheelers to its roads every year. It is a segment worth $10 billion+. The demand is huge, and vehicle ownership is neither a viable, nor a sustainable option.”
He adds: “A scooter is a utility vehicle to get you from point A to point B – it’s not something that people aspire to own. Hence, we thought that we should take this scooter and make it an on-demand service. When we deploy enough scooters all around the city and make it ubiquitous, it becomes a replacement for your own scooter. You walk out of your home and use it for any trip anywhere in the city: it is more convenient, faster and more affordable than other options available.”
World over, micro-mobility is making waves and Ayyadurai agrees that it is an exciting time to be in this space. If you were to look at some of the transportation-related issues that commuters in different cities around the world face, patterns begin to emerge. The only difference to this is that some countries have a robust public transport network, while others do not.
“Reliable transport, especially for shorter distances, is a concern world-over. While several countries have built a robust public transport system, many countries like India have a long way to go. Unfortunately, the rate at which our cities are growing, we need to find a quick and affordable solution, which is accessible for all. This is exactly why micro-mobility initiatives across the world are gathering steam.”
Smart City Solutions
Sustainability is high on the agenda for governments around the world, and things are no different for the government of India. While it is investing quite heavily in sustainable initiatives and smart cities, we are yet to see concrete regulations when it comes to micro-mobility. Ayyadurai, however, is happy with the current initiatives of the Indian government
“We are hoping that the government will continue their support towards e-mobility start-ups in the micro-mobility segment and aid in building an environment. The government has already invested in multiple start-up-friendly initiatives like Start-up India which has given a huge boost to the start-up ecosystem. Continued support will help existing initiatives to flourish and be more effective in addressing the problems they set out to solve.”
He notes: “Mobility being crucial to the economy of the cities and the country, we hope that the government will look at easing regulations on start-ups in this space and create new avenues to promote shared mobility.”
So what’s next for this fast growing start-up?
“In the next 2-3 years, you will see a large percentage of the Vogo fleet going electric as the ecosystem matures. As a shared mobility operator, we intend to lead the move of the country towards electric two-wheelers and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of India. On another front, one should see a Vogo vehicle at every corner of every city in India soon. Whether it is a college student, an employee or a senior citizen, personal mobility should be accessible and affordable to all. Our mission is to make that happen,” Ayyadurai tells us.