Aravind Sanka is Co-Founder at Rapido
Transportation and mobility solutions have become the talk of the town in recent times. The shared mobility industry is gaining momentum and is part of every conversation around transportation woes as a viable and affordable solution. Mobility in India is at an inflection point owing to increasing ownership of private vehicles and a growing population. A shared ecosystem enables efficient asset utilisation in the transportation industry.
A country like India, that is familiar with shared spaces, strong digital infrastructure, and evolving start-up culture is said to leapfrog private vehicle usage with shared mobility solutions. The huge opportunity in the Indian mobility market is experiencing substantial investments, innovations, and implementation.
The Mission 2022 programme launched by the Indian government recognises 100 smaller cities fuelling the urban population predicted to rise by 400 million and touch 814 million by 2050 approximately. However, one of the key factors determining the success of the Smart Cities Programme will be an efficient mobility and transportation system to ease the ever-growing strain of its expanding urban population on services. In short, a well-structured, shared mobility system that creates benefits for all stakeholders involved.
Even though shared mobility includes all forms of transportation, two-wheeler sharing services are encouraged by the government as well as environmental protection agencies. From an affordability point of view, bike taxis are slowly and steadily becoming the answer as a cost-effective solution to last-mile connectivity gaps across cities in India.
On average, a bike taxi ride costs Rs 60-70, whereas a cab ride costs INR 200 for the same distance, offering commuters a convenient, accessible, and affordable option. In certain cases, it is even cheaper or equal to public transport.
According to a report by P&S Intelligence, the Indian two-wheeler sharing market is valued at $31.1 million in 2019 and is predicted to generate revenue of $94 million by 2025, during the forecast period (2020–2025). The report highlights that the largest demand in 2018 was created for bike taxis and the category is predicted to register the faster growth in demand during the forecast period.
According to a recent TERI Report on bike taxis, there are about 20 million motorcycle taxis globally. They are majorly present in Brazil, Nigeria and Southeast Asian countries like Bangkok, Vietnam, Singapore, etc. Major bike taxi players in Southeast Asia have had a vital influence on Indonesia’s gig economy by creating jobs, improving daily wages, uplifting small businesses, and having a positive impact on society in general.
A report by Niti Aayog published in 2018, stresses the importance of bike sharing for last mile connectivity and as an affordable transit mode. It positions India to be a leader in shared mobility with shared miles expected to reach 35 % of all the miles travelled by 2030 and 50 % by 2040. India’s young population and a growing start-up culture will drive this shift from ownership to users, supported by a robust and practical framework for shared mobility.
COVID-19 AND ITS IMPACT ON MOBILITY
The ongoing pandemic has hugely impacted the Indian mobility sector which led to a decline in the public transportation by 80-90 %. Lockdown 4.0, however, saw the ease in rules, with public transport and other shared mobility services becoming operational under certain restrictions in green and orange zones. Bike taxi services, too, have resumed in many cities across the country.
Safety concerns around the use of public transport and cost factor around the use of shared cabs will continue to deter the customer from opting for shared mobility service. What needs to be addressed here is the safety and accessibility option in the case of bike taxis.
Bike taxis offer a much safer option as there are minimum surface touchpoints while riding a pillion seat. They are also a more open and personalised way for intra-city travel as opposed to other crowded alternate ways like cabs, buses, autos, and trains, where the customer has an advantage of less exposure to any infection due to his/her limited interaction with the driver-partner. The bike taxi apps take into account the containment areas in cities they ply in and make sure the customer ride is not routed through restricted areas.
Currently, there aren’t many options for last-mile connectivity that are economical and efficient. Hence, the gap is still wide where bike taxis fit suitably as a viable option. It will soon be a solution to the never-ending traffic congestion woes and earning a few extra bucks by filling the otherwise empty pillion seat.