India’s huge, and rapidly growing, middle-income population is swiftly turning the country into one of the largest laboratories for mobility solutions in the world. Uber’s announcement this week that it will partner with bicycle sharing platform Yulu to run a pilot of bike and e-bike services in Bengaluru only underscores the trend.
The San Francisco-headquartered firm had already begun offering Yulu’s services to select customers in the city this week on its app, ahead of its announcement on May 8. The financial arrangement between the firms has not been disclosed, now has Uber said what it will do post the pilots, though experts expect the platform to expand the offering if it proves to be a success in the city.
“As part of a pilot, we’ve tied up with leading technology-driven mobility platform Yulu to provide users the option to ride e-bikes and bicycles in Bengaluru. These e-bikes can clock a speed of 25 km per hour... and users don’t even require a licence to ride one of these,” said Uber in its announcement.
Yulu, launched by InMobi co-founder Amit Gupta, currently operates around 500 e-bikes and 4,500 bicycles on its platform. So far, the startup has raised funds from Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal, Freshworks co-founder Girish Mathrubootham and venture capital firms like Blume Ventures and 3One4 Capital.
The collaboration is not the first such in the Indian mobility market. Uber’s competitor Ola, also backed by Softbank, had last year invested a whopping $100 million in scooter rental startup Vogo. Vogo operates in Bengaluru and Hyderabad and intends to use the capital raised to add an additional 100,000 scooters.
Perhaps the rise of such two-wheeler sharing platforms in India’s IT capital of Bengaluru is no fluke. The city, while one of the most tech-savvy in the country with a large, young population, also boasts some of the most congested roads. Commutes of a few kilometers run to hours and the city’s troubles reflect a mobility crisis that is gaining ground across most of India’s cities. Hence, the appeal of commuting options that allow users to bypass the worst of the traffic. The fact that electric bikes and bicycles are clean, non-polluting options only adds to their appeal among the urban, environment-conscious IT lot.
“Cities in India are seeing traffic get more clogged by the minute, and these micro-mobility options would go a long way in reducing traffic snarls, saving time for the riders, and reducing carbon emissions,” Uber said.
Uber’s pilot project will use an Internet of Things (IoT) framework to enable the renting of bicycles on a pay-per-use basis. According to the firm, Yulu e-bikes can be unlocked with QR codes on your device. “All that you need to do to hop on to your e-bike or bicycle is tap on the ‘Try Yulu’ option on your Uber app and follow the prompts...,” Uber said.
Uber’s dive into the two-wheeler shared mobility space comes even as its India operations appear to be in flux. The last few months have seen top-level changes in the region’s management, with Amit Jain, who ran Uber India and was promoted to oversee the company’s APAC business last year, leaving the company last month. Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, who heads the firm’s EMEA business, is replacing Jain to oversee in the region.
Uber has already let go of its APAC operations outside, however, by selling its local Southeast Asia business to Grab.