The congested and populated cities of India provide a potential opportunity for bike taxis as an alternative mode of transport. You can book a bike taxi just like you hail an Ola or Uber using a mobile app. Many startups have already started operating in different cities and more look to join the race.
Bike taxis have their share of advantages and challenges which we are going to explore in this post. We will also take a look at the popular bike taxi companies in India who are successfully operating in the country.
How are Bike Taxis becoming Popular among Indian Youth?
Bike taxis are becoming one of the preferred modes of transport among Indian commuters, especially the youth. What are the reasons behind it? Let's explore!
- Catering to Last Mile Connectivity and Short Distances
Most cities in India have a wide network of the public transport system which includes bus, metros and trains. Yet, most people have to find a way to reach their home or destination when they get down from a metro or bus. They have to either book a cab or hail an auto rickshaw to travel the last few miles which are often inconvenient or costly.
Bike taxis look forward to solving the problem of last-mile connectivity by offering an ideal mode of transport. You can also book a bike taxi to travel short distances in a comfortable and affordable manner.
- Reach Your Destination Quicker
26% people in India still spend around 90 minutes every day commuting to work and other places. The situation is worse in cities with a high percentage of population and cars like Mumbai or Delhi where the average commuting time is around 30 minutes.
On-demand bike taxis help you cut down on your commuting time and drops you at your destination quicker than cabs, buses or autos. Bikes are ideal for navigating the narrow, crowded streets and bazaars of India where cars find it difficult to move even an inch!
A distance which a car takes 30 minutes to cover can be brought down to 10 to 15 minutes when you are riding a bike.
- Reduce the Congestion in Cities
The top four cities in India are 149% more congested when compared with similar cities in other parts of Asia. As a reason, commuters in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru take 1.5 times longer to travel a given distance.
People might face congestion traveling during peak hours. Apart from increasing time stuck at traffic, congestions also translate to a loss of $22 billion each year for India.
Bike taxis are becoming popular and can transform into a prominent mode of transport in the future. As a result, the number of cars will go down leading to less-congested streets. We can finally witness India becoming a cleaner and safer country with fewer cars on the road free of traffic congestions.
- Affordable Mode of Transport
The average per capita income of India comes down to approximately Rs. 80,000 . That means an average Indian earns around Rs. 7,000 per month.
Not everybody in India can afford to travel in a cab which is still considered to be a luxury. Bike taxis promise an affordable way of transport and don't need you to spend 100 to 200 rupees on a cab ride.
In fact, a commuter can expect to pay 40% to 60% less when he travels by a bike taxi instead of a cab. For example, the minimum fare of Ola Micro is around Rs. 60 while you need to shell out only Rs. 25 for the first 3 kilometres riding a bike taxi.
- Hassle-Free and Convenient
Bike taxi companies put emphasis on professionalism, and the drivers are expected to be courteous and friendly. Just like cab booking apps, you can also rate them for their driving and behavior. That means you are less likely to come across rude and stubborn drivers who seem to be the norm in case of auto rickshaws and yellow taxis.
You also don't have to negotiate the fare as the bike taxis charge standard rates from all passengers.
List of Popular Bike Taxi Startups in India
UberMoto is the bike taxi service of Uber. Uber bike taxis were introduced in 2016 and completed 2 million trips within a year. The service is available in 11 cities like Hyderabad, Amritsar, Kanpur, Jaipur, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Ahmedabad.
UberMoto started its journey in Bengaluru but was forced to shut down due to regulatory issues. It is now trying to nudge the government to develop modern regulations for app-based bike taxis.
Uber says that their service will help in last mile connectivity and cost one-tenth of a cab.
- Ola Bike
Ola Bike also launched alongside UberMoto and is operational in different cities like Agra, Gurugram, Ludhiana, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Patiala and more
Just like Uber, Ola bike had to stop their operations in Karnataka when they launched the service in 2016. The company again reintroduced the service in February 2019 but received a letter from the Transport Department to halt their services.
Ola is also planning to use its bike fleet for food delivery and acquired the online scooter rental service Vogo last December.
Launched in 2015, Rapido provides its service in 25 Indian cities like Hyderabad, Mysore, Vijayawada, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Indore, Patna, Trichy, and Madurai. The company plans to add 25 more cities under its belt, taking the total number of locations to 50.
To fuel their expansion drive, Rapido is looking to raise $10 million in the coming months. The bike taxi platform has already completed 10 million trips and has 30,000 registered drivers across India. According to Rapido, 85% rides offered by it are from repeat customers.
The company got its first women driver from Guwahati and hopes more women will join their platform as captains.
Bikxie is a Delhi-based bike taxi startup that opened its doors in 2015. The company caters to last mile transport and logistics requirements of individuals and companies in more than 20 Indian cities. You can also rent a bike using their app and avail their food delivery service.
Bikxie is also the first startup to introduce a bike taxi service offered by women drivers called Bikxie Pink. Men can ride the Bikxie Blue brigade operated by male drivers.
The company raised $315,200 in 2018 from micro venture capital company GEMs Partners to expand to other cities and leverage its infrastructure and technology.
- Maa Ula
Maa Ula translates to ‘a journey with the differently-abled' in Tamil. The bike taxi service was launched in Chennai in 2015 and are driven by disabled people. The company launched its app in January 2019 while it operated based on calls from regular customers since its inception.
Maa Ula has 30 bikes operated by the disabled who provide the bike taxi service in different parts of Chennai. The innovative startup provides employment opportunities to differently-abled people who make around Rs. 15,000 per month after paying for fuel costs.
Many people in Chennai have become devoted customers of Maa Ula as it promotes a noble cause.
- Pillion Rides
Initially launched as Prompto, Pillion Rides is a Delhi-based taxi bike startup which only uses e-bikes. E-bikes are powered by batteries and don't cause pollution like their fuel-driven counterparts. The concept can go a long way to counter the smog and high levels of carbon emissions that cities like Delhi encounter on a daily basis.
The company has around 60 e-bikes which cover different parts of Delhi and also carry out e-commerce deliveries. Pillion Rides has already completed more than 2 lakhs rides and plans to expand to other markets like Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh in the future.
Challenges Faced by Bike Taxi Startups and their Solution
Bike taxi startups have to face a variety of challenges ranging from the accumulation of funds to regulations. Unless the companies can find a way around the challenges, we can't expect it to become a viable mode of transport.
Let's check out some of the challenges and their possible solutions.
- Lack of Regulations
Very few states in India have a legal framework for bike taxis and lack regulations for the industry. Some of the companies like Ola and Rapido had run into troubles with the administration who don't consider the service to be legal.
The Transport Department in Bengaluru stopped the services of Rapido and Ola and even confiscated the bikes. Currently, only 11 cities in India have bike taxis while others are still debating over it.
UberMoto, the Uber bike taxi has written to officials of the Transport Department to make the services legal.
The government should introduce regulations to ensure a free and fair market for bike taxis after considering their safety and use. Only then we can look forward to wide-scale adoption of the service.
- Concerns over Safety
Two-wheelers are more prone to accidents accounted for 28.8% crashes in India in 2015, followed by taxis and cars. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report calls motorcycles the most vulnerable lot, making up 23% of all accident deaths.
Even in developed countries like the USA with better roads and infrastructure, you have 37 times more chances of dying in a motorcycle accident than a car accident.
Safety is the topmost concern of riding a bike taxi in a country like India where road accidents still claim over 1 lakh lives each year. Bike taxi companies are doing their part by making it mandatory for both drivers and passengers to wear helmets and promoting safe driving.
The government also need to repair roads and potholes which cause a number of accidents. We also need to create an environment where everyone realizes the importance of safe driving to reduce accidents.
- The absence of Women Drivers
Only 11% drivers in India are women, and the percentage is even smaller for commercial drivers.
Women are not comfortable riding pillion behind a male stranger which happens to be the case for all bike taxi services. Women also prefer the safety of a closed vehicle like a cab when they are traveling late at night or through dim-lit areas.
But the attitude is changing fast with women opting for bike taxis. Women in Hyderabad feel that bike taxis are a bit safer than cabs as they can shout for help if anything goes wrong. Women in cities like Bengaluru are switching to bike taxis and makeup 15% of Rapido's customers.
The bike taxi startup Bikxie has even launched its service with women drivers to make it safer for women. It will not take a long time to overcome the challenge as more women join the passenger ranks.
Bike taxis are gradually penetrating the Indian market, and the consumers are becoming aware of their presence. The startups will become widespread means of transport with the introduction of regulations which will enable them to operate in different cities. Availability of funding is also crucial, and many investors have already shown their interest in the sector. We are not far from the time when you will be able to hail a bike taxi with the touch of a button and reach work quickly paying less than a cab. Commuters will no longer need to wait for public transport or waste time stuck in traffic!
Nitin Lahoti is the domain expert of Logistics and Transportation. He has 12+ years of experience in Design, Business Development and Startups. His expertise is in Product Ideation, UX/UI design, Startup consulting and mentoring. He prefers business readings and loves traveling.