Micro-Mobility: A Viable Solution To The Indian Urban Commute

Amit Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, YuluAn IIT graduate, Amit co-founded InMobi prior to starting Yulu and has invested in multiple startups across India and the US as an active angel investor

With the new decade, there is an imperative need to build new solutions for mobility. Keeping in mind about the headlong population, intolerable pollution and immobilize congestion, there is an alarming need to switch to smarter mobility instead of poor suffering. This understanding of the consequences is leading to the booming micro-mobility revolution in India.

Understanding the Nuts and Bolts of Micro-Mobility
Micro-mobility is light transportation mode powered by people or electric engines with speed usually below 25 km/hour. It refers to short-distance commute, commonly less than 5 miles. The vehicles include bikes, skateboards, skates, micro-bikes, e-bicycles and micro-electric vehicles with a couple of seats. The structure of these vehicles is light which makes it fast movable in the crippled traffic.

In India, an increase in urbanization has led to traffic congestion, though the government has reinforced public transport as an alternative efficient trip the options for the first and last-mile commute have always been a colossal unsolved issue. The average speed of vehicles in the metropolitan cities during peak hours has reduced to below 6 km/h. This is due to the overuse of personal vehicles or individual cabs which increases congestion. More than 65 per cent of the trips taken by personal cabs are below the distance of 5km. This does not only ignite the congestion on roads but also, produces far worse results, the harmful emissions from these vehicles largely contribute to air pollution and thus impact billions of lives in these cities. Hence, switching to micro-mobility not only solves the congestion issues but pave the way to a merrier future of the quality of air.

Public Transport has an imperative impact in the lives of Indians as a good number of roughly 26 million individuals travel using the metro, an estimated 7.5 million individuals take trains, and about 4.5 million individuals use the non-AC transport, like buses.

The integration of micro-mobility with public transport can help in solving the hassle in finding parking space, reducing high traffic congestion and offering an efficient, affordable and sustainable mode to cover first and last-mile commute.

How is the World Uplifting with Micro-Mobility Solutions?
Asia has been the main pioneer in the miniaturized scale versatile world, with China being the primary nation to execute a dockless bicycle-sharing platform in 2015.

Micro-mobility start-ups have been established in China, US and now in India. All of them have concentrated on personal transit options but the most successful Indian startups have employed a vertically integrated approach, by creating the infrastructure from existing spaces and by proactively engaging with cities, corporates and citizens. The new-age Indian mobility startups have aggressively innovated and improved their unit economics significantly.

Electric Mobility as an Economical & Sustainable Solution
A staggering fact to know is that 14 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world belong to India. It has been affecting the well-being of every individual and reducing their life-span by a good number of years. One-third of air pollution is caused by emissions of these vehicles; we can solve it by using clean and shared modes of commuting. New-age start-ups are relying on the electric fleet - pedal-helped cycles or e-bikes/e-bicycles-for micro-mobility.

A standard bike in India is around Rs. 45,000-Rs. 60,000 and fitting it with IoT gadgets cost an additional Rs. 7,000­15,000. These bikes also have a normal running cost (including upkeep) of around Rs. 2.5/km. A
viable alternative is to switch to electric vehicles and sourced from seasoned OEMs specifically designed for shared mobility.

The Range Anxiety and Availability Issues which we need to tackle -
Within the following five or six years, EVs will be less expensive than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in many significant regions, including quite a bit of Europe, the US and China. The switch is set for an EV transformation, yet a few snags remain in India. Consumer adoption of EVs has been limited due to practical factors like range anxiety and availability. On the other hand, improving asset utilisation of existing class of vehicles with shared-mobility platforms has not been able to reduce the dual problem of traffic congestion and pollution in a significant way. The leading micro-mobility startups in India are using IOT-enabled EV Fleet and ML-driven network intelligence, to solve the demand-supply problem sustainably. The technology-driven approach is key to continuously increase operational efficiency and help reduce traffic congestion in a meaningful way.

Within the following five or six years, EVs will be less expensive than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in many significant regions, including quite a bit of Europe, the US and China

Public EV Charging Infrastructure Speculation Intends to Battle run the anxiety
According to Wood Mackenzie report, "To combat this range anxiety, utilities in the US alone have invested in public EV charging infrastructure to the tune of almost $2.3 billion. And while most EV charging in the future will still be done at home or the workplace, EV drivers want the security to know that their family car trip won't fizz out halfway to the grocery store-or the Grand Canyon."

That's why now, even in India both govt and corporates have come together to invest in this sector. EV approach for India must be customized to India's specific needs. The national policy-making body figures that the nation can make a $300 billion residential market for EV batteries by 2030 and it requires at least 10 GWh of cells by 2022, which should be extended to around 50 GWh by 2025. Moreover, prime players in Micro mobility have mastered the art of operating with swappable battery to tackle the problem of lack of charging infrastructure which affects the adoption to EV.

Winning over a Few Challenges will lead to an Efficient Micro-Mobility
Urban Infrastructure: The fast pace of urbanization in India implies urban areas always outlive their infrastructure. Most streets in urban communities don't have walkways or dedicated bike tracks. This alongside with low respect for traffic rules makes India a not so favourable place for EVs. But, if the government works on the betterment of infrastructure, EVs can be a great help to the citizens.

The Risk of Theft: Vandalism and theft have been in some urban areas where these services have been initiated. Missing helmets and bikes have been reported.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the advantages of improving the quality of life and transportation in urban cities make this a viable solution to the urban transportation crisis. The entire way we head out from point A to point B is evolving. This change is making another ecosystem of personal mobility with innovative integration to public transport for the first and the last mile. Our Future of Mobility practice serves the whole ecosystem of organizations working in and around mobility to effectively shape its development.

The Fruitful Output of the Micro-Mobility
While numerous car owners in India are happy to switch to EVs, EV showcase entrance 95% of sales originates from electric bikes. In contrast to different markets, India presents open doors for e-bikes. Across over nations, mobility is currently changing from private mobility to mobility as a service. The way India never had credit cards or desktops and we leapfrogged to digital payments and smartphones; the same way mobility will become shared, smart, and sustainable at the same time. This is the theory that will scale up Electric mobility.

Despite the Indian automotive industry encountering a sharp decrease in FY19, a key incentive offered by the shared mobility model is a better alternative of affordable travelling. The millennials find shared mobility more economical and convenient and possess a fondness for the renting economy rather than buying an automobile. Thus, shared mobility is empowering millennials to dodge the issue of maintaining cars, reduce traffic clog on streets and lower the carbon footprint in a developing country like India.

This Decade is going to be Brighter than Ever
A right balance needs to be weaved out between safeguarding the public interest and to keep innovating for the betterment of the consumers and the transportation system. Moreover, the importance of emissions to be cut down for a better future and healthier generations, opting for micro-mobility makes all the sense, should be taken into consideration. Overcoming a thick line of challenges, due to frugal capex combined with efficient & tech-enabled operations, a few micro-mobility startups have achieved profitable unit economics.

India is witnessing the Mobility change and major auto OEM's have announced a slurry of electric cars this year, which validates the interest in driving EV'fication in the country. "Mobility for Masses" will evolve in this decade and citizens of India will benefit from the support provided by the Govt. and private OEM makers. India needs a mobility push and OEM's will play a key role. The micro-mobility market in India has a bright future and a fertile ground to come up with a potential of greener, cleaner and healthier commute.