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In recent years, India has turned on the ignition sparking a development in evolving technology and business models aimed at innovating the national transportation sector.

With a population of 1.3 billion, and a growing middle class, the amount of automobiles on the road is hitting breaking point. Delhi alone holds seven million vehicles, resulting in congested traffic, chaotic commutes, and pollution increase. Startups in particular are set to take advantage of this open market, looking at innovative ways to provide convenience, cost-effective and greener mobility solutions and services for commuters.

This year’s squabble between Uber and Ola has attracted entrepreneurs to launch new car-hailing apps seeking to capitalise on the discontent of these leaders in India’s $8 billion taxi market. Cabby, a New Delhi-based startup, has lured in drivers with their higher fares and better terms, such as accidental insurance cover, signing up 27,800 drivers in a week. Even India’s Ministry for Transportation announced in July this year their ambition to create a government-run taxi booking app.

However, with India’s notoriously busy roads, new startups on the scene are looking to more pragmatic solutions to standstill traffic: innovating two-wheeled transport.

Baxi Taxi, a motorcycle-hailing company, and Jugnoo an auto rickshaw hailing app are two examples of startups that have been riding out the competition in India. Although not exactly fitting the two wheeler category, Jugnoo is unique in its use of autos. After launching in Gurgaon in 2014, the startup is now successfully operating in over 40 of India’s bustling cities, and already claims five million users.

There has been a much needed swerve towards electric vehicles in the country, especially with the level of pollution in major cities hitting severe levels. Last week, Delhi’s government had to close schools and introduce a city-wide emergency as air quality readings soared, reportedly hitting 969 (the World Health Organization considers anything above 25 to be unsafe).

A selection of startups are stepping up to the governments task of replacing 200 million vehicles with electric vehicles by 2030, by electrifying scooters. Last year, electric two-wheeler startup Ather Energy launched its first product, the Ather S340 in Bengaluru. The startup was founded by IIT Madras alumni Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain who have been working on India’s first smart electric scooter since 2013. Accelerating the power of data and intelligence in the automobile industry, the Ather S340 is powered by a lithium-Io battery pack and features a digital, smart touchscreen dashboard, allowing users to chose ride modes and set preferences. Go GreenEOT (Energy of Things), a Bengaluru electric vehicle startup has similarly developed Go GreenBOV’s (Battery Operated Vehicles) in India, with environmental factors as their main drive for innovation.
However, with financial assistance schemes for electric vehicle (EV) buyers in India low, or non existent, startups such as Ather Energy and Go Green have had challenges getting the wheels rolling, “94 per cent of vehicles sold in India, especially two wheelers, are financed by bank or other financial organizations. However, banks (public or private sector), and non-banking financial institutions are yet to launch loan schemes for EVs,” says Dhivik Reddy, Co-founder of Go GreenBOV.

E-bicycles have also joined the ride, with startups such as Spero, and Hulikkal Electro developing battery run bikes. Spero recently managed to raise Rs 38.65 lakh through Bengaluru-based crowdfunding platform Fueladream.

Bicycle businesses in general are beginning to gain speed in this startup ecosystem too. Meet Letzycle, a green, efficient and very convenient new startup – India’s first dockless bike sharing app.
After a year of research on renewable energy, founder of Letzycle Raj Chauhan came across the revolutionary idea of dockless bikes in China, motivating him to start his own in India. Operating in colleges and universities in Delhi, students use the dashboard on the Letzycle app to find the nearest bike available and pay for their time on it. Chauhan explains that unlike the bike-sharing systems found in cities all over the world–for example “Boris Bikes” in London–where you have to deposit your bike in a designated location, dockless bikes are far more convenient as “you can hire a bicycle, can take it home, and just leave it outside your house…you pay for the time you use it only, and do not have to return it.”

Letzycle - The Tech PandaWith a dashboard that overseas GPS tracking and ID logs for all the bikes, “theft and vandalism has not been a huge problem” for the startup, says Chauhan. Instead the startup has been attracting more attention, particularly due to the eco-friendly design of the innovation. Although one of the biggest challenges Letzcycle has had to overcome is fundraising, Chauhan says that due to the air quality in Delhi, and changing attitudes towards the environment, “now people are coming to us.” As a reliable service that gets you from A to B, anywhere, or as a last mile commute home, without having to fumble with lose change, return the vehicle or wait in traffic, Letzcycle is perhaps ideal for Urban India.

It is clear that two wheeler innovations–whether that’s an electric scooter, motorbike sharing, or dockless bikes–are manoeuvering the public transportation system towards a much needed revival.


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