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Why Indian Bike Aggregators are Ready to Take On Global Competitors Chinese leader 'Ofo' could soon make its way into the Indian roads but start-ups here are not afraid

By Sanchita Dash

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With the advent of technology, the way Indians commute has changed drastically over the years. The quintessential story about Indian auto drivers refusing or overcharging the rider to take them to their desired destination, doesn't hurt the Indian consumer anymore, thanks to the likes of Uber and Ola.

But the commute industry is set for another transformation, one that has taken inspiration from the pages of history – going back to bicycles. Bicycle aggregator start-ups are rising in numbers in India with even players like Ola introducing Ola pedal – a vertical that allows users to rent/share bicycles.

Now, with an interesting turn of events Chinese leader Ofo could soon make its way into the Indian roads with a partnership with Paytm. But what does it mean for Indian start-ups in the segment?

Entrepreneur India spoke to founders of start-up trying to bring in the bicycle revolution in India about how the global start-up's entry into India could change the scene and what advantages they have over the Chinese leader.

Local Start-ups Know the Pulse of the People

For a Chinese leader to enter the Indian space, there lies one big challenge – the same model cannot be replicated. While China has essentially been a cycling nation, for India to embrace bicycles again, a change of mindset is required. To do the same, there needs to be a connect with the users.

Akash Gupta, founder of Mobycy, believes that Indian start-ups know the pulse of the people and also the areas where they could first reach out to. "We have been talking to several state governments for partnerships and they are more than willing to come on board. They have a certain ease in operating with Indian companies," said Gupta.

For Indian consumers, the language, the way they sell product understanding the mindset of consumers is what will make the difference believes Gupta.

Agreeing with Gupta, Deenanath Harapanahalli, founder of Cykul, believes that while the Chinese start-up is well established, its Indian counterparts have the advantage of the local know-how and understand how to adapt the services for Indian roads, keeping in mind the poor infrastructure.

It Will Be Great for Market Awareness

However, the market for bicycle aggregators is still at a nascent stage in India. Like Gupta said, they are still trying to change the mindset of people. There's a psychological holdback when it comes to riding cycles in India. Vansh Taneja, co-founder and CEO of letscycle, said that there is no entry barrier for other start-ups but the problem is that the market is not built.

Taneja believes that the presence of a global leader will only create market awareness and introduce more users to the concept of using apps for a public bike sharing model. "A huge amount of capital is required for the same which can be brought in by these companies. Accessibility is something that every company is trying to create," he said.

India saw a sale of over 5.5 crores of cycles out of which 80 per cent was through tender issues (for example, politicians giving away bicycles as gifts to voters), shared Taneja. "So, the bicycle riding market is still very low in India. In comparison, China has over 20 crores of bicycles sold in a year," he said.

Collaboration For the Future?

Harapanahalli believes that the Chinese started much earlier when it comes to bicycle sharing and they can bring in their expertise. "There will be a balance play between the global and Indian start-ups in the market," he said.

Collaboration is not ruled out by entrepreneurs. Taneja believes the end game definitely lies in consolidation. While Gupta believes that a co-operation is possible in the future by creating a vertical alongside them, he also said that they can compete with global players. "As an Indian company, we are gunning forward for bicycles to be back on Indian roads," said Gupta.

Sanchita Dash

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

In the business of news for 5 years now. Making my way across India thanks to my career. A media graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, I have earlier worked with Deccan Chronicle (South India's leading English daily), T-Hub (India's largest incubator) and Anthill Ventures (a speed-scaling platform). 

Stories, movies and PJs are my thing. 

If you hear 'The Office' opening score randomly, don't worry it's just my phone ringing. 


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