Image: Nikhileswar Jangala
This is Part 4 of a series on the future of mobility in a post-Covid-19 world. Read Part 3 here
Private vehicle utilisation was low in India even before the Covid-19 crisis. The new-age mobility start-ups complement public transportation by offering a solution for first-mile and last-mile connectivity for daily commuters, says Ayyadurai, bike rental startup Vogo’s co-founder and CEO, in an interview with Forbes India
. Edited excerpts:
Q. What will transportation look like in the post-Covid-19 world in India, in the medium and long term?
We anticipate some fundamental changes in the travelling patterns of daily commuters. A larger portion of commuters will shift from public modes of transport to personal mobility as the primary choice of travel, owing to health and safety concerns. Usually, people decide their commuting options on the basis of three factors—availability, affordability and convenience. While these would still play a role, safety is going to be the priority.
Q. What kind of commute options will people prefer? Why?
Considering that social distancing is crucial, we believe that people will be moving to more contactless and personal solutions. They will be more concerned about sharing rides with multiple commuters. The majority of everyday users might not opt to purchase private vehicles, owing to budget constraints or other reasons. They would look to renting rides but for a longer duration, so that they are sure of the ownership of the vehicle.
Keeping these factors in mind, we are offering reliable and safe options to daily commuters. To ensure that they are safe, we have also introduced a four-step sanitisation process. We are not only sanitising our vehicles in front of our customers but have also introduced a home-drop service so that they don’t have to step out unnecessarily.
Q. What will happen to public transport, especially when a majority of users can’t afford to purchase private vehicles?
Even in the pre-Covid world, India’s private vehicle utilisation on an average was close to 5 percent per day, where consumers were using two-wheelers largely for end-to-end movement. The new age mobility start-ups complement public transportation by offering a solution for first-mile and last-mile connectivity for daily commuters.
We are already witnessing a change. The adoption of our new service, Vogo Keep, which allows users to rent vehicles for a long duration, has seen a massive surge. Users are now renting vehicles for longer—7, 15, 30 days or beyond. It’s evident that they are looking for a platform where they don’t have to think twice about their safety, ownership and affordability.
In the initial seven days of service resumption, 50 percent of our customers had booked for renewal and 30 percent of them had ordered for delivery to home. We have also witnessed an increase in our transaction volumes which are now between 30 percent to 40 percent of our pre-lockdown volumes.
Q. Within cities and towns, will new models of ride-hailing emerge that can be part of the solution?
We see adoption of same behaviour across the towns and cities. People would choose safe options on the basis of factors including flexibility to drive themselves, limited human interface, avoiding sharing the vehicle with anyone else, long-term leasing and rent and regular cleaning and sanitisation. In fact, we believe we will penetrate further into tier 2 and 3 cities at a much rapid pace than earlier.
Q. What will be the role of the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) in all of this?
Vogo has IoT-enabled operations that offer key-less exchange of vehicles with negligible human intervention. Once you’ve registered with the app, you will connect with the IoT device on the scooter with Bluetooth and be able to operate your scooter without a key. The same makes it possible for you to access your scooter without any human intervention.