FreMo: India’s First Bicycle Sharing Program

Every one of us living in these bustling metropolises has always dreamt of a city devoid of traffic snarls, incessant honking and pollution. FreMo, India’s first bicycle sharing programme is a step in that direction.

FreMo derived from ‘Freedom To Move’ gives the commuter freedom to move from one place to another, without depending on the public transport or using their own car/ bike. Various FreMo depots have been established in Thane . All one has to do is register with them, take a cycle from one of these depots and deposit it in the depot nearest to his/her destination.

They have various membership plans, depending on the usage. Every FreMo member is entitled to a personal accident assurance of Rs. 5 lakh.

Here’s an interview with V. Ramesh , Founder CEO & Director of FreMo.

Q: What triggered you to start Freedom to Move?

After visiting Barcelona in early 2008, when I came to India, there was a huge petrol price hike.  And I saw many people trying to cut down their expenditure on petrol as much as possible.  This prompted me to think that making the use of bicycles convenient would make people accept the idea of cycling for daily activities.  Once a person signs up with us, he need not depend on autos or buses and has the freedom to move.  Thus, FreMo (short form for Freedom to Move) was born.

Q :Tell us about the  hurdles you came across while setting up the venture?

The hurdles started with people being surprised that I am moving out of a comfortable job as a CEO in a NBFC (Non-banking finance company) to become a “cyclewalla” and telling me not to do it.

Then came the struggle to get people to accept this as a workable idea.  Getting funds was the worst experience of my life.  All so called ‘venture’ capitalists never wanted to venture in to this social concept.  They were only interested in two things (a) How much will I make out of this investment (b) what is the exit route for me.  This gave me a confirmation that all those guys are only “investors” and not ‘venture capitalists’.  Even the requirement of a small amount of Rs. 2 crores did not find donors. Then I started looking to banks to support this project.  All of them, except one were unresponsive. Finally, Bank of Baroda supported this project.

Then there was a struggle to try and meet up with the government authorities like TMC whose support is vital for the success of this programme.  I drew a blank in their response.

Finally, the struggle was to get staff.  Many of them did not feel that this was a business they wanted to be associated with.  Most of them wanted to work in a call centre or IT or other such businesses which are well known.

FreMo has been designed to work in conjunction with other modes of transport, to get around the problem of transporting bikes on buses and autos etc.

Various depots are established at strategic locations across the city. Register yourself with FreMo and take a membership. With your membership card just pick up a cycle from any depot convenient to you. Just cycle to your station / bus stop / shopping / or any short trip. Return the cycle to any depot of your choice; the one you hired from or at a depot close to your destination.

Q: What is the general feedback of the customers?

Both customers and potential customers have excellent words to say about this project.  All of them feel that we need this project in the current context since the environmental situation is getting from bad to worse.  Besides, the traffic issues are so many that people traveling short distances are fed up with them.  They are also victims of high unpredictability on their travel time.  If one day they get an auto or a bus in 5 minutes, the next day they may end up waiting for 25 minutes.  Their plans often go awry.

The best aspect of this service is the predictability for a person to reach a station.  Every day, one reaches the station in 15 minutes.  Besides saving time and money.

Q: What is the kind of social impact your organization has succeeded in bringing about?

Social impact from this project is multi-pronged.

  1. We will reduce the traffic congestion when more and more people start taking the bicycle route to travel.  Reduction in traffic means immediate reduction in pollution, both air and noise.
  2. Health of the people will improve as they will be exercising daily as a part of their travel and also they will start breathing cleaner air.  Besides, since the unpredictability is removed, the stress level of people also reduces.
  3. Due to reduction in travel expenses (which is at least 30-40 rupees daily, i.e. about 1000 rupees every month), the purchasing power of the people will increase, thereby improving their living standard.
  4. It will release some  parking space in the city because, there will be less and less people using cars for the local 3-4 kms travel.
  5. People will save time (perhaps at least one hour daily) and be able to do more things.
  6. Finally it will also change the way we live.

Q : What are the future plans for FreMo ?Are you thinking of expanding to other states?

Yes.  Fremo intends to move to all other cities and make this a phenomenon across various cities.  Next we would look at launching it in Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and New Delhi.

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We hope the idea is a runaway success and we all get to reap its immense benefits at the earliest.
For further details, please visit their website: http://www.fremo.in/