Ankit Awasthi is a 22-year-old resident of Dwarka Sector 23, New Delhi. His office is located about 15 km away from his home. And like so many city-dwellers today, commuting was one of the biggest issues he had to face on a daily basis. While reaching office was not a hassle because he has the advantage of a metro connection, it was the last mile connectivity that posed a larger problem for him. “If I hailed a cab from the station to my place or vice-versa, I spent anywhere between Rs. 70 to 80. The e-rickshaw drivers at the metro station didn’t drop me at the exact location. While they are cheaper than the cabs, I still ended up walking quite a bit,” he says.
Luckily, things changed for him about 5 months ago. “While I was at the metro station, one of the e-rickshaw drivers told me to download this app called, Oye! Rickshaw.”
Today, thanks to that app, Ankit is spending just about Rs. 15-20 on his rides and last mile is the last thing on his mind.
Founded in January 2017 by school-mates Mohit Sharma and Akashdeep Singh, Oye! Rickshaw is an e-rickshaw aggregation app, attempting to solve the last mile issue in an eco-friendly and pocket-friendly manner.
Last Mile Mobility and Oye! Rickshaw Operations
Niti Aayog published a report in September 2018, titled, ‘Transforming India’s Mobility’. The study speaks about how we need a convenient mode of transport that is clean and does not create congestion on the streets.
The report emphasised on how e-vehicles can lower emissions while providing the public with last-mile connectivity and delivery solutions.
This is where Oye! Rickshaw comes in. Once the customer books a ride on the app, they are dropped by the e-rickshaw at their exact location.
“There are about 20 lakh e-rickshaws on Indian roads. While over two lakh are in Delhi, the remaining are in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities spread across the country. When we observed that the e-rickshaw services were not quite unorganised, we thought that an aggregation platform could be a good solution. We could capture not only the market but also help commuters and e-rickshaw drivers in an environment-friendly way,” the 30-year-old co-founder Mohit tells The Better India (TBI).
Since they began their operations in October 2018, Oye! Rickshaw has on-boarded over 1,000 e-rickshaw drivers across West, Central, and East Delhi, other than Ghaziabad. These e-rickshaws can go upto 80 km in a day. The startup takes about 15 per cent commission of the amount the driver makes.
“We were surprised by the positive response we received. Within the four months of being functional, we had about 15,000 registered customers and about 70,000 rides,” recalls Mohit. Currently, Oye Rickshaw! has 400K registered customers and 20,000 rides are availed on the app in a day.
Inception of Oye! Rickshaw – Bringing the drivers together
Mohit and Akashdeep have known each other since their school days at DAV Public School in Janakpuri. Once they passed out of school, Mohit went to pursue Mechanical Engineering at IIT-Delhi while Akashdeep pursued the same from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad (MNNIT).
After college, they went on to work with different companies for two years. The turning point came in 2014 when Mohit decided that he wanted to start his own company.
“I was very interested in electric mobility, and e-rickshaws were gaining popularity in Delhi at the time. However, the market was disorganised. Most of the e-rickshaws had been imported from China and were not suitable for Indian roads,” he explains.
The will to design indigenous e-rickshaws and the interest in electric mobility led to the founding of Jangid Motors, which Mohit started with his uncle in December 2014. The company did well with them selling over 10,000 e-rickshaws within the first 18 months.
However, Mohit had a different vision for the company. “I did not see us expanding as I had envisioned and I did not want us to be any other conventional vehicle company.” Afterwards, Mohit sold his share of the company to his uncle.
“During this period, Akash and I got talking. Both of us felt that we wanted to make a dent in the e-mobility sector and capture the market. This is how we arrived at the idea for our startup,” narrates Mohit.
The founders knew that for their idea to work, they would have to develop a platform where the drivers could sign up. When they began their operations, the service was only available in Ghaziabad and Vaishali and had about 30 e-rickshaw drivers on board.
Challenges and Impact
While counting all the successes they’ve had, Mohit also recalls the challenges they have faced.
The first challenge that they encountered was to build a good team, and the experience at Jangid helped to a large extent.
The other challenge was winning the trust of the drivers. “This phase required a lot of hand-holding and constant guidance. However, within two weeks, we got good traction. Before joining us, the drivers were earning about Rs. 15,000 a month. This increased once they were onboard,” says Mohit.
Take Shiv Kumar for example, who bought an e-rickshaw about three years ago. The 42-year-old is a resident of Dwarka Sector 23. His wife works as a cook in three houses and they have three children—two college-going boys and one daughter studying in Class 12. When he started his services, he would get about 40 to 50 customers a day, earning about Rs. 18,000 in a month.
Since he started working with Oye! Rickshaw, Shiv Kumar’s daily passengers have increased to about 120. “I like this app because I no longer have to chase customers or bargain with them. The best part is I earn anywhere between Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 a month now,” he says with glee.
“Trends across the globe show that people are moving towards a cleaner mode of transportation. We want to cater to people in cities like Jaipur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Bengaluru, Mumbai and more. We also want to focus on expanding in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities to make transportation sustainable and eco-friendly,” says Mohit, signing off.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)
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