The rush of riding a motorcycle is often unparalleled by other means of transport — you feel a great sense of adventure, pumping adrenaline and the wind in your hair. On a two-wheeler, you can traverse local and remote areas, and choose the road less travelled.
But for many, motorcycles are unaffordable. This is where Royal Brothers, one of South India’s first authorised and officially licensed bike rental companies, steps in. The company offers bikes, including the Royal Enfield, Bajaj, Benelli, and KTMs, and scooters such as Honda Activa and Yamaha Fascino, for rent. The company offers both monthly as well as hourly subscriptions.
The Bengaluru-based company was founded in 2015 by three engineers, two of whom thought of this venture while on a trip to Puducherry, Tamil Nadu.
How the idea was born
In 2014, Abhishek Chandrashekar and Akash S, who were in their third year at the R V Engineering College in Bengaluru, took a trip to Puducherry. They reached their destination via bus, and decided to hire bikes from a local vendor to explore the city at their own pace.
“We looked online for a local bike rental company, and came across a listing on Just Dial’s website,” says Abhishek, adding, “The website did not have much information besides a phone number. We called and enquired if we could rent a bike, and the person on the other end of the line said yes, and that we should reach out to him when we arrived. While he gave us a verbal confirmation, we did not make any payments, or receive any email or text confirmation to prove we had booked a bike.”
The duo was hoping for the best when they arrived at Puducherry. It was 5.30 am, and they were waiting near the beach at a popular tourist spot when the vendor arrived with a bike.
“The bike was not in a good condition, and there was no guarantee on our transaction, since we paid in cash,” Akash recalls. He adds, “The vendor didn’t give us any other information besides telling us that we should give him a call if the police stopped us, or if we had any other troubles.”
Regardless, the two went on to enjoy their trip with no complications.
Once Akash and Abhishek returned to Bengaluru, they discussed how they could start a bike rental company. They agreed the main aim would be to let the user select a bike of their choice, send them a confirmation through email, and provide an exact time and place to pick or drop the vehicle.
In early 2015, they graduated from college, but did not attend the placement process arranged by their university, because they wanted to explore this idea further. By July that year, they had brought in Kuldip Purohit on board. Kuldip was an automobile enthusiast, who registered their company. The trio took up a small workspace at Abhishek’s relatives’ apartment, and began their research on how they could register motorcycles for commercial usage.
“While it was easy to register cars for commercial number plates, this was an unusual thing to do for bikes,” Abhishek says, adding, “For a few months, we visited the central RTO in Bengaluru every day to understand the process. However, no one could help us. Finally, we reached out to P Ravikumar, Karnataka Transport’s Secretary Officer. He was impressed with our proposal. Since the model had a VAT tax (now GST) added to it, the state would see revenue generation as well.” He says the minister informed RTO authorities, which eased the registration process for the company.
The three of them collected Rs 20 lakh as initial capital by borrowing from friends and family, and purchased five Royal Enfield bikes. They had the vehicles commercially registered with the necessary insurances.
“To get orders and bookings, we outsourced the marketing and other tech-related activities to a third-party organisation. However, this did not go well. So we hired web and app developers, and market specialists, and today, we have a team of 60 people working across seven states,” Akash says.
Today, the company has a fleet of over 2,000 bikes, 15 franchises across seven states in India, including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. It also provides an option for users to invest in the bikes on their platform. In the first year of operations, the company earned a revenue of Rs 30 lakh, and in the financial year 2019-20, they recorded a revenue of Rs 7.5 crore.
How can you hire a bike?
To hire a bike through the platform, one must register themselves on the Royal Brothers’ website or application, and upload their ID proof and driver’s license. They can then select which city they want to rent in, choose the appropriate dates, and then pick a bike of their choice.
The rentals start at a minimum of four hours, and go up to a maximum of nine months.