One of the biggest challenges associated with intra-city mobility is last-mile connectivity, which public transport services in India do not address. There have been electric vehicle (EV) ventures like eBikeGo, Yulu and Bounce that have sought to solve this through running their fleet of electric two-wheeler rentals to name a few. Besides personal mobility, ventures like these have leveraged their EV two-wheeler fleets for parcel or food delivery as well. Another company, which has entered this space, is Delhi-based VA-YU. (Above image of a VA-YU e-scooter which you can rent.)
Founded by Ashish Aggarwal, who has an MBA from IIM-Calcutta and over 15 years of experience in corporate strategy and operation, VA-YU is an e-scooters booking platform offering on-demand e-scooters on rent in Delhi-NCR. Launched in May 2020, VA-YU started with a fleet of 40 low-speed electric scooters but today operates 300 of them that users can rent for as cheap as Rs 3,069 per month in the six-month package. Their one-month package costs Rs 3,599.
“The reason why electric scooters aren’t being adopted in a major way is because people don’t have confidence in these vehicles and buying one involves a large upfront cost. Having seen Delhi’s massive population, vehicular pollution and smog-filled days, I feel we can solve these problems better using our renting model since people don’t have to pay so much upfront. We ensure the quality and upkeep of the vehicle is top-notch so that the user gets a very good experience. We are essentially enablers in the shift from IC-engine vehicles to electric. We are not actively selling these e-scooters, but receive a lot of outright purchase requests,” Ashish tells The Better India.
VA-YU offers a range of plans from one week to 6 months and customers can experience EVs from as little as Rs 950 per week. To buy their electric scooter entirely, the price point set is Rs 57,000. Their scooter is custom-built for city commutes as well as delivery segments and has several anti-theft features.
“Its 48-volt lithium-ion swappable batteries allow it to go up to 70 km on a full charge. Integrated GPS technology allows for geo-fencing and remote immobilisation. Vehicle damages and personal injuries are covered by comprehensive insurance. We take care of all insurance, maintenance, and upkeep-related issues all at the user’s home or office location itself. Our startup offers these scooters delivered to the customer’s home and offers a variety of easy-to-use, booking and payment options. VA-YU also provides breakdown assistance within 2-3 hours in its area of operation,” says Ashish.
Users don’t need a driver’s license or registration for these low-speed e-scooters. Their scooters are sanitised and disinfected as they arrive at a customer’s doorstep.
“All of our demand is organic with customers noticing our scooters on the road and giving us a call. We are getting about 15 to 20 rental requests every day and most of our customers typically start with our one week package to try out the vehicle and see whether it fits their purpose. After testing the first week, however, 90% of them shift to our one-month or three-month plan. Our average plan duration today is close to three months. We offer maintenance within three hours in Delhi at the customer’s residence as well,” he claims.
Since the venture is doing long-term rentals, they deliver small chargers to users alongside their scooters. They also rent out scooters with removable batteries. People who don’t live on the ground floor can take out their battery, which weighs approximately 6 kgs and charge it at home. We are not centrally charging our batteries. It takes about four hours for 100% charge.
Meanwhile, VA-YU works with third-party assembly partners locally to assemble their scooters in the Delhi-NCR region. Nearly 70% of all their components are sourced in India, but the lithium-ion battery cell and a few smaller components are imported.
Assisting Delivery Boys, Essential Workers
In the past year, across two lockdowns, VA-YU’s fleet assets have been in use 97% of the time, offering mobility solutions for essential workers, delivery personnel and even nurses for getting across the city. Coincidentally, this has also meant enabling many people who lost jobs during the lockdown to pick up delivery jobs in the gig economy.
Many blue-collar workers have lost their jobs during the lockdowns this year and the last. They don’t have the requisite capital to own their own two-wheelers. A lot of food, medicine or grocery delivery companies require drivers to bring their own vehicles on the job. As a result of lockdowns, there has been a surge in home deliveries in cities like Delhi.
“We can provide the vehicles. The delivery person doesn’t need to spend too much money on renting one, and he’s able to get a job at these delivery companies. A typical blue collar worker earns about Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 per month, but with high demand, he’s easily able to make somewhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 per month. These amounts are also linked to how much effort they put in. We know people who ride 10 hours a day and clock about 130 km, earning around Rs 30,000 per month. We identify ourselves as enablers, while they end up paying us about Rs 3,500 per month on rent,” claims Ashish.
This just does not happen on IC-engine bikes where riders have to deal with fuel and maintenance costs that come up to about Rs 200 to 300 per day.
“We are massively reducing their costs. Moreover, we also provide insurance on these vehicles, for the delivery rider and offer free maintenance work at the rider’s place of work or home. Plus, once a rider gets a job of his choice in Delhi or another city, he can just give the scooter back to us at no additional cost,” he adds.
“Our fleet size has grown more than 6X with a 94% jump in revenue till March 2021. On an average, we are making revenues of about Rs 3,300 per vehicle. Even as we establish leadership in Delhi-NCR, our plan moving ahead is to increase the fleet size significantly and aim to penetrate more Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in the next financial year. Given the considerable demand for its service VA-YU is looking to aggressively scale up in the coming financial year to about 15,000 EVs in Delhi NCR,” claims Ashish.
So far, VA-YU’s EVs have covered a cumulative distance of over 20 lakh km in the past year, saving approximately 50,000 litres in petrol, the startup claims in a recent press release.
“VA-YU’s genesis came from the need to offer environmentally sustainable transport solutions for an already polluted city. The winter smog in Delhi was the spark to find ways to look at electric mobility as a solution to lower emissions. This is compounded by the fact that 70% of vehicular pollution is contributed by two-wheelers alone. We are a bootstrapped entity, and currently in the process of raising our pre Series-A round of funding, which should conclude in another month. We are also looking to expand to other major cities over the next few quarters and offer this service using a data-driven and process-oriented approach at an affordable cost to a cross-section of society,” he concludes.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)