India leads the way with a wave of investments, incentives and subsidies
By Suroopa Chatterjee
India was recently the focus of attention with the announcement of the largest e‑scooter factory, FutureFactory, which would be run by a workforce made up of 10,000 women, making it the only and largest factory run entirely by women.
With the vision of providing the world with “clean mobility, a carbon-negative footprint and an inclusive workforce,” CEO of Ola Electric, Bhavish Aggarwal recently stated that one scooter would be rolled out every two seconds after completion of planned expansion that is scheduled for 2022.
India is the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Two wheelers have emerged as never before in the wake of the pandemic, and now post pandemic, to occupy a huge portion of the shared mobility and micro mobility arena.
With the world slowly opening up, office goers and general commuters who are unable to use private cars are constantly seeking ways to travel safely.
In India, transport is also witnessing a big surge in micro-mobility investments as commuters are skeptical about public systems.
According to a survey by Frost & Sullivan in 2019, ride hailing was the most used option with Ola and Uber services topping the list for respondents across six major cities in India. The survey revealed the rising popularity of self-driven car sharing business models like Zoomcar, which boasted a 10,000 strong fleet across 45 cities.
The car sharing market had peaked at over 4 million registered users before the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts note that the post-covid environment will also demand a good launch platform for shared mobility as a service (MaaS) solutions.
In a published statement, Asad Hussain, Mobility Analyst for PitchBook stated “Indian micro mobility is a fast-growing market, an underpenetrated market.” He also noted that the current pandemic would fast track more investments into this market.
So, what is ‘micro mobility’ exactly? Micro Mobility is basically small vehicles propelled by humans or electric motors travelling at speeds below 50 km per hour.
Prior to the pandemic, according to a report, approximately 25 million commuters travelled via Delhi metro, about 7.5 million people used Mumbai’s local trains and an estimated 4.5 million travelers took Non-AC bus service on a daily basis in Bengaluru.
Problems arose when people had to cover short distances of a few kilometers from their starting point to a metro station or railway platform. That’s when scooters, e‑bikes, and bicycles came to the rescue, allowing people to avoid the strain of long walks. These were quick, smart, efficient and affordable vehicles that could be accessed through mobile apps.
Key factors driving the growing popularity of the shared mobility market are congested road traffic and sky rocketing fuel prices, along with the diminishing number of available parking spaces and the high cost of parking.
Shared mobility keeps expenditures down as it costs less than owning and maintaining a private vehicle. Shared mobility reduces traffic with fewer vehicles on the road and contributes to lowering CO2 emissions.
Some of the major players in the shared mobility space in India are Uber Technologies Inc., ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Ola Bike), Comuto SA (BlaBlaCar), Drivezy India Travels Pvt. Ltd., Vogo Automotive Pvt.Ltd. (Vogo), Zoomcar India Pvt. Ltd., WickedRide Adventure Services Pvt. Ltd. (Bounce).
Like in other parts of the world, car sharing in India faced a setback. However recent indicators show that this could be a temporary phase as the world is opening up slowly though cautiously.
And car sharing is here to stay as millennials have been strong proponents and consumers of car-hailing backed by technology. In fact, millennials opting for weekend getaway trips with self-driving cars has contributed to the growth of Zoomcars. Technology has rendered car sharing an easy option which comes across as a reliable, efficient and cost effective option compared to private vehicle ownership.
Governments have also put forth initiatives to curb urban congestion and pollutants, which has given impetus to the growth of electric car sharing. This has opened up opportunities for partnerships between original equipment manufacturers and car sharing services.
In an effort to encourage electric mobility, the central government is offering support through subsidies for about 62,000 electric passenger cars and buses, as well as 15 lakh electric two- and three-wheelers, which was announced by Nitin Gadkari, India’s government Minister for Road Transport & Highways, in February 2021: “This phase focuses on supporting electrification of public & shared transportation and aims to support, through subsidies, approx. 7000 e‑Buses, 5 lakh e‑3 Wheelers, 55,000 e‑4 Wheeler Passenger Cars and 10 lakh e‑2 Wheelers. “In addition, creation of charging infrastructure is also supported to address range anxiety among users of electric vehicles,” the minister stated.
In a recent statement, Yatin Gupte, Chairman and Managing Director of Wardwizard Innovations & Mobility Ltd remarked that demand for EVs in rural markets particularly has gone up with huge incentives available to consumers due to many reasons, chiefly rising fuel costs. In addition, various state governments are giving subsidies between Rs 15000–20000 per vehicle under their respective EV policies, as also a separate subsidy of Rs 15,000 per Kwh under the FAME –II scheme sponsored by the Central Government.
Gupte sees a lot of promise in the industry in coming months which he feels will grow manifold every year. “We were selling around 1,000 units in January, which shot up to 4,000–5,000 units a month. This month we are producing around 3,500 vehicles while for October we have already lined up deliveries of 8,000 vehicles. In November, we would be delivering around 9,000 vehicles. So this is the traction that we are getting.”
Focusing back on Bhavish Aggarwal who in a published statement laid out a vision for a hopeful future. According to him, Ola gives multi-nodal mobility access to 100 million people via taxis, auto rickshaws, two wheelers, day hires, and outstation rides which covers 7% of the population in India. So, the aim is to bring this mobility to the rest of the population. New Mobility is fixing the old system and making mobility universally accessible, sustainable, personalized and convenient.
According to Aggarwal, both shared and personal mobility will grow in India through a combination of hardware, software, and service involving purpose built EVs, digital retail driving convenience, and cloud-enabled personalization. Keeping the consumer at its core, Ola is building this New Mobility ecosystem founded on three pillars: New Mobility Services, New Energy Vehicles and New Auto Retail. These three pillars amplify and enhance the impact of each other as part of an integrated Ola New Mobility Platform.
Encapsulating a vision for the future of shared and micro transport, Ola’s co-founder painted a positive picture: “Our EVs are smart, connected AI machines and will leapfrog current personal vehicles that are dumb mechanical devices. They will serve diverse needs through a variety of form factors, including kick scooters, e‑bikes and yes even drones and flying cars while costing 80% less to run compared to IC engines! This will cause vehicle ownership to explode to 40% of the population with 50mn 2Ws and 10mn 4Ws sold per year in India in the coming years.”