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China's Ola of bicycles pedals into India

By Alnoor Peermohamed
January 16, 2018 16:42 IST
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Chinese bicycle sharing giant Ofo launches service in seven Indian cities.

Chinese bicycle sharing service Ofo has launched its service in seven Indian cities on a pilot basis ahead of homegrown ride-hailing firm Ola which recently announced its entry into space.

Ofo has launched its service in Indore, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Coimbatore, and Chennai to start with, along with signing agreements with local authorities in Pune and Coimbatore. The Alibaba-backed firm is looking at India as its next big global market.


“Through these localised launches we look forward to providing people with a taste of an ‘easy-to-use’ bicycle-sharing experience and educate them about various benefits associated with cycling,” said Rajarshi Sahai, director of Public Policy & Communications at Ofo, in a statement.

Similar to Ola, Ofo too is targeting residential townships and educational institutions to enable residents and students utilise bicycles to complete their last mile commute. Bicycle sharing is being pitched as a boon for Indian cities where infrastructure development has not kept pace with the growing vehicle population.

“With overcrowded cities and unprecedented pollution levels, India is ripe for a cycling revolution and we wish to aid that by providing a healthier, quicker, and greener alternative to motor vehicles,” Sahai added.

Launched in December, Ola had said its Pedal service was gaining massive interest from campuses and cities across the country, and the rollout of the service would be announced in other locations in the coming weeks. However, before the company has been talking about its expansion, Ofo has begun rolling out its service here aggressively.

Ofo has also announced its partnership with India’s leading digital wallet Paytm, which is also backed by Alibaba, to make it easy for customers to pay for rides. Paytm was also the first wallet to tie up with ride-hailing giant Uber in India when the company was looking to alternatives to accepting cash payments.

Apart from Ola and Ofo, Zoomcar too is trying its hand at bicycle sharing as a solution for last-mile transport in Indian cities. Even the government is getting in on the action with initiative such as Trin Trin, which was rolled out by Karnataka in Mysuru and Bengaluru to promote citizens to cycle at tourist spots and to make cycling a part of their daily commute.

Bicycle sharing in countries like China have attracted massive investments, similar to how ride-hailing did in the US, Europe, China, India and Southeast Asia. Ofo is among the leading players in the space globally, having raised over $1.2 billion so far, $700 million of which was pumped in by Alibaba in July last year.

Ofo claims it has already crossed six billion rides globally and currently clocks 32 million rides on a daily basis. The company said it had a presence in 250 cities across 20 countries, and its global expansion plans have accelerated after its mega funding round last year.

Ola too says it is investing heavily in bicycle sharing, having spent on developing the connected technologies for its bikes which it says are manufactured in India.

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Alnoor Peermohamed in Bengaluru
Source: source

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